Black History Month: Massachusetts Hip-Hop, Lecco’s Lemma, and Dance Slam

Author: Kayla Allen, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the History MA Program at UMass Boston

Happy Black History Month! Black History Month is celebrated during the month of February every year as a way of celebrating important people and events from across the African diaspora. Here at UMass Boston, we have many collections about the Black history of Boston and our campus. Over the course of the month, we will be highlighting some of these collections and stories.

Photograph of cassette tape with Lecco's Lemma written on it in marker

Cassette recording of Magnus Johnstone’s Lecco’s Lemma radio show from August 8, 1987

One of our most significant digital collections is the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive. This archive is mostly made up of digitized audiocassettes from the Magnus Johnstone and Willie Alexander: Lecco’s Lemma collection, though there are a number of materials currently being processed, including recordings, photographs, videos, and interviews. The first set of audiocassettes in the Lecco’s Lemma collection, originally held by Magnus Johnstone, was donated to us by UMass Boston professor Pacey Foster in 2015. The second set was donated by Willie Alexander in 2016. These audiocassettes feature mixtapes and recordings of the Lecco’s Lemma radio program, a show that ran from 1985-1988 first on MIT’s WMBR (88.1 FM) and later on Boston College’s WZBC (90.3 FM).

Image of the side of a cassette tape with writing in marker

Cassette recording of Magnus Johnstone’s Lecco’s Lemma radio show from March 8, 1986

Lecco’s Lemma was hosted by Magnus Johnstone and featured music that wasn’t usually played by mainstream radio stations at the time. This included new, interesting, and undiscovered artists, rap music, and local groups. Johnstone would accept demos from Boston-area artists and play them on air. He would even ask these groups to play live performances on his show.

Over the three years he taped, Johnstone collected about 300 mixtapes from local artists, which are now part of our collection. The rest of the audiocassettes in the collection are recordings of the actual Lecco’s Lemma shows, taped by Boston’s “Godfather of Punk,” Willie “Loco” Alexander, on his home boombox. These tapes include ephemera like j-cards, notes, photographs, and lists of artists and songs.

The online collection of the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive also includes a video recording of “Boston’s first black dance-music-video television show,” Dance Slam, from the Tony Rose and Yvonne Rose collection. We are currently building the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive and welcome donations from graffiti artists, producers, promoters, musicians, DJs, break-dancers, and fans so we can further document and preserve the vibrant hip-hop culture of our area. If you have original and unique materials related to hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts that you think should become part of the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive, you can contact one of our archivists by emailing library.archives@umb.edu.

To see more from our Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive and listen to Johnstone’s and Alexander’s tapes, check out our digital collection. If you’d like to learn more about Magnus Johnstone, Willie Alexander, and Lecco’s Lemma, be sure to look at their collection’s finding aid.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston was established in 1981 as a repository to collect archival material in subject areas of interest to the university, as well as the records of the university itself. The mission and history of UMass Boston guide the collection policies of University Archives & Special Collections, with the university’s urban mission and strong support of community service reflected in the records of and related to urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, war and social consequence, and local history related to neighboring communities. To learn more, visit blogs.umb.edu/archives.

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Join us on Saturday, June 15 for discussion of Graffiti Art in Hip-Hop Culture at Grove Hall Branch of the BPL

Flyer for BPL graffiti art event at the Grove Hall branch of the Boston Public LibraryWhat: Element of Graffiti Art in Hip-Hop

When: Saturday, June 15, 2019 | 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Where: Grove Hall Branch of the Boston Public Library, 41 Geneva Avenue, Dorchester, Mass. 02121

Click here for directions.

Boston Public Library, UMass Boston, and members of the hip-hop community invite hip-hop enthusiasts of all ages to attend a free event at the Grove Hall Branch of the Boston Public Library on Saturday, June 15, from 1:00-3:00 p.m.

“Element of Graffiti Art in Hip-Hop” is the final event in a series of hip-hop programs to take place as part of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Boston-based artists Rob Stull, Problak (Rob Gibbs), and Fabian Murray will lead a conversation and participate in a panel discussion about their identities as graffiti artists and their careers as graphic designers. Collectively, these gentlemen represent over 100 years of artistic expertise. They will be sharing their stories and individual experiences of maneuvering through the intricate world of professional art. An art demonstration will take place following the discussion. Boston is home. Hip-Hop is the foundation.

Learn more about this event and let us know on Facebook if you’re planning to join us. Read more about past programs in this series here.

Logo for National Endownment for the Humanities

This event is presented in partnership through Boston Public Library and the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston, and made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations in this program do not necessarily express those of the National Endowment of the Humanities.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives and Special Collections is working to expand its collections related to hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts and welcomes donations of archival materials from musicians, DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, producers, promoters, and fans that will help document the area’s rich heritage and legacy of hip-hop culture. Click here to learn more about what we collect. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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Join us on Saturday, May 25 for a Hip-Hop Dance Jam at the Codman Square Branch of the BPL

Flyer for BPL HIPHOP DANCE JAM event at the Codman Square branch of the Boston Public LibraryWhat: BPL Hip-Hop Dance Jam

When: Saturday, May 25, 2019 | 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Where: Codman Square Branch of the Boston Public Library, 690 Washington Street, Dorchester, MA 02124

Click here for directions.

Boston Public Library, UMass Boston, and members of the hip-hop community invite hip-hop enthusiasts of all ages to attend a free event at the Codman Square Branch of the Boston Public Library on Saturday, May 25, from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

“BPL Hip-Hop Dance Jam” is the third in a series of hip-hop programs to take place as part of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This program will focus on and celebrate the dance element of hip-hop, including demonstrations, narration, and a dance competition featuring local dancers. The event is hosted by Dash Boogy with music by DJ Flyte. The “Freshest Dancer” will take home $400 in prize money. All levels of dancers are welcome.

Learn more about this event here, and let us know on Facebook if you’re planning to join us. Read more about past programs in this series here.

Logo for National Endownment for the Humanities

This event is presented in partnership through Boston Public Library and the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston, and made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations in this program do not necessarily express those of the National Endowment of the Humanities.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives and Special Collections is working to expand its collections related to hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts and welcomes donations of archival materials from musicians, DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, producers, promoters, and fans that will help document the area’s rich heritage and legacy of hip-hop culture. Click here to learn more about what we collect. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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Cutz Beatz & Blendz: Free event at the Boston Public Library this Saturday about the art of DJing and making beats

Flyer for hip-hop event at the Boston Public Library, graphic shows outline of DJ as sound board.What: Cutz Beatz & Blendz: Beat Makers, Producers, and DJs!

When: Saturday, November 10, 2018 | 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.

Where: Boston Public Library, Central Library in Copley Square, 700 Boylston Street, Teen Central

Boston Public Library and UMass Boston invite hip-hop enthusiasts of all ages to attend a free hip-hop event in Teen Central at the BPL’s Central Library on Saturday, November 10, from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Spend the afternoon with Dane “DanejaZone” Bradley and fellow DJs learning the art of DJing and making beats. Enjoy live performances, special guests and more. Participants will wear headphones that allow them to switch to different channels and hear everything going on at the individual DJ stations. Participants will also have a chance to explore Teen Central’s Digital Maker Lab and learn how to use the music software. In addition, Michael Jeffries, Associate Professor of American Studies at Wellesley College, will share a documentary entitled “Scratch” as well as insights about DJ history.

Since 2016, Boston Public Library and the Healey Library at UMass Boston have been working together to preserve and share the history of hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts. They continued their collaboration to expand awareness and access to the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. As part of this grant, UMass Boston and the BPL hosted the “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” hip-hop digitization event in May 2019 at the Central Library, which was attended by more than 200 members of the local hip-hop community. View the digital collection here and learn about other grant-related events here.

The Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive at UMass Boston includes a collection of almost 300 demo tapes featuring the biggest artists from Boston’s early hip-hop scene, which were digitized thanks to the support of the Boston Public Library. University Archives and Special Collections in the Healey Library at UMass Boston is currently working to expand the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive and welcomes donations of archival materials from musicians, DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, producers, promoters, and fans that will help document the rich heritage and legacy of hip-hop culture in Boston and Massachusetts. Click here to learn more about what we collect.

Download and share the flyer for this event.

Logo for National Endownment for the Humanities

Special thanks to Dane “DanejaZone” Bradley for helping to make this event possible. Cutz Beatz & Blendz is presented in partnership through Boston Public Library and the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston, and made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations in this program do not necessarily express those of the National Endowment of the Humanities.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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“Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition materials online now

Yhinny Matos and Dash Montalvo at the "Show 'Em Whatcha Got" Mass. Memories Road Show

Yhinny Matos and Dash Montalvo at the “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show.

 

The photographs, objects, and stories collected at the “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition are available online now.

Held at the Boston Public Library in May, the event was a collaboration between UMass Boston’s Healey Library and the Boston Public Library. It was part of a larger project called “Local Rappers, DJs, B-Boys, and Graff: Documenting the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Community from the 1970s to the present” and is supported by a Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor and the UMass President’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund. Learn more about this project here.

A Phi Ki in the house. Contributor: Troy Ellerbee.

‘A Phi Ki in the house, 1980s.  Spinning at Cambridge VFW.  Pictured: Malcolm (Malibu) and myself Troy Ellerbee (Terminator).’ Contributor: Troy Ellerbee.

 

The digital collection of nearly 300 items features informal snapshots and promotional publicity photographs documenting the experiences of artists and producers involved in the four elements of hip-hop–rap, DJs, dance, and graffiti–in the Boston community from the 1980s to the present.

The Robonauts, 1981. This group was the first and for months was the only dance group of its kind in Cambridge. The Robonauts ushered in the beginning of popping from this area. Contributor: Kevin Layne (Cap Nice).

‘The Robonauts, 1981. This group was the first and for months was the only dance group of its kind in Cambridge. The Robonauts ushered in the beginning of popping from this area.’ Contributor: Kevin Layne (Cap Nice).

 

Many of the photographs in the collection document artists’ and fans’ memories of notable performances and of receiving awards and other public recognition.

My moment to shine, 1996. 'At that moment the room was quiet and all focus was on me. At that moment, I knew I had a voice. I stay in deep thought.' Contributor: Michelle Hunter (Honey Bee).

‘My moment to shine, 1996. At that moment the room was quiet and all focus was on me.  At that moment, I knew I had a voice.  I stay in deep thought.’  Contributor: Michelle Hunter (Honey Bee).

 

Many contributors shared posters, flyers, and other printed matter from performing groups, production companies, venues, and concert performances. They also brought a great number of magazine and album covers from the 1980s to the present, recording the contributions of Boston graphic artists and designers to the local and national hip-hop scene. Several photographs of clothing items, including T-shirts with logos, painted jackets, performance costumes, and shoes, are included in the collection.

Guru's Jazzmatazz Streetsoul poster, 2000. This is the logo and poster I designed for . Contributor: Rob Stull.

‘Guru’s ‘Jazzmatazz Streetsoul’ poster, 2000. This is the logo and poster I designed for hip-hop legend Guru (Keith Elam).’ Contributor: Rob Stull.

 

Note to contributors: We need your help to finish processing this collection! If you see something incorrect or misspelled–names and spellings of individuals and performing groups, for example–we want to fix it.  Please email carolyn.goldstein@umb.edu with the details and our team will make the corrections as soon as we can. Thank you!

Logo for National Endownment for the Humanities

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations in this program do not necessarily express those of the National Endowment of the Humanities.

The 60 video interviews with community members about their connections to hip-hop in Boston and Massachusetts, also collected at this event, will be added to the collection later this year.

If you have questions about the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive, please contact an archivist at UMass Boston, connect with the project on Facebook, or click here to explore the collections and learn how you can contribute materials.


University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email library.archives@umb.edu.

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