Rappers' Delight - Sugarhill Gang
In 1979 44 year old Sylvia Robinson was at a party in Harlem when she heard a young deejay rapping over soul hits and sending the audience wild. She was so impressed that next day she sent her son out to find some young rappers. He brought back three young men who she christened the Sugarhill Gang after her record label Sugar Hill Records. As she and her husband had previously put together a short succession of relatively unsuccessful record labels it was a cinch to put together an in-house band. She then told them to play the backing riffs of Chic's hit "Good Times" and got them all in the studio to rap on top of it. The legend has it they did it all in one, long, freestyling first take; whether this is true or not, it became the first rap record ever to be a hit. Thus arguably, setting a whole new music genre in motion.
But here's the thing: Sylvia Robinson was the Sylvia of Mickey and Sylvia fame, (see the last post) many of whose records were written and produced by Bo Diddley, thus creating a direct thread running from the Mississippi delta blues (Diddley was born and raised in Mississippi), through the origins of rock and roll at Chess records where Diddley recorded alongside the likes of Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters, to modern 21st century rap music.
And Sylvia knew it. You can tell from what they're doing, they know they are introducing something new and important to the commercial record world, right from the first words, where he names the music in the first line:
"I said a hip hop hippie to the hippie"
then namechecks the other black US dance forms:
"the hip, hip a hop, and you don't stop, a rock it out bubba to the bang bang boogie, boobie to the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie the beat"
then makes an important pronouncement, this is dance music for EVERYONE:
"now, what you hear is not a test I'm rappin' to the beat and me, the groove, and my friends are gonna try to move your feet see, I am Wonder Mike, and I'd like to say hello to the black, to the white, the red and the brown the purple and yellow....."
and then they're away, consciously defining the artform, telling their audience what this thing is they're introducing. Never has a new muiscal form arrived with such panache - with the arrogance of a cool teenager strutting late and arrogant into assembly, daring the head teacher to expel them. It still is fresh nearly forty year's later, its words still surprising even after all those listens.