Legendary rapper and producer, Duke Bootee, died at the age of 69, the New York Times confirmed on Saturday.
Born Edward Fletcher in Elizabeth, Georgia, Bootee was a rapper and producer associated with Sugar Hill Records. He's best known for his work with Melle Mel of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. This connection led to the creation of "The Message" in 1982 which Bootee helped co-write and produce.
"The Message" is highly regarded as one of the greatest songs created. The track depicts the dilapidated state of New York City at the time and was created in response to the 1980 New York City transit strike. The theme and instrumental of "The Message" has been re-purposed throughout music, helping solidify the impact of the single.
During his early years, Bootee learned how to play the drums and xylophone. He played cover bands at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania where he graduated with an English degree. He first earned success and attention by playing on Edwin Starr’s disco single "Contact." This led to his deal at Sugar Hill Records.
Fletcher ended up leaving the music industry early to return to school. He earned his master’s degrees from the New School in media studies and from Rutgers University in education before venturing into teaching. Additionally, he worked at a juvenile detention center, a high school, and two colleges. Fletcher spent the last decade of his career as a lecturer in critical thinking and communication at Savannah State University where he retired in 2019. He is survived by his wife, Rosita Ross, his two children, Owen Fletcher and Branice Moore, and five grandchildren.