The presentation, The 40th Anniversary of The Message and The Birth of Socially Conscious Hip-Hop, is an immersive experience with an emphasis on 1982's groundbreaking single, "The Message," written by Sugar Hill Records percussionist Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher and Melle Mel. Jay Quan began by discussing 1979's "Superrappin'," the recording debut of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5, and the first place where Mel's iconic "A child is born" verse is first recited.
"My creativity was that I always wanted to be different," Melle Mel answered when asked what prompted him to write such a prophetic and forward-thinking rhyme in the same year that rap records debuted. "You'll get more being different instead of the same. I was just trying to be different. As an MC you have to watch people, and even before I wrote that rhyme I watched junkies, my older sisters when they came in from partying, and my father when he came in the house drunk."
The lecture also featured rare video footage of Duke Bootee explaining his writing process for "The Message." He wrote poetry before he heard rap music and read five newspapers a day. In addition to "The Message," Mel and JayQuan spoke in detail about the writing process and inspiration for "Beat Street Breakdown," "White Lines," "New York New York," "The Message II (Survival)" and "World War III."
In addition to Melle Mel's musical influence on Hip Hop, his early friendships with Eddie Murphy (who commissioned The Furious 5's designer to make his leather suit worn in the 1987 stand-up classic, Raw) and Rick James were also discussed in the presentation.
Boston rap artists Oompa and Termanology opened the lecture along with an assortment of dancers and Emerson talent. Check out a clip from the lecture below.