The Sugarhill Gang

In the rap world MCs often talk about being old school. It is implied that a particular artist’s longevity in the rap world is a testament to their lasting originality, creativity and fortitude to trudge through the lulls of a long-term recording career. In some cases this may be true, in others it may be not but I’m not going to get into that. What I’m really here for is to talk about The Sugarhill Gang, the oldest, most original, commercially successful rap group ever to tickle our ear drums. Of all the rap groups that have been allowed to grace this earth few have had the impact that The Sugarhill Gang did in 1979, not necessarily in terms of sales but in terms of proving that rap was a valid form of music and not a mere urban fad. It would take years still for the skeptics to be convinced, but the seeds of the successful rap industry that we have today were planted back in 1979 by Sugarhill.

So what was so special about The Sugarhill Gang? What did they do that was so groundbreaking? They released a single in 1979 titled “Rappers Delight” and that’s about it. That single was the catalyst for the whole rap movement that followed in the eighties. Rappers Delight was the first rap single to be on the top forty in the US, it also charted in the UK, Canada and pretty much all over the western world. This seems like it was the beginning of it all but prior to Rappers Delight’s success rap existed. Rapping was taking place at various social events through out the seventies but what Sugarhill did was take the essence of what was primarily a live experience, polish it up and make it presentable to the masses.

The Sugarhill Gang was made up of three members, Wonder Mike, Master Gee and Big Bank Hank. Oddly enough they weren’t from the Bronx or Queens as one might think, they were from Englewood New Jersey, of all places. They were assembled by a producer that heard them rap in front of a crowd at a local funk concert. As stated earlier rap wasn’t taken too seriously at the time and the producer signed them up with the idea that he would be entertaining a short term musical fad. What happened when the single was released must have been a huge surprise because the song skyrocketed up the charts, especially for a “fad” song. There wasn’t even a single version of the song for sale in the US, if there was I’m sure sales would have been much better. Unfortunately for Sugarhill though the success didn’t last and they had to hand over the torch to the up and comers of the day like Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash. Sugarhill released a couple albums and a few more singles post Rapper’s Delight but nothing to much fanfare. They broke up in 1986. They’ve reunited various times through the years but nothing to make of it. Of their four album offering their first two are still pretty good.

1) Sugarhill Gang [1980]
2) 8th Wonder [1982]
3) Ain’t Nothin’ But A Party [1998]
4) Jump on It! [1999]

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