Rapper's Delight

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"Rapper's Delight"
Single by The Sugarhill Gang
from the album Sugarhill Gang
Released September 16, 1979[1]
Format 12"
Recorded Sugar Hill Studios, 1979
Genre Old-school hip hop, disco, funk
Length 3:55 (single version)
14:35 (album version)
Label Sugar Hill
Writer(s) Bernard Edwards & Nile Rodgers
The Sugarhill Gang singles chronology
"Rapper's Delight"
"8th Wonder"
30 second sample of "Rapper's Delight" from Sugarhill Gang

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"Rapper's Delight" is a song recorded in 1979 by The Sugarhill Gang. While it was not the first single to feature rapping, it is generally considered to be the song that first popularized hip hop in the United States and around the world. The song is ranked #251 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and #2 on both About.com's and VH1's 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs. It is also included in NPR's list of the 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century. It was preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2011.[2] Songs on the National Recording Registry are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[3]

The song was recorded in a single take.[4] There are three versions of the original version of the song: 14:35 (12" long version), 6:30 (12" short version), and 4:55 (7" shortened single version). Ten years after its initial release, an official remix by Ben Liebrand entitled "Rapper's Delight '89" was released.[citation needed]


In late 1978, Debbie Harry suggested that Chic's Nile Rodgers join her and Chris Stein at a hip hop event, which at the time was a communal space taken over by teenagers with boombox stereos playing various pieces of music that performers would break dance to. Rodgers experienced this event the first time himself at a high school in the Bronx. On September 20, 1979, and September 21, 1979, Blondie and Chic were playing concerts with The Clash in New York at The Palladium. When Chic started playing "Good Times", rapper Fab Five Freddy and the members of the Sugarhill Gang ("Big Bank Hank" Jackson, Mike Wright, and "Master Gee" O'Brien), jumped up on stage and started freestyling with the band. A few weeks later Rodgers was on the dance floor of New York club Leviticus and heard the DJ play a song which opened with Bernard Edwards' bass line from Chic's "Good Times". Rodgers approached the DJ who said he was playing a record he had just bought that day in Harlem. The song turned out to be an early version of "Rapper's Delight", which also included a scratched version of the song's string section. Rodgers and Edwards immediately threatened legal action over copyright, which resulted in a settlement and their being credited as co-writers.[5] Rodgers admitted that he was originally upset with the song, but later declared it to be "one of his favorite songs of all time" and his favorite of all the tracks that sampled (or in this instance interpolated) Chic[6][better source needed]. He also stated: "As innovative and important as 'Good Times' was, 'Rapper's Delight' was just as much, if not more so."[7] "Rapper's Delight" is said to be the song that popularized rap music and put it into the mainstream.[citation needed]

A substantial portion of the early stanzas of the song's lyrics was borrowed by Jackson from "Grandmaster Caz" (Curtis Fisher) who had loaned his 'book' to him—these include a namecheck for "Casanova Fly," which was Caz's full stage name.[8]

Before the "Good Times" background starts, the intro to the recording is an interpolation of "Here Comes That Sound Again" by British studio group Love De-Luxe, a dance hit in 1979.[citation needed]

According to Oliver Wang, author of the 2003 Classic Material: The Hip-Hop Album Guide, recording artist ("Pillow Talk") and studio owner Sylvia Robinson had trouble finding anyone willing to record a rap song. Most of the rappers who performed in clubs did not want to record, as many practioners believed the style was for live performances only. It is said that Robinson's son heard a rapper in a pizza place, and the rapper was persuaded to come to a studio and record someone else's words while "Good Times" was played.[citation needed]

Chip Shearin said in a 2010 interview that at age 17, he was visiting a friend in New Jersey. The friend knew Robinson, who needed some musicians for various recordings, including "Rapper's Delight". Shearin's job on the song was to play the bass for 15 minutes straight, with no mistakes. He was paid $70 but later went on to perform with Sugarhill Gang in concert. Shearin described the session this way:

The drummer and I were sweating bullets because that's a long time. And this was in the days before samplers and drum machines, when real humans had to play things. ... Sylvia said, 'I've got these kids who are going to talk real fast over it; that's the best way I can describe it.'[9]

Wang said:

"There's this idea that hip-hop has to have street credibility, yet the first big hip-hop song was an inauthentic fabrication. It's not like the guys involved were the 'real' hip-hop icons of the era, like Grandmaster Flash or Lovebug Starski. So it's a pretty impressive fabrication, lightning in a bottle."[9]


"Rapper's Delight" peaked at #36 in January 1980 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart,[10] #4 on the U.S. Hot Soul Singles chart in December 1979,[11] #1 on the Canadian Singles Chart in January 1980,[12] #1 on the Dutch Top 40, and #3 on the UK Singles Chart. The single sold over 2 million copies in the United States, grossing US$3.5 million for Sugar Hill Records.[13] In 1980 the song was the anchor of the group's first album The Sugarhill Gang.[citation needed]

It was the first Top 40 song to be available only as a 12-inch extended version in the U.S. Early pressings (very few) were released with a red label, with black print, on Sugarhill Records, along with a 7" 45rpm single (which is very rare). Later pressings had the more common blue label, in orange colored "roulette style" sleeves, while even later pressings were issued in the more common blue sleeves with the Sugarhill Records logo. In Europe, however, it was released on the classic 7-inch single format on French pop label Vogue, with a shorter version of the song. It was this 7" single that reached number one in the Dutch chart. The song ranked #248 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2004 list of "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[9]

A British version of the song, with rewritten lyrics, was recorded for the song's 25th anniversary in 2004 by an ensemble of performers including Rodney P, Chester P, Kano, Simone, Yungun, Sway, J2K, Swiss, Baby Blue, Skibadee, Luke Skys, and MC D.[14]

In popular culture[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Chart succession[edit]

Preceded by
"Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes
Canadian Singles Chart
January 26 – February 2, 1980
Succeeded by
"Coward of the County" by Kenny Rogers
Preceded by
"I Have a Dream" by ABBA
Dutch number-one single
February 2–16, 1980
Succeeded by
"Crying" by Don McLean


  1. ^ Lynch, Joe (October 13, 2014). "35 Years Ago, Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight' Made Its First Chart Appearance". Billboard. Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Complete National Recording Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved 18 December 2015. 
  3. ^ "New Entries to National Recording Registry". Library of Congress. Retrieved 18 December 2015. 
  4. ^ "'Rapper's Delight'". National Public Radio. December 29, 2000. Retrieved 2010-12-20. The story goes that Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike, and Master Gee met Sylvia Robinson on a Friday and recorded "Rapper's Delight" the following Monday in just one take. 
  5. ^ "The Story of Rapper's Delight by Nile Rodgers". RapProject.tv. Retrieved 2008-10-12. 
  6. ^ "Nile Rodgers interviewed by Peter Paphides". Twentyfirstcenturymusic.blogspot.com. November 10, 2011. Retrieved on 2011-11-13 from http://twentyfirstcenturymusic.blogspot.com/2011/11/nile-rodgers-interviewed-by-peter.html.
  7. ^ [1] Archived October 13, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Writing cred for ‘Rapper’s Delight’ sparks grudge". New York Post. Retrieved October 12, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c Menconi, David (March 14, 2010). "The riff that lifted rap". News & Observer. Retrieved 2010-04-19. 
  10. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 Chart History". Song-database.com. Retrieved February 10, 2014. 
  11. ^ Billboard - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. December 8, 1979. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  12. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  13. ^ a b George, Nelson (1988). The Death of Rhythm & Blues. New York, NY: Pantheon Books. p. 191. ISBN 0142004081. Retrieved June 16, 2015. 
  14. ^ Soundcloud: Rappers Delight 25th Anniversary Special | BBC Radio 1Xtra
  15. ^ Read, Max (February 20, 2014). "Brian Williams Does a Perfect "Cover" of "Rapper's Delight" on Tonight". Gawker. 
  16. ^ "Brian Williams Raps Rapper's Delight". Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon NBC. 2014.
  17. ^ "Australian-charts.com – The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  18. ^ "Austriancharts.at – The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  19. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 32, No. 18, January 26, 1980". RPM. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  20. ^ InfoDisc
  21. ^ "Musicline.de – The Sugarhill Gang Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  22. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – The Sugarhill Gang search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  23. ^ "Charts.org.nz – The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  24. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". VG-lista. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  25. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". Singles Top 100. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  26. ^ "Swisscharts.com – The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  27. ^ "Sugarhill Gang: Artist Chart History" Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  28. ^ "The Sugarhill Gang – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for The Sugarhill Gang.
  29. ^ http://top.france.free.fr/html/annuel/1980.htm
  30. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Sugar Hill Gang – Rapper's Delight". Music Canada. 
  31. ^ Sólo Éxitos 1959-2002 Año A Año: Certificados 1979-1990 (in Spanish). Iberautor Promociones Culturales. ISBN 8480486392. 
  32. ^ "British single certifications – Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Rapper's Delight in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  33. ^ http://www.infodisc.fr/S_ToutTemps.php?debut=350

External links[edit]