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How a college radio show helped spread hip hop in Boston

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(source)

While hip hop now occupies a broad swath of the commercial radio dial, in the early 80's the new and experimental art form was confined to the left hand of the dial. In Boston, Lecco’s Lemma, a show started in 1985 by Magnus Johnstone on MIT's WMBR (88.1-FM), introduced thousands of people to the genre. It was a show that was decidedly local and heavily featured mixtapes from the area's aspiring MCs, back when mixtapes actually came on cassettes.

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Cassette tapes from the Lecco’s Lemma Collection (source)

And thanks to the cassette tape, some of this history is preserved as the Lecco’s Lemma Collection, part of the Massachesetts Hip-Hop Archive at the University of Massachusetts. From demos and mixes given to Johnstone from area rappers to air to recordings of the show from a fan, Willie “Loco” Alexander, the archive is a glimpse into the early days of hip-hop, as it moved out of New York and eventually became mainstream.

Here's an example of a weirder, more experimental track in the collection, "Rap In C Minor" by MC Cosmonaut which talks about the space program over a theremin-like soundtrack:

Rap In C Minor by MC Cosmonaut (source)

Collections like this and documentaries like, Stretch and Bobbito, capture the inventiveness of the early years of hip-hop and the role these radio DJs played. And while Boston might not be known as a mecca for hip-hop, the Lecco's Lemma Collection shows us the optimism and ambition that existed in one local scene.

Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives (trailer) (source)