This pioneering group inaugurated the history of recorded then called rap now called hip-hop with their single "Rapper's Delight", a multi-platinum seller and radio hit in 1980. The group was created to profit on a supposed novelty item. New Jersey-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 non-rapper Big Bank Hank. The vocalists were then teamed up with three session musicians, including future Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish. Together, they recorded all of the Sugarhill Gang’s work.
"Rapper's Delight" was a #36 hit on the US pop chart and a #4 hit on the US R&B chart in 1979.
Some claim that "Rapper's Delight" is the first hip hop single ever, but it was actually preceded by "King Tim III (Personality Jock)" by the Fatback Band. The Sugarhill Gang's place in music history seems secure as the first hip hop group to have a gold single.
"Rapper's Delight" sampled the main bassline from Chic's "Good Times" and 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. The song sampled lyrics from 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.
Sugarhill Gang (1980)
8th Wonder (1982)
The Best Of Sugarhill Gang: Rapper's Delight (1996)
Jump on It! (1999)