MC Sha-Rock shared her life experience, beliefs and how the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. influenced her life in a presentation at Clark on Jan. 16.
Sha-Rock spoke in remembrance of King, giving attendees a glimpse into the pioneering days of hip-hop from her perspective as one of the genre’s founders.
Born Sharon Green in 1962, Sha-Rock eventually became known as the “Mother of the Mic,” the first ever female hip-hop artist.
“The bronx was burning down,” Sha-Rock said of growing up in 1970s New York City.
She showed a photo of herself as a young girl and some of her friends atop the rubble of a building surrounded by mostly abandoned buildings.
“All we ever wanted to do was celebrate the music,” she said.
"Hip-Hop is about peace, unity and having fun" – Sha-Rock first ever female Hip-Hop artist pic.twitter.com/ivBqm6hrQg
— Theresa Matthiesen (@TCsDinghy) January 16, 2019
She said hip-hop was a way to stay out of gangs like the Savage Skulls, where even young kids were carrying guns.
They adopted King’s dream, embracing integration not as a problem but as an opportunity. “To me, Martin Luther King Jr. was an MC – Master of Ceremonies,” she said. Like King, hip-hop brought together people of many backgrounds and helped them create something out of nothing.
Sha-Rock and her group the Funky Four Plus One made hip-hop history in 1981 when they performed on Saturday Night Live. Sha-Rock and her group were approached by Debbie Harry, the lead singer of the rock group Blondie to appear on the program, becoming the first hip-hop group to perform on national television.
“I didn’t realize until I was an adult that I had made history,” Sha-Rock said.
Sha-Rock wishes that she and the other pioneers of hip-hop had access to social media in the 1970s, because it would have been easier to spread the word about what they were doing. People would have had a better understanding of what true practitioners of hip-hop were really about, she said.
When violence broke out at hip-hop performances, Sha-Rock said they started pushing back by not letting it in. They provided their own security and patted people down to keep weapons out. “hip-hop for me is about peace, unity and fun,” she said.
“If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward,” Sha-Rock said, quoting King.
“Whatever you do, make it count,” she said.
- Facts about Sha-Rock
She is known as, “the Luminary Icon” and “the Mother of the Mic”
- She is the first female MC of hip-hop
- She was a founder and ambassador of hip-hop culture in the 1970s, from the inception through the groundbreaking eras of the genre
- She was a founding member of Funky Four MCs, later known as the Funky Four Plus One
- She inspired the style of rapping called ‘echo chamber,’ which was later used by hip-hop group Run-DMC
- “DMC from the Hip-Hop group Run DMC told me that when they were recording their album “Tougher than Leather,” he told Jam Master Jay that he wanted to sound like Sha-Rock on the echo chamber. I was known for having the reverb on my voice. It means a lot for someone of that stature (a multi-selling platinum group) to admit that a female inspired them,” Sha-Rock said in a Huffington Post interview in 2013.
- In 2010 she published a memoir “The Story of the Beginning and End of the First Hip Hop Female MC: Luminary Icon Sha-Rock”
- In 2012, Rolling Stone Magazine named the Funky Four Plus One single “That’s the Joint” in the top 50 rap songs of all time
- She founded “Tomorrow’s Footprints,” an organization committed to educating and preserving the history and fundamentals of hip-hop culture through music and dance.
- In 2013 she was appointed the national adviser of the Cornell University hip-hop library collection