Reference Entry

Sugarhill Gang

Kate Tuttle

in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780195170559
Sugarhill Gang

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With the phenomenal success of their 1979 single “Rapper's Delight,” the Sugarhill Gang became the first Rap group to break out of the dance clubs of New York and Los Angeles and achieve international fame. Ironically, the group did not originate in the post-disco DJ scene of other rap innovators, like Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa. Instead, the Sugarhill Gang was the creation of Sugar Hill Records, a black-owned label that was the first to bring rap to a commercial audience.The Sugarhill Gang consisted of three relatively unknown rappers—Big Bank Hank (Henry Jackson), Master Gee (Guy O'Brien), and Wonder Mike (Michael Wright)—whom Sylvia Robinson of Sugar Hill Records approached in early 1979. Backed by a track sampled from the disco group Chic's hit song “Good Times,” the group's hit single exemplified the playful, positive, dance-oriented feel of early rap (which later fans have dubbed “old school”). Accused by veteran rappers of appropriating their trademark lyrics, the Sugarhill Gang popularized, rather than created, the sound for which they became famous. Despite the issues surrounding the group's authenticity, their work spawned a host of imitators and brought rap music into the American mainstream.After the success of “Rapper's Delight,” which was the first rap record to break into Top Forty radio play, the group dropped out of the public eye, though they continue to play (with manager Joey Robinson, Jr., replacing Master Gee). In 1997 Rhino Records re-released the Sugarhill Gang's first record, now considered a classic of old school rap. In 2001 the group won a three million dollar settlement from Snapple Beverage Corporation and Turner Broadcasting for wrongful use of its image in nationally televised commercials.See also Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, and the Furious Five; Music, African American.

Reference Entry.  306 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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