Classics: Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight (Sugarhill Records)
‘Rapper’s Delight’? Damn it, I suppose one could hardly have found a better title than this as a matter of fact. Meanwhile speakin’ of this long version (close to 15 minutes) which Sugarhill Gang recorded in one take. And this without samplers or whatsoever at the time.
‘Rapper’s Delight’… Here we go speakin’ of the very first steps of Hip-Hop. An emerging genre that nothing could ever stop from the end of the 70’s. With Sugarhill Gang comin’ up with its very first commercial success. And, by that, writing one of the first episodes of its back then nascent history along with producer Sylvia Robinson.
It all started back by the end of September 1978 at NYC’s The Palladium. This when Blondie and Chic were playing concerts with The Clash. As Chic started playin’ ‘Good Times’, rapper Fab Five Freddy and the members of the Sugarhill Gang joined them on stage and started freestylin’. Then, a few weeks later, Rodgers heard the DJ of the Leviticus play a jam where he recognized Bernard Edwards‘ bassline from ‘Good Times’. And when he talked to the DJ, the latter said to him he was playin’ a record he’d just got a few hours before in Harlem.
The vinyl in question just happened to be an early version of ‘Rapper’s Delight’. Although it also included a scratched version of the string section of ‘Good Times’. Thus bringing Rodgers and Edwards to soon after threatening legal action over copyright. Itself leading to a settlement and them credited as co-writers.
As a matter of fact, Sugarhill Gang didn’t come with only one interpolation but two. The first of them appearing in the intro of ‘Rapper’s Delight’, before the arrival of the so to say Chic‘s background. Thus bringin’ back to the souvenir of Love De-Luxe‘s classic ‘Here Comes That Sound That Sound Again’. Meanwhile a guy named Chip Shearin said in 2010 he was the one who played the bass. This along with the members of Positive Force.
He had to play straight, with no mistakes for 15 minutes. And for that, he eventually got paid $70, although he would later on perform on stage with the group.
All in all, ‘Rapper’s Delight’ didn’t happen to be the only cut that took inspiration from Chic‘s ‘Good Time’ at the end. Let’s quote in no order of preference or release date Queen‘s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’. But also Captain Sensible‘s ‘Say Wot!’. If not Vaughan Mason & Crew‘s ‘Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll’. Meanwhile transient outfit Xanada & Sweet Lady would themselves come with an interpolation of ‘Rapper’s Delight’. This the same year with new tickling if not controversial lyrics, destined to a different crowd, although on the same kind of flow.
Could it be that Sugarhill Gang happened to be some one hit wonder at the end? I guess the question had to be asked. As the boys never managed to repeat the success they scored with ‘Rapper’s Delight’. This despite the release of four albums and a bunch of worth the check singles.
Hailing from Englewood, NJ, Michael ‘Wonder Mike’ Wright, Henry ‘Big Bank Hank’ Jackson, and Guy ‘Master Gee’ O’Brien joined forces as Sugarhill Gang back in 1978. This at the initiative of the late Sylvia Robinson who founded Sugarhill Records with her husband.
Comin’ up with ‘Rapper’s Delight’, an interpolation of Chic‘s famous ‘Good Times’ the year after, they pretty much set their name in the history of the then emerging Hip-Hop. This while bringin’ Hip-Hop to a wider audience. A too big success at the end? Probably, and most likely because of the soundwave it propelled in the record industry. And as a result, pretty much overshadowing the rest of the band’s repertoire as earlier said.
Sugarhill Gang released three albums on Sugarhill Records between 1980 and 1984. And who does remember the slammin’ ‘Sugarhill Groove’ from their eponymous debut-album? A cut which would certainly have deserved a bigger recognition… With the same applying to the uplifting ‘Hot Hot Summer Day’ from their ‘8th Wonder’ follow-up album. With the latter spanning extra gems such as ‘Apache’ and its title track. And I’m not even talkin’ about ‘Fast Lane’ which almost saw them flirting with Go-Go vibes, from their ‘Livin’ In The Fast Lane’ album. Nor even of the blowin’ ‘The Lover In You’ which never found space in an album at the end…
As many tracks though which aptly demonstrated as to how Sugarhill Gang were way more than so to say a rapper’s delight at the end…
The band eventually reunited 15 years later. Relasing their last album – ‘Jump On It!’ – with its backing cover stating its content was made of “Positive messages of familiar, favorite rappin’ rhymes for kids!”
Big Hank sadly died on Nov. 11, 2014 at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in nearby Englewood, NJ after a long battle against cancer. He was 57.
In 2016, the remaining living members of the original Sugarhill Gang, including Wonder Mike, Hendogg and Master Gee embarked on their first world tour in over a decade under the name The Sugarhill Gang.