The Sugarhill Gang – ‘Rapper’s Delight': Throwback Video of the Day
The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” is undoubtedly one of the greatest rap songs in hip-hop history. The original 12-inch single was released independently on the first rap label Sugarhill Records on Sept. 16, 1979. The song features the undeniable bass lick, which was replayed by bassist Chip Shearin from Chic’s dance track “Good Times.” On the song, the trio of Henry "Big Bank Hank" Jackson, Guy "Master Gee" O'Brien and Michael "Wonder Mike" Wright deliver playeristic rhymes about their dealings with various women.
For the iconic video, the late founder and CEO of Sugar Hill Records Sylvia Robinson understood that videos were a great way to promote a single outside of America. Keep in mind, that in 1979 there weren't any video channels like MTV or BET to showcase videos.
The visual was shot at a discotheque called the Soap Factory in in Palisades Park, N.J. The venue helped put disco on the map and would feature local talent in the area. Artists like Stephanie Mills, Kool & the Gang, Patrice Rushen, Sister Sledge, Cissy Houston, McFadden & Whitehead and others made their television debut on the show, which was syndicated from 1977 to 1979.
The Sugar Hill Gan performed "Rapper's Delight" on the show, thus becoming the actual video for the song. In the clip, Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike and Master Gee recite their lyrics while dancers display their moves.
Watch The Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" Video
Although "Rapper's Delight" is not the first commercially released rap song (that credit goes to the Fatback Band with "Kim Tim III [Personality Jock]"), it helped push rap music into the mainstream. The song peaked to No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1979, which was a major accomplishment at the time because no radio station was playing rap music.
"I knew 'Rapper's Delight' was going to big on the night we recorded it," said Wonder Mike in a 2017 interview with Pix11 News. "Because hip-hop was only big in this area [New York/New Jersey] and if you have a hit record and its gets played in Miami, Detroit, Paris, anywhere, and it's a great record, it was going to be big."
However, the iconic song also brought plenty of controversy. Since the track interpolates Chic's "Good Times", band members Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards had to sue Sugar Hill Records for copyright infringement. They eventually settled for royalties and credit on the song.
On the flip side of that, rapper Grandmaster Caz of the legendary rap group Cold Crush Brothers claims the Sugar Hill Gang ripped off his lyrics, specifically Big Bank Hank, and he's never been paid. Caz even released a rebuttal track to "Rapper's Delight" called "MC's Delight."
“I want credit,” Caz told the New York Post in 2014. “You know, for the record. Before I leave this planet, I would like to be recognized as one of the writers on that song. It’s one of the most monumental things I’ve done in my career.”
Sadly, even the founding members of the Sugarhill Gang was never paid royalties for their contributions on the song. In 2008, Wonder Mike and Master Gee filed a lawsuit against their former manager and Sugarhill Publishing. In their complaint, the duo were seeking back royalties and compensation. They also claim that Sylvia Robinson deceived them with their original contract back in the late 1970’s.
In 2011, Wonder Mike and Master Gee appeared in a documentary called I Want My Name Back, which chronicled the Sugar Hill Gang's rise in rap and the controversy surrounding their classic song.
Watch The Sugar Hill Gang Talk About "Rapper's Delight" and Its Impact on Hip-Hop