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 August 1979
Genre Old-school hip hop, disco, funk
Length 3:55 (single version)
14:35 (album version)
Label Sugar Hill
Writer(s) The Sugarhill Gang, Sylvia Robinson, Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards, Grandmaster Caz
Producer(s) Sylvia Robinson
The Sugarhill Gang singles chronology
"Rapper's Delight"
"8th Wonder"

"Rapper's Delight" is a hip-hop song released in September 1979 by The Sugarhill Gang, and produced by ex-Mickey and Sylvia member Sylvia Robinson.

While it was not the first single to feature rapping, it is generally considered to be the song that introduced hip hop music to audiences in the United States and around the world. The song is ranked 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 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 also notably includes musical parts from Chic's "Good Times", resulting in band members Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards suing Sugar Hill Records over copyright; a settlement reached allowed the two to receive songwriter credits.

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).


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, 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.[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]

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 practitioners believed the style was for live performances only. It is said that Robinson's son heard Big Bank Hank in a pizza place, and he was persuaded to come to a studio and record someone else's words while "Good Times" was played.[citation needed] However, other sources say that 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[9][10]

Chip Shearin claimed in a 2010 interview that he was the bass player on the track. When aged 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.'[11]

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.[11]



"Rapper's Delight" peaked at number 36 in January 1980 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart,[14] number 4 on the U.S. Hot Soul Singles chart in December 1979,[15] number 1 on the Canadian Singles Chart in January 1980,[16] 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.[17] 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 number 251 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2004 list of "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[11]

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.[18]

In 2014 the record was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the 1998 movie The Wedding Singer, Ellen Albertini Dow (as the character Rosie) performed some of the song. Her performance was also featured on the film's soundtrack.
  • The chorus of The Ketchup Song by Las Ketchup incorporates the lyrics "I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie" in a nonsensical distortion ("Aserejé ja de je de jebe") and it is melodically sung rather than rapped.[20]
  • During a dream sequence in the 2003 film Kangaroo Jack, the titular kangaroo sings a bit 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 is featured on the soundtrack of the 2004 game Tony Hawk's Underground 2.
  • A February 2014 episode of Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon featured a mashup video of Brian Williams singing the song during the show's first week. The video also included Lester Holt.[21][22]
  • The song is mentioned in the 2015 song "Art Deco" by Lana Del Rey.
  • "Pig Out", a 2015 episode of the The Muppets, featured the Swedish Chef singing the song.
  • 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 movie Everybody Wants Some!!.
  • The song was featured in Apple's 2016 WWDC conference, when Bozoma Saint John demonstrated the features of the revamped Apple Music application.
  • In the Fox comedy The Simpsons, the song was parodied on a safety video using the lyrics to tell children to use a crosswalk to cross the street.
  • The song was featured 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 rapper Biggie Smalls, who made a guest appearance on the show.

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. ^ "Twenty First Century Music: Nile Rodgers interviewed by Peter Paphides at Waterstone's, Piccadilly, London". Twentyfirstcenturymusic.blogspot.com. 2011-11-10. Retrieved 2016-10-15. 
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved 2014-08-12. 
  8. ^ "Writing cred for 'Rapper's Delight' sparks grudge". New York Post. Retrieved October 12, 2015. 
  9. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/artist/positive-force-mn0000359776/biography
  10. ^ https://www.facebook.com/rockandrollhalloffame/posts/10153689203814107
  11. ^ a b c Menconi, David (March 14, 2010). "The riff that lifted rap". News & Observer. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved 2010-04-19. 
  12. ^ http://nicolemount37.wixsite.com/music-bnb/bio
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  15. ^ Billboard - Google Boeken. Books.google.com. December 8, 1979. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  16. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  17. ^ a b George, Nelson (1988). The Death of Rhythm & Blues. New York, NY: Pantheon Books. p. 191. ISBN 0142004081. Retrieved June 16, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Music: Rappers Delight 25th Anniversary Special | BBC Radio 1Xtra by Bernard P Achampong | Free Listening on SoundCloud". Soundcloud.com. Retrieved 2016-10-15. 
  19. ^ https://www.grammy.org/recording-academy/awards/hall-of-fame#t
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  21. ^ Read, Max (February 20, 2014). "Brian Williams Does a Perfect "Cover" of "Rapper's Delight" on Tonight". Gawker. Archived from the original on October 12, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Brian Williams Raps Rapper's Delight" Archived October 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.. Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon NBC. 2014.
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  29. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – The Sugarhill Gang search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  30. ^ "Charts.org.nz – The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper's Delight". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
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  39. ^ Sólo Éxitos 1959-2002 Año A Año: Certificados 1979-1990 (in Spanish). Iberautor Promociones Culturales. ISBN 8480486392. 
  40. ^ "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
  41. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 13, 2008. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 

External links[edit]