RTB Rewind: The Funky 4 Plus One Become the First Rap Group to Perform on National Television

RTB Rewind: The Funky 4 Plus One Become the First Rap Group to Perform on National Television

Published Tue, February 14, 2023 at 1:44 PM EST

On February 14, 1981, The Funky 4 Plus One made history when they performed "That's The Joint" on NBC's Saturday Night Live.

The group was the invited guest of Deborah Harry of Blondie and their performance made them the first rap group to perform on national television. Harry, who incorporated rap into Blondie's 1981 hit "Rapture," took an interest in rap music and The Funky 4 after hanging out with Hip-Hop ambassador and Graffiti artist Fab 5 Freddy.

After Freddy took her to see Grandmaster Flash play live, she was so moved that she mentioned Flash and Freddy in "Rapture" and artist Jean Michel Basquiat and Freddy appear in the video. Deborah Harry was so impressed by the Funky 4 + One, that she invited them to perform on SNL, and her band members, notably Chris Stein, later contributed to the soundtrack of Hip-Hop's first movie Wild Style.

We introduced Hip Hop to the Punk Rock crowd. We were playin’ in places in Harlem and Downtown Brooklyn Bridge. We were movin’ from the Bronx to Upstate , Mt Vernon all that – all the way down to downtown Manhattan in the Soho area.

- Sha Rock To The Foundation 2005

Sha Rock explained to The Foundation that the Funky 4 Plus One introduced Hip-Hop to downtown spots like The Mudd Club,The Kitchen, Soho and The Ritz. "We started getting invites to the Kitchen and all the places that the Village Voice would write about," she said. "We got a lot of write-ups in the Village Voice, and the Punk Rockers would come see us and go crazy. That’s why you see footage of us in the Kitchen and hole-in-the-wall places, and these places were packed. Fab 5 Freddy was hangin’ around and he hooked us up with Blondie, who invited us to Saturday Night Live."

1980's "That's The Joint" which was musically based on "Rescue Me" by Taste of Honey was the Funky 4's first recording for Sugar Hill Records after releasing the first rap record for Bobby Robinson's Enjoy records with 1979's "Rappin' And Rockin' The House." The Funky 4 Plus One were responsible for many firsts in Hip-Hop. In addition to being the first mixed gender group, group member Lil Rodney C told The Foundation that the group was the first to use fog machines and supply each mc with their own microphone.

"We were the first to incorporate dance steps like the Motown groups into our stage show," he explained. "We invested our money into fog machines and each MC had a mic, so we didn't have to pass the mic around to each member."

See their historic performance above.

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