RTB Rewind: The Fatback Band Releases "King Tim III"

RTB Rewind: The Fatback Band Releases "King Tim III"

Published Mon, March 6, 2023 at 3:22 PM EST

In March of 1979, The Fatback Band released "King Tim III" as the b side of their single "You're My Candy Sweet" from their full-length album Fatback XII.

Although there were almost two dozen rap records released in 1979, "King Tim III" (spoken as King Tim The 3rd) is credited as the first modern-day rap record. Rap was of course nothing new in urban communities and to "rap" simply meant to talk. From urban games like "the dozens" and "hand games" to "Jive-talking" disc jockeys like Jocko, Hank Spann, Frankie Crocker and Gary Byrd, rapping was nothing new. Pigmeat Markham, Isaac Hayes, Millie Jackson and other artists had rhythmically talked over music and referred to it as rapping.

However, "King Tim III" was different from the previously mentioned examples of rapping in a few ways.

Tim Washington was an actual MC who came from a fraternity of MCs and even used rhymes from his contemporaries as many did at the time. Many of the rhymes said in "King Tim III" were rhymes said by DJ Hollywood, Eddie Cheba and other early rhyming DJs.

"You just clap your hands then you stomp your feet 'cause you're listenin' to the sound of the sure shot beat/we throw the highs in your eyes, the bass in your face we're the funk machines that rock the human race/'bout a quarter to four somebody was at your door and you wondered who it was/you started to shake and shiver/so I said, "It was me, your little old cus'."

King Tim III wasn't truly a rap record. It was a funk record by a funk band that had rapping on it, but there was as much singing as rapping.

- Leland Robinson to ROCK THE BELLS, 2022

The Sugar Hill Gang's "Rappers Delight" was released on September 16, 1979, and is credited as the first commercially successful rap record. "Rappers Delight" is also the first rap record that many people heard. Although "King Tim III" predates it by six months, and was released on a major label (Spring/Polygram) it failed to secure the sales, radio airplay and overall success of "Rappers Delight."

"Rappers Delight" kicked off Sylvia Robinson's Sugar Hill Records, and simultaneously kicked off the rap record industry in the process. Ironically, Sugar Hill artist Cheryll The Pearl, a member of The Sequence, who released the first rap record by a female group, told The Foundation that she heard and was inspired by "King Tim III" prior to hearing "Rappers Delight."

"We were all cheerleaders in Columbia, South Carolina and we started rapping after hearing 'King Tim III',' she said. "We got our record deal in 1979 after we auditioned backstage for Sylvia Robinson at a Sugar Hill Gang show, but we were inspired to rap by hearing 'King Tim III.'"

In 1980, King Tim released "Charley Says," a record credited to him, although backed by The Fatback Band again. "Charley Says" was a song dedicated to roller skating which was still very much a craze at the time. The influence of King Tim as an MC, and of "King Tim III" as a song is undeniable, with many New Yorkers proclaiming that the cadence and style that it was delivered in was closer to what MCs were doing in the parks and indoor parties before rap records.

Tim seems to have disappeared from the music business after 1980, and interviews and pictures of him are extremely rare. He stands as one of Hip-Hop's biggest enigmas, and one of its earliest trendsetters.

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