“Rapper’s Delight,” the 14-minute song recognized for spreading hip-hop to a mass audience, turns 40 years old today.
It was on Sept. 16, 1979, that trio Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson, Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien and Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright — The Sugarhill Gang — dropped the tune, and the rest is hip-hop history. Below are five fun facts about the song and the band behind it.
First Hip Hop Single to Reach the Billboard Top 40
“Rapper’s Delight” made it into the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart on January 5, 1980, peaking at no. 36 that same month.
Controversy Surrounding Big Bank Hank’s Lyrics
Hank ran into some issues when Rapper Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers alleged the iconic tune was ripped off from some of his lyrics.
“We’ve given him credit in public and done shows with him, and he’s cool about it. But I’m sure it bothers him every time he hears it,” said group member O’Brien in 2017.
First Hip Hop Group on American Bandstand
In 1979, The Sugar Hill Gang became the first hip-hop group to perform on “American Bandstand,” a music and dance TV program that aired for more than three decades until 1989.
Indecision from Sugar Hill Record Label Led to Group’s Formation
Sylvia Robinson, who founded the hip-hop label Sugar Hill, wanted to make an album and sought out talent in New Jersey, which is where she lived.
“Big Bank Hank rapped and made pizzas, so she auditioned him in front of the pizza parlor. I rapped in her car, then Wonder Mike was next. ‘I can’t choose,’ she said. ‘So I’ll put you all together,’” O’Brien recalled in 2017.
Sugarhill Gang Continues on
After the death of Big Bank Hank from a long lung cancer battle in 2014, surviving members Wonder Mike and Master Gee went on to embark on their first world tour in a decade in 2016. Their stops included performing at The Art of Rap Festival, and they still perform today, playing Gloucestershire, England’s Nibley Festival in July.