"Rapper's Delight" is a 1979 hip hop track that serves as the debut single of American hip-hip trio the Sugarhill Gang, produced by Sylvia Robinson. Although it was shortly preceded by the Fatback Band's "King Tim III (Personality Jock)", "Rapper's Delight" is credited for introducing hip hop music to a wide audience, reaching the top 40 in the United States, as well as the top three in the United Kingdom and number one in Canada. It was a prototype for various types of rap music. The track interpolates[2] Chic's "Good Times", resulting in Chic's Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards threatening to sue Sugar Hill Records for copyright infringement; a settlement was reached that gave the two songwriting credits. The track was recorded in a single take.[3] It also interpolates Love De-Luxe's "Here Comes That Sound Again". There are five mixes of the song.

"Rapper's Delight"
A pressing of the 1979 US 12-inch single not crediting Chic's song
Single by the Sugarhill Gang
from the album Sugarhill Gang
ReleasedSeptember 16, 1979 (1979-09-16)[1]
RecordedAugust 2, 1979 (1979-08-02)
Genre
Length
  • 3:55 (single version)
  • 4:55 (album version)
  • 5:05 (7" single version)
  • 6:30 (12" short version)
  • 7:07 (long single version)
  • 14:37 (12" long version)
LabelSugar Hill
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Sylvia Robinson
The Sugarhill Gang singles chronology
"Rapper's Delight"
(1979)
"Rapper's Reprise"
(1980)
Music video
"Rapper's Delight" on YouTube

"Rapper's Delight" was ranked at number 251 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" in 2010, and number 2 on VH1's "100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs". It is also included on NPR's list of the 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century. It was preserved in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2011 for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[4]

In 2014, the record was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[5]

Background

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In late 1978, Debbie Harry suggested that Chic's Nile Rodgers join her and Chris Stein at a hip-hop event, which at the time was a communal space taken over by teenagers with boombox stereos playing various pieces of music that performers would break dance to. Rodgers experienced this event the first time himself at a high school in the Bronx. On September 20 and 21, 1979, Blondie and Chic were playing concerts with the Clash in New York at the Palladium. When Chic started playing "Good Times", rapper Fab Five Freddy and the members of the Sugarhill Gang ("Big Bank Hank" Jackson, "Wonder Mike" Wright, and "Master Gee" O'Brien), jumped up on stage and started freestyling with the band. A few weeks later, Rodgers was on the dance floor of New York club Leviticus and heard the DJ play a song which opened with Bernard Edwards' bass line from Chic's "Good Times". Rodgers approached the DJ who said he was playing a record he had just bought that day in Harlem. The song turned out to be an early version of "Rapper's Delight", which also included a scratched version of the song's string section. Rodgers and Edwards immediately threatened legal action over copyright, which resulted in a settlement and their being credited as co-writers.[6] Rodgers admitted that he was originally upset with the song, but later declared it to be "one of his favorite songs of all time" and his favorite of all the tracks that sampled (or in this instance interpolated) Chic.[7][better source needed] He also stated: "As innovative and important as 'Good Times' was, 'Rapper's Delight' was just as much, if not more so."[8]

A substantial portion of the early stanzas of the song's lyrics was borrowed by Jackson from Grandmaster Caz (Curtis Brown) who had loaned his 'book' to him—these include a namecheck for "Casanova Fly", which was Caz's full stage name.[9] According to Wonder Mike, he had heard the phrase "hip-hop" from a cousin, leading to the opening line of "Hip-hop, hippie to the hippie, to the hip-hip-hop and you don't stop", whilst he described "To the bang-bang boogie, say up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat" as "basically a spoken drum roll. I liked the percussive sound of the letter B". The line "Now what you hear is not a test, I'm rappin' to the beat", was inspired by the introduction to The Outer Limits ("There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture").[10]

Before the "Good Times" background starts, the intro to the recording is an interpolation of "Here Comes That Sound Again" by British studio group Love De-Luxe, a disco hit in 1979.[10]

According to Oliver Wang, author of the 2003 Classic Material: The Hip-Hop Album Guide, recording artist ("Pillow Talk") and studio owner Sylvia Robinson had trouble finding anyone willing to record a rap song. Most of the rappers who performed in clubs did not want to record, as many practitioners believed the style was for live performances only. It is said that Robinson and her son overheard Big Bank Hank in a pizza parlour.[11] According to Master Gee, Hank auditioned for Robinson in front of the pizza parlor where he worked, whilst Gee himself auditioned in Robinson's car.[10] A live band was used to record most of the backing track, including members of the group "Positive Force": Albert Pittman, Bernard Roland, Moncy Smith, and Bryan Horton.[12][13][10]

Chip Shearin claimed during a 2010 interview that he was the bass player on the track. At the age of 17, he had visited a friend in New Jersey. The friend knew Robinson, who needed some musicians for various recordings, including "Rapper's Delight". Shearin's job on the song was to play the bass for 15 minutes straight, with no mistakes. He was paid $70 but later went on to perform with Sugarhill Gang in concert. Shearin described the session this way:

The drummer and I were sweating bullets because that's a long time. And this was in the days before samplers and drum machines, when real humans had to play things. ... Sylvia said, 'I've got these kids who are going to talk real fast over it; that's the best way I can describe it.'[14]

Wang said:

There's this idea that hip-hop has to have street credibility, yet the first big hip-hop song was an inauthentic fabrication. It's not like the guys involved were the 'real' hip-hop icons of the era, like Grandmaster Flash or Lovebug Starski. So it's a pretty impressive fabrication, lightning in a bottle.[14]

Chart performance

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"Rapper's Delight" peaked at number 36 in January 1980 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart,[15] number four on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart in December 1979. The song was much more successful internationally, reaching number one on the Canadian Top Singles chart in January 1980,[16] number one on the Dutch Top 40, and number three on the UK Singles Chart. In 1980, the song was the anchor of the group's first album The Sugarhill Gang.[17]

It was the first top 40 song to be available only as a 12-inch extended version in the US. Early pressings (very few) were released with a red label, with black print, on Sugar Hill Records, along with a 7" 45rpm single (which is very rare). Later pressings had the more common blue label, in orange colored "roulette style" sleeves, fashioned after the label for Roulette Records; Roulette's Morris Levy and reputed mobster Tony Riviera had invested in Sugar Hill. Even later pressings were issued in the more common blue sleeves with the Sugarhill Records logo. In Europe, however, it was released on the classic 7-inch single format on French pop label Vogue, with a shorter version of the song. It was this 7" single that reached number one in the Dutch chart. The song ranked number 251 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2004 list of "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[14]

A British version of the song, with rewritten lyrics, was recorded for the song's 25th anniversary in 2004 by an ensemble of performers including Rodney P, Chester P, Kano, Simone, Yungun, Sway, J2K, Swiss, Baby Blue, Skibadee, Luke Skys, and MC D.[18]

Music videos

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The Sugar Hill Gang appeared on the syndicated Soap Factory Disco Show in late 1979, and their performance later became the song's official music video.[19] The group's performance on the Palisades Park-based program demonstrates the significant overlap between early hip-hop and disco of the late 1970s.

Alternate music videos exist as well. One appears to have been recorded by Dutch broadcasting company AVRO at a hotel pool in early 1980.[20]

The theme was used in Cog, a car advert.[citation needed]

Personnel

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Charts

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Certifications and sales

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Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[48] Platinum 249,000[47]
France 300,000[49]
Germany 100,000[50]
Netherlands (NVPI)[51] Gold 100,000^
Philippines 100,000[52]
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[53] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[54] Gold 400,000
United States 1,300,000[55]
Summaries
Worldwide 5,000,000[56]

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Legacy

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New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow recalled his memories of the song, hearing it in the rural South: "It sounded revolutionary, even when I was a child, or perhaps especially when I was a child. And it was. It was fierce and fun, simultaneously foreign and familiar." He added:[57]

Listen to "Rapper's Delight," and you hear a lightweight, joyous anthem. But it is a rough-hewn joy, miraculously born out of the struggle and pain of the Black experience. Struggle and pain are often a kiln for creativity, and that has meant that much of American culture is born of the story of Black American life.

The song appears on the soundtrack of several video games. The long single version appears in Tony Hawk's Underground 2, while the full version (albeit censored) appears in MLB 2K10. It also appears in Forza Horizon 4, on one of the game's radio stations. A cover of the song is set to be on the track list for Just Dance 2024 Edition.[58]

See also

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References

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  1. ^ Lynch, Joe (October 13, 2014). "35 Years Ago, Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight' Made Its First Chart Appearance". Billboard. Archived from the original on February 24, 2015. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  2. ^ Branch, Darrell. The Beat Game: The Truth About Hip-Hop Production. Create Space. 2014
  3. ^ "'Rapper's Delight'". National Public Radio. December 29, 2000. Retrieved December 20, 2010. The story goes that Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike, and Master Gee met Sylvia Robinson on a Friday and recorded "Rapper's Delight" the following Monday in just one take.
  4. ^ "Complete National Recording Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
  5. ^ "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Class Of 2014". grammy.com. June 21, 2017. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  6. ^ "The Story of Rapper's Delight by Nile Rodgers". RapProject.tv. Retrieved October 12, 2008.
  7. ^ "Twenty First Century Music: Nile Rodgers interviewed by Peter Paphides at Waterstone's, Piccadilly, London". Twentyfirstcenturymusic.blogspot.com. November 10, 2011. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  8. ^ "The Greatest Songs Ever! Good Times Article on Blender :: The Ultimate Guide to Music and More". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  9. ^ "Writing cred for 'Rapper's Delight' sparks grudge". New York Post. January 26, 2014. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d Simpson, Dave (May 2, 2017). "Sugarhill Gang: how we made Rapper's Delight". The Guardian. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  11. ^ Weingarten, Christopher R. (November 11, 2014). "Sugarhill Gang Rapper Big Bank Hank Dead at 58". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 29, 2022.
  12. ^ "Positive Force - Biography & History - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  13. ^ "Albert Pittman". www.facebook.com. Archived from the original on February 26, 2022. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  14. ^ a b c Menconi, David (March 14, 2010). "The riff that lifted rap". News & Observer. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved 2010-04-19.
  15. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 Chart History". Song-database.com. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  16. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. July 17, 2013. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  17. ^ "35 Years Ago, Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight' Made Its First Chart Appearance". Billboard.
  18. ^ "Music: Rappers Delight 25th Anniversary Special | BBC Radio 1Xtra by Bernard P Achampong | Free Listening on SoundCloud". Soundcloud.com. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  19. ^ "Sugarhill Gang - Rapper's Delight". YouTube. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  20. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Sugarhill Gang - Rapper's Delight". YouTube. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  21. ^ a b "music-bnb". wixsite.com. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  22. ^ Menconi, David (March 14, 2010). "The riff that lifted rap – Music – NewsObserver.com". Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  23. ^ "Chip Shearin artist page". TC Electronic. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
  24. ^ a b "Sugarhill Gang". EEG Talent. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  25. ^ "Fender Precision Bass". The Met.
  26. ^ "The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  27. ^ "The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  28. ^ "Sugarhill Gang – Rappers Delight" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  29. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 32, No. 18, January 26, 1980". RPM. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  30. ^ "InfoDisc : Tout les Titres par Artiste". Archived from the original on October 26, 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  31. ^ Jaclyn Ward - Fireball Media Ltd (October 1, 1962). "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie. Retrieved December 5, 2014.
  32. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e dischi (in Italian). Retrieved June 7, 2022. Set "Tipo" on "Singoli". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "Sugarhill Gang".
  33. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – The Sugarhill Gang" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  34. ^ "The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
  35. ^ "The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  36. ^ "The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". VG-lista. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  37. ^ "South African Rock Lists". Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  38. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  39. ^ "The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". Singles Top 100. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  40. ^ "The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  41. ^ "Sugarhill Gang: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  42. ^ "The Sugarhill Gang Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  43. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  44. ^ "Canadian 1980 Top 100 Singles". Library and Archives Canada. July 17, 2013. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  45. ^ "TOP - 1980". Top.france.free.fr. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  46. ^ "Top Annuali Single 1980".
  47. ^ "Juno Album, Singles Data" (PDF). Billboard. January 24, 1981. p. 102. Retrieved March 2, 2021 – via World Radio History.
  48. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Sugar Hill Gang – Rapper's Delight". Music Canada.
  49. ^ Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP). Fabrice Ferment (ed.). TOP – 1980 (in French). OCLC 469523661. Archived from the original on February 23, 2021. Retrieved March 12, 2022 – via Top-France.fr. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  50. ^ "Dateline: Hamburg" (PDF). Music Week. April 19, 1980. p. 16. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  51. ^ "Dutch single certifications – Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved March 4, 2021. Enter Rapper's Delight in the "Artiest of titel" box. Select 1979 in the drop-down menu saying "Alle jaargangen".
  52. ^ Rodriguez, Ces (June 7, 1980). "Filipino Film Sparks Life Into EP Format" (PDF). Billboard. p. 45. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  53. ^ Sólo Éxitos 1959-2002 Año A Año: Certificados 1979-1990 (in Spanish). Iberautor Promociones Culturales. 2005. ISBN 8480486392.
  54. ^ "British single certifications – Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  55. ^ "International Music People Mingle At MUSEXPO Confab" (PDF). Cash Box. November 17, 1979. p. 52. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
  56. ^ Sha Be Allah (September 16, 2020). "Today In Hip-Hop History: Sugar Hill Gang Releases 'Rapper's Delight' 41 Years Ago". The Source. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
  57. ^ Blow, Charles (June 20, 2023). "America's Black Pain and Joy". The New York Times.
  58. ^ "Just Dance 2024 song list and track list". The Loadout. September 13, 2023. Retrieved September 13, 2023.
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