The story of the Sugarhill Gang is perhaps one of the most controversial among old school hip hop and hip hop on a whole for that matter.
A woman named Sylvia Robinson, who herself was involved in the music industry, heard this new underground sound called rap and felt that there was market there for the taking. She began to put together a group to record a rap record.
At the same time, Henry Jackson was a bouncer in club and also a part time hip hop manager. Henry used to listen to mix tapes of various crews of the time and rap along with the lyrics. One night Sylvia overheard Henry repeating some rhymes of Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers. She asked Henry if he was interested in joining a group.
Here’s where the controversy begins.
Instead of revealing the true author of the rhymes, Henry agreed. He later went to visit Caz who agreed to let Henry use his rhymes. Caz figured if Henry got hooked up, he was later help Caz and Cold Crush do the same. Obviously, he never did.
Henry Jackson, now renamed Big Bank Hank, joined Wonder Mike, and Master Gee and formed the Sugarhill Gang. They went on to record “Rapper’s Delight.” The song eventually went on to sell over 2 million copies, hit #4 on the R&B chart, and became the highest selling 12 inch single ever.
When the true hip hop crews heard the song on the radio they were stunned. Grandmaster Flash recalls thinking, “Sugarhill who?” No one knew who this group was, but nevertheless, they broke the sound from the underground and blew it up worldwide.
The legendary Sugarhill Gang perform at Hangar 34 on June 8th!