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Sugarhill Gang’s Big Bank Hank Dies of Cancer at 57

Henry Jackson (center)

Henry Jackson (center)

Henry Jackson, 57, also known as Big Bank Hank, a member of the world’s first commercial rap group, Sugarhill Gang, died early this morning in the New York area.

Jackson died of kidney complications due to cancer, according to David Mallie, who manages the other two members of the group. He passed away around 2 a.m.

“So sad to hear of our brother’s passing. Rest in peace Big Bank,” his group mates Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien told TMZ.

“Wonder Mike and Master Gee had been in contact with him in the past year,” Mallie told FOX411. “They had some great times and created history.”

DJ Funkmaster Flex also shared his condolences via Instagram.

“Rest in peace… Big Bank Hank… Hip hop pioneer dies of Cancer …. Legend… Sugarhill gang August 5th-1957 / Nov11th-2014 ….. InFlexWeTrust.Com,” wrote Flex.

Sugarhill Gang was the first hip hop act to have a hit single in 1979 with “Rapper’s Delight,” a song that exploded onto the scene among young African Americans, who were entranced by the new music form that came out of New York City.

All Englewood, New Jersey natives, the three men were brought together by producer Sylvia Robinson, who founded Sugar Hill Records with her husband, record mogul Joe Robinson. The group and the record company are named after the famed Harlem neighborhood, Sugar Hill, where prominent African-Americans such as W.E.B. DuBois, Thurgood Marshall and Duke Ellington lived among the impressive brownstones.

The success of the group brought attacks from other rappers of the day, who felt that the three New Jersey boys weren’t authentic and didn’t represent rap’s real Bronx origins.

After the chart topping success of “Rapper’s Delight,” the Sugarhill Gang found more modest success with follow-up hits like “Apache” and “Eighth Wonder,” though none could ever be as ground-breaking as “Rapper’s Delight.”

In 1999, the group came back together to record a hip hop children’s album entitled “Jump on It!”

“Once I step out that door into the entertainment arena, we get crazy love everywhere we go,” Wonder Mike told FOX411 in 2013. “Like one of the Soul Train Awards years ago, Denzel Washington was in the audience, Danny Glover, Jay-Z and Beyonce were doing the lyrics, and all of these people are saying the words right back to me.”

 

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