Sugar Hill Gang
Writer(s): The Sugarhill Gang, Sylvia Robinson, Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards, Grandmaster Caz (see lyrics here)
Released: September 16, 1979
First Charted: October 13, 1979
Peak: 36 US, 36 CB, 45 HR, 4 RB, 3 UK, 12 CN, 37 AU, 19 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.4 UK, 8.0 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 97.6 video, 133.97 streaming
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About the Song:
The development of hip-hop culture dates back to the early ‘70s in the Bronx when DJs and MCs showcased the art form in night clubs and at house parties. NPR However, the movement didn’t hit the mainstream until 1979 when a New Jersey label called Sugar Hill Records introduced the Sugar Hill Gang and the group took “Rapper’s Delight” into the top 40, a first for rap music. FR
The trio of Master Gee, Wonder Mike and Big Bank Hank were unknown MCs recruited by Sugar Hill’s Sylvia Robinson. RS500 Sylvia had seen chart success – most notably with the 1957 song “Love Is Strange” (#11) and her own “Pillow Talk” (#3) in 1973. However, in 1979, the label she’d co-founded was on the verge of bankruptcy. When she saw a DJ talking to the crowd one night at a Harlem club, she thought it would be a great idea to make a rap record. Legend has it that Sylvia’s son Joey auditioned Henry Jackson (Big Bank Hank) outside a pizza joint and his friends asked if they could participate as well. TB It has also been said that they were recruited on a Friday and recorded “Rapper’s Delight” in just one take on the following Monday. NPR
The 12-inch version of “Rapper’s Delight” released in September 1979 ran 15 minutes long. A shorter version went to pop radio. NPR The song borrowed the rhythm track from Chic’s #1 hit “Good Times,” HT-594 itself a significant song in another important musical revolution of the ‘70s – disco. The practice of “borrowing” from another song became known as sampling and would become the basic approach for all raps songs to follow.
The song did not, however, deal with the heavier themes which would come to dominate rap music. While it sported the lyrical boastfulness which became typical for rap, DM “Delight” generated controversy because it was playful instead of reflective of the urban anger of other rap from the time. In addition, none of the three members had ever been a DJ or MC and two of them were from New Jersey. NPR
First posted 10/13/2011; last updated 6/18/2023.