The Sugarhill Gang

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The Sugarhill Gang is an American hip hop group, known mostly for one hit, "Rapper's Delight," the first hip hop single to become a Top 40 hit. The track uses the bass line from "Good Times" by CHIC as its foundation. The members, all from New York City, called themselves Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and Master Gee. They were assembled into a group by producer Sylvia Robinson who also founded Sugar Hill Records along with her husband record mogul Joe Robinson.

Rapper's Delight

"Rapper's Delight" was a #36 hit on the US pop chart and a #4 hit on the US R&B chart in 1979, though hip-hop was dismissed as a brief fad. The Sugarhill Gang never again topped the charts, though they had a few minor hits, such as "Apache," "Eighth Wonder," "Rapper's Reprise [Jam Jam]," and "Showdown" (with the Furious Five). In 1999, they reunited and recorded Jump on It, a hip hop children's album. They continue to tour.

Some claim that "Rapper's Delight" is the first hip-hop single ever, but it was actually preceded by "King Tim III (Personality Jock)" by the Fatback Band. The term "rap" is also claimed to be derived from the title of "Rapper's Delight." In addition, Grandmaster Caz from the Cold Crush Brothers claims that Sugarhill Gang member Big Bank Hank used his rhymes on "Rapper's Delight." This claim is attributed to the lyrics "I'm the C-A-S-AN the O-V-A and the rest is F-L-Y," used by Big Bank Hank in the song. (At the time Grandmaster Caz regularly referred to himself as "Casanova Fly.") However, it is said that Grandmaster Caz wrote Big Bank Hank's lyrics for the entire song. But the Sugarhill Gang's place in music history seems secure as the first hip hop group to have a Gold single.

Although not heard for a long time, in Honda Accord's 'Cog' advert "Rapper's Delight" made a comeback while the voice of US author Garrison Keillor queries "Isn't it nice... when things just... work" as the 'Cog' advertisment took 606 different takes to get the perfect one.

Further history

This pioneering group inaugurated the history of recorded hip-hop with their single "Rapper's Delight," a multi-platinum seller and radio hit in 1979. The group was created to profit on a supposed novelty item. New Jersey-based producer and indie label owner Sylvia Robinson had become aware of the massive hip-hop block parties occurring around the New York City area during the late '70s, so she gathered three locals: Guy O'Brien, who was the original Master Gee; another local rapper, Michael Wright, who called himself Wonder Mike; and non-rapper Big Bank Hank. The vocalists were then teamed up with three session musicians, including future Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish. Together, they recorded all the Sugarhill Gang’s work.

"Rapper's Delight" borrowed the main bassline from Chic's "Good Times" and became a worldwide hit, allegedly selling more than eight million copies. For some time, the trio developed a poor reputation within certain social circles: The fact that they were essentially amateurs assembled by Sugar Hill Records upset many hip-hop pioneers who had been paying dues in the street party circuit. According to many, Big Bank Hank’s entire verse on “Delight” was “borrowed” from a notebook of rhymes written by Grandmaster Caz, a local rapper with the Cold Crush Brothers, for whom Hank was the manager. Allegedly, this was done on the promise that he’d help Cold Crush get a record deal. It never happened, and the Cold Crush Brothers were relegated to being a cult phenomenon. Also, Chic’s Nile Rodgers filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement over “Delight” (the first such of legal battles for rap, with many to come); it was settled out of court, leaving Rodgers with a large cut of all future royalties. Despite the embarrassment, the group endured.

The Sugarhill Gang received the Obey treatment with Shepard's 2003 release of Sugar Hill Gang. In Supply and Demand, Shepard tells a funny anecdote about how The Sugarhill Gang sued him over this print.