The prospect of partial melting of the subducted oceanic crust to produce arc magmatism has been debated for over 30 years. Debate has centred on the physical conditions of slab melting and the lack of a definitive, unambiguous geochemical signature and petrogenetic process. Experimental partial melting data for basalt over a wide range of pressures (1–32 kbar) and temperatures (700–1150°C) have shown that melt compositions are primarily trondhjemite–tonalite–dacite (TTD). High-Al (> 15% Al2O3 at the 70% SiO2 level) TTD melts are produced by high-pressure (≥ 5 kbar) partial melting of basalt, leaving a restite assemblage of garnet + clinopyroxene ± hornblende. A specific Cenozoic high-Al TTD (adakite) contains lower Y, Yb and Sc and higher Sr, Sr/Y, La/Yb and.Zr/Sm relative to other TTD types and is interpreted to represent a slab melt under garnet amphibolite to eclogite conditions. High-Al TTD with an adakite-like geochemical character is prevalent in the Archean as the result of a higher geotherm that facilitated slab melting. Cenozoic adakite localities are commonly associated with the subduction of young (<25 Ma), hot oceanic crust, which may provide a slab geotherm (≍9–10°C km−1) conducive for slab dehydration melting. Viable alternative or supporting tectonic effects that may enhance slab melting include highly oblique convergence and resultant high shear stresses and incipient subduction into a pristine hot mantle wedge. The minimum P–T conditions for slab melting are interpreted to be 22–26 kbar (75–85 km depth) and 750–800°C. This P–T regime is framed by the hornblende dehydration, 10°C/km, and wet basalt melting curves and coincides with numerous potential slab dehydration reactions, such as tremolite, biotite + quartz, serpentine, talc, Mg-chloritoid, paragonite, clinohumite and talc + phengite. Involvement of overthickened (>50 km) lower continental crust either via direct partial melting or as a contaminant in typical mantle wedge-derived arc magmas has been presented as an alternative to slab melting. However, the intermediate to felsic volcanic and plutonic rocks that involve the lower crust are more highly potassic, enriched in large ion lithophile elements and elevated in Sr isotopic values relative to Cenozoic adakites. Slab-derived adakites, on the other hand, ascend into and react with the mantle wedge and become progressively enriched in MgO, Cr and Ni while retaining their slab melt geochemical signature. Our studies in northern Kamchatka, Russia provide an excellent case example for adakite-mantle interaction and a rare glimpse of trapped slab melt veinlets in Na-metasomatised mantle xenoliths.