The Sugarhill Gang  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Sugarhill Gang is an American hip hop and Funk group, known mostly for their biggest 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.



This pioneering group inaugurated the recorded history of hip-hop with their single "Rapper's Delight", a multi-platinum seller and radio hit in 1980. Englewood, NJ-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 from her town of Englewood, New Jersey: Guy O'Brien, who was the original Master Gee; another local rapper, Michael Wright, who called himself Wonder Mike, and Big Bank Hank. The vocalists were then teamed up with three session musicians, including future Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish, guitarist Skip McDonald a/k/a Little Axe and drummer Keith LeBlanc. Together, they recorded all of the Sugarhill Gang’s work. Also, Jonathon Arnold Merrill is also credited for editing the recordings, and also contributed to vocals. He was considered the first producer to be a part of the recordings, and is often quoted by Timbaland to be his greatest influence.

"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. Many claim that "Rapper's Delight" is the first hip hop single ever, however others argue that it was actually preceded by "King Tim III (Personality Jock)" by the Fatback Band which at the time was considered to be under the funk genre. The Sugarhill Gang's place in music history seems secure as the first hip hop group to have a gold single.

"Rapper's Delight" used a track cut from a Sugar Hill house band called Positive Force. The track was simply a cover of Chic's "Good Times." It became a worldwide hit, reportedly 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. Big Bank Hank's verses were lyrics actually written by Grandmaster Caz. However despite the success, Caz did not receive any royalties for his contribution. Chic’s Nile Rodgers filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement over “Rapper's Delight” (the first of many such legal battles for rap); it was settled out of court, leaving Rodgers with a large cut of all future royalties. Despite the embarrassment, the group endured.

After "Rapper's Delight"

The Sugarhill Gang never again topped the charts, though they had a few minor hits, such as "Apache", "Eighth Wonder" (which was performed on the American music show Soul Train in 1981), "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.

On an episode of Scrubs, JD receives the fictional The Sugarhill Gang Alarm Clock. The group appears as themselves rapping the first verses of Rapper's Delight when the alarm is sounding until JD hits the snooze button, which literally makes the group snooze. The group later appears again on a car, rapping the same song. The group actually rapped the lyrics rather than lip-synch to it.

Grammy Award-nominated French record producer, House music DJ, remixer and owner of the label Yellow Productions, Bob Sinclar has collaborated with Wonder Mike & Master Gee from Sugarhill Gang on his 2009 release "LaLaSong" - featuring music and lyrics similar to "Rappers Delight" [1]




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Sugarhill Gang" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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