|Single by The Sugarhill Gang|
|from the album Sugarhill Gang|
|Released||September 16, 1979|
|Recorded||August 2, 1979|
|Length||3:55 (single version)|
4:55 (album version)
6:30 (12" short version)
7:07 (long single version)
14:35 (12" long version)
|Songwriter(s)||Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers, Sylvia Robinson, Henry Jackson, Michael Wright, Guy O'Brien, Curtis Brown, Alan Hawkshaw (uncredited)|
|The Sugarhill Gang singles chronology|
"Rapper's Delight" is a 1979 hip hop track by the Sugarhill Gang and produced by Sylvia Robinson. Although it was shortly preceded by Fatback Band's "King Tim III (Personality Jock)", "Rapper's Delight" is credited for introducing hip hop music to a wide audience, reaching the top 40 in the United States, as well as the top three in the United Kingdom and number-one in Canada. It was a prototype for various types of rap music, incorporating themes such as boasting, dance, honesty and sex, with the charisma and enthusiasm of James Brown. The track interpolates Chic's "Good Times", resulting in Chic's Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards suing Sugar Hill Records for copyright infringement; a settlement was reached that gave the two songwriting credits. The track was recorded in a single take. There are five mixes of the song.
"Rapper's Delight" is number 251 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and number 2 on VH1's 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs. It is also included on NPR's list of the 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century. It was preserved in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2011 for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
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 and 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, "Wonder 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's 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. 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.[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."
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. According to Wonder Mike, he had heard the phrase "hip-hop" from a cousin, leading to the opening line of "Hip-hop, hippie to the hippie, to the hip-hip-hop and you don't stop", whilst he described "To the bang-bang boogie, say up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat" as "basically a spoken drum roll. I liked the percussive sound of the letter B". The line "Now what you hear is not a test, I'm rappin' to the beat", was inspired by the introduction to The Outer Limits ("There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture").
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 practitioners believed the style was for live performances only. It is said that Robinson's son heard Big Bank Hank in a pizza place. According to Master Gee, Hank auditioned for Robinson in front of the pizza parlor where he worked, whilst Gee himself auditioned in Robinson's car. A live band was used to record most of the backing track, including members of the group "Positive Force": Albert Pittman, Bernard Roland, Moncy Smith, and Bryan Horton.
Chip Shearin claimed during a 2010 interview that he was the bass player on the track. At the age of 17, he had visited 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.'
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.
- Michael "Wonder Mike" Wright – vocals
- Henry "Big Bank Hank" Jackson – vocals
- Guy "Master Gee" O'Brien – vocals
- Unknown – turntables
- Bernard Roland or Chip Shearin – electric bass
- Albert Pittman or Brian Morgan – electric guitar
- Moncy Smith – piano
- Bryan Horton – drums
- Sylvia Robinson – additional vocals, vibraphone, and production
- Billy Jones – engineer
- Phil Austin – mastering, original US vinyl release
The Sugar Hill Gang appeared on the syndicated Soap Factory Disco Show in late 1979, and their performance later became the song's official music video. The group's performance on the Palisades Park-based program demonstrates the significant overlap between early hip hop and disco of the late 1970s.
"Rapper's Delight" peaked at number 36 in January 1980 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, number 4 on the U.S. Hot Soul Singles chart in December 1979, number 1 on the Canadian Singles Chart in January 1980, number 1 on the Dutch Top 40, and number 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. In 1980, the song was the anchor of the group's first album The Sugarhill Gang.
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 Sugar Hill 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, fashioned after the label for Roulette Records; Roulette's Morris Levy had invested in Sugar Hill. 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 number 251 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2004 list of "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
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.
- 1996, New York City merenhouse group Proyecto Uno, in the song “Qué Sabes Tu?”, the last track off of their debut album New Era, interpolates the lyric ‘hotel, motel Holiday Inn’, replacing Holiday Inn with rival hotel Sheraton.
- In the 1998 romantic comedy film The Wedding Singer, Ellen Albertini Dow (in character as "Rosie") performed the first few lines of the song. Her performance was also included on the film's soundtrack.
- The chorus of the 2002 hit "The Ketchup Song" by Las Ketchup incorporates the lyrics "I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie" in a Spanish nonsensical distortion ("Aserejé ja de je de jebe").
- During a dream sequence in the 2003 comedy film Kangaroo Jack, the titular kangaroo raps a portion of the song.
- In "My Old Friend's New Friend", a 2004 episode of the TV sitcom Scrubs, the Sugarhill Gang appears in two of J.D.'s fantasies singing the song.
- The song appeared on the soundtrack of the 1999 PS1 game Thrasher Presents: Skate and Destroy, as well as the 2004 game Tony Hawk's Underground 2, the 2010 game Major League Baseball 2K10, and the 2018 racing game Forza Horizon 4.
- A February 2014 episode of Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon showed a mash-up video of Brian Williams rapping the song during the show's first week. The video also included Lester Holt. It went viral on YouTube, reaching over 8,000,000 views in about a week.
- The song was parodied by Basehead (played by Orlando Jones) in the Adult Swim series Black Dynamite (which is based on the smash hit blaxploitation film), which explains Basehead's life.
- The song is mentioned in the 2015 song "Art Deco" by Lana Del Rey.
- The song was performed by the Swedish Chef during "Pig Out", a 2015 episode of The Muppets.
- Redfoo of LMFAO released his solo debut album, Party Rock Mansion, on March 18, 2016. The third track on the album, titled "Too Much", resembles "Rapper's Delight".
- The song is sung by the main characters in the 2016 film Everybody Wants Some!!.
- The song was used at Apple's 2016 WWDC conference, when Bozoma Saint John demonstrated the features of the revamped Apple Music application.
- This song was used in the 2018 Fred Rogers documentary film Won't You Be My Neighbor?
- Austrian rapper and musician Falco used lyrics from "Rapper's Delight" in his songs "The Sound of Musik" and "Body Next to Body", the latter a duet with actress Brigitte Nielsen.
- In the Simpsons episode, "Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade", the song was parodied on a safety video using the lyrics to tell children how to cross the road safely.
- The song was used in a Honda advertisement nicknamed "The Cog", where it was played after the completion of a Rube Goldberg effect.
- In an episode of Martin, Cole (Carl Payne) briefly performs the song to audition for rap star the Notorious B.I.G., who made a guest appearance on the show.
- In the final episode of The Get Down, the song is played during the credits.
- Mexican singer Aleks Syntek's single "Tu necesitas" has similar rapped parts, sung in Spanish.
- In the opening scene of the 1997 movie The Pest with John Leguizamo, his character, Pest, sings an adaptation of "Rapper's Delight" during the opening sequence.
- Rapper Pitbull's 2009 song "Hotel Room Service" contains the lyric "We at the hotel, motel, Holiday Inn".
- In the 2008 action film Go fast of Olivier Van Hoofstadt
- Jennifer Lopez listened to the song at the age of 8 while in a schoolyard and it was a "defining moment" for her.
- TLC adapted one of the song's lyrics in its 1994 hit song "Switch" ("At the hotel, motel, Holiday Inn, I said if you man starts actin' up, Switch and take his friend").
- The song was featured in the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Season One Battle Pass as part of the "80s Hip-Hop" War Tracks
- Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse danced to the song as their couple's choice dance in Series 18, Week 4 of Strictly Come Dancing.
Certifications and sales
|Canada (Music Canada)||Platinum||249,000|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||400,000|
|United States (RIAA)||2× Platinum||2,000,000|
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
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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.
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