Rhino Factoids: The Sugarhill Gang, “Rapper’s Delight”
37 years ago today, the Sugarhill Gang released a single which generally considered the first rap song to successfully infiltrate the mainstream consciousness. Frankly, music hasn’t been the same since.
Written predominantly by The Sugarhill Gang and Sylvia Robinson (we’ll explain the caveat in a moment), “Rapper’s Delight” was – believe it or not – recorded in a single take. Its origins can be traced to an evening when Blondie, Chic and the Clash played together at the Palladium on September 20 and 21, 1979. We’ll allow you a moment to sit in awe and consider what an absolutely incredible triple-bill that is.
Okay, moment’s over.
As Chic was playing “Good Times,” Fab Five Freddy and the Sugarhill Gang jumped onstage and started freestyling with the band. A few weeks later, Nile Rodgers was in a New York club called Leviticus when he heard a song start off with the bass line from “Good Times,” but…it wasn’t “Good Times.” It was “Rapper’s Delight.” Unsurprisingly, legal action was threatened, which is how Rodgers and Chic bassist Bernard Edwards found their names on the songwriting credits for the song as well, but Rodgers has forgiven the Gang for their transgressions over the years, telling Blender, “As innovative and important as ‘Good Times’ was, ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was just as much, if not more so.”
In the end, “Rapper’s Delight” topped out at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the Sugarhill Gang never made their way back into the Top 40 again, making them a one-hit wonder in the eyes of the world at large. But considering that the hit in question was the first-ever hit rap single and has been preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress, we think we’re safe in offering up that stock line: if you’re only going to have one hit, that’s a hell of a hit to have.