RTB Rewind: Sept. 16, 1979 - The Sugar Hill Gang Releases "Rappers Delight"

RTB Rewind: Sept. 16, 1979 - The Sugar Hill Gang Releases "Rappers Delight"

Published Fri, September 16, 2022 at 1:50 PM EDT

Musically based on Chic's 1979 summer anthem "Good Times," The Sugar Hill Gang's "Rappers Delight" ushered in many firsts.

"Rappers Delight" was the first record released on Sylvia Robinson's new Sugar Hill label. Sylvia had successfully run a half dozen soul and R&B labels throughout the 1970s, but after seeing and hearing rap music for the first time performed by the late DJ/MC Lovebug Starski at New York's Harlem World Club, she felt that the music had commercial potential, so she started Sugar Hill Records, named after a prominent section of Harlem.

"Rappers Delight" marked the first time that audiences outside of New York's five boroughs experienced rap music. Though The Fatback Band released "King Tim III (Personality Jock)" which featured rapper King Tim earlier in 1979, "Rappers Delight" and its infectious interpolation of "Good Times," combined with its comical stories and "hotel motel" refrain, was the record that America gravitated towards.

In 2015, Sylvia Robinson's son Leland told The Foundation, "King Tim isn't really a rap record. Listen to it, it's a funk record with rapping on it, but there's more singing than rapping. The Sugar Hill Gang raps all the way through 'Rappers Delight'."

We caught lots of flack for not being actual MCs, but we were. I was in a group called Phase 2 and Wonder Mike was in Sound On Sound. They were two of New Jersey's biggest DJ crews. We mention them on 'Rapper's Delight.'

- Master Gee

In addition to putting rap music into mainstream America's living rooms by way of television programs such as Soul Train, American Bandstand and Solid Gold, "Rappers Delight" set the template for the twelve-inch single being the primary medium that rap was delivered on for its first decade.

The song also sparked rap's first sample-based lawsuit stemming from the unauthorized "Good Times" interpolation. The success of "Rappers Delight" made it possible for The Sequence( of which Angie Stone was a member) Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5, The Funky 4 + 1 and Spoonie Gee to later be signed to the label, which essentially made it rap music's Motown.

"Rappers Delight" has appeared in countless mainstream motion pictures, television commercials, and just about every facet of popular culture. Check out The Def Squad's 1997 remake below.

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