Sugarhill Gang

Although the Sugarhill Gang's 1979 debut single "Rapper's Delight" was a seminal moment in the birth of Hip Hop, the act was less a formal performing unit than a novelty put together in order to capitalize on what was then perceived as a fad. 

Sugarhill Records co-head Sylvia Robinson (who had recorded successfully in the 50s as half of Mickey and Sylvia, and in the 70s as Sylvia) took note of the live Hip Hop scene that was emerging in New York at time, and recruited a trio of local rappers — Michael "Wonder Mike" Wright, Henry "Big Bank Hank" Jackson and Guy "Master Gee" O'Brien — to capitalize on the new sound by rapping verses over a backing track that interpolated the instrumental track of Chic's hit "Good Times." Released as a 12" single, "Rapper's Delight" became a grass-roots sensation, selling more than 8 million copies and in the process helping to lay the foundations of the Hip Hop genre.

The Sugarhill Gang scored a few more minor hits, including "Apache," "Eighth Wonder," "Rapper's Reprise (Jam Jam)," and "Showdown" (a collaboration with labelmates the Furious Five), but had faded from view by the mid 80s, as Hip Hop evolved toward more ambitious sounds and subject matter. By end of the 1990s, a reformed Sugarhill Gang was back on the live circuit.

Related Lessons

Sampling: The Foundation of Hip Hop

Grades: High
Subjects: CTE, General Music

How is the re-use and re-purposing of existing music at the heart of the Hip Hop recording experience?