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Rapper's Delight by The Sugarhill Gang

Album: Best Of Sugarhill GangReleased: 1979Charted:
36
3
  • This was the first rap song to enter the US Top 40. Rap music had been around for about seven years, but it was usually heard at block parties and discos where DJs would loop breakbeats and MCs would add live vocals. Outside of the Bronx, rap was generally considered a fad, and record companies had no interest in financing it. The first rap song commercially released was "Kim Tim III (Personality Jock)" by the Fatback Band, which came out in the summer of 1979, but was relegated to the B-side of a more traditional R&B tune.

    "Rapper's Delight," released in November, 1979, was a serious push to get a rap record into the mainstream, and it worked, cracking the US Top 40 in January, 1980 and becoming a seminal song in hip-hop history. The winning formula was boastful lyrics over a sampled beat - a technique that became ubiquitous in rap.
  • The Fatback Band used an original beat on their song "Kim Tim III," making "Rapper's Delight" the first rap song to use a sample, which of course was done without permission, as no precedent existed for clearing a sample. The beat that plays throughout the song was taken from "Good Times" by Chic, a song that was in the crates of every DJ who played at the block parties where rap got its start. The "Good Times" groove was easy to loop, creating a breakbeat that was perfect for MCs. The Sugarhill Gang wasn't the first to borrow it - Queen used the bassline in their song "Another One Bites The Dust."

    "Rapper's Delight" didn't just sample the beat; the string stabs were also lifted, so the entire "Delight" track was made up of pieces from the Chic song.

    "Good Times" was written by Chic's guitarist/producer Nile Rodgers and bass player Bernard Edwards. Rodgers heard "Rapper's Delight" for the first time when he was out at a club and the DJ played it. After he threatened a lawsuit, the credits on the song were changed. Originally, Sylvia Robinson and the three rappers were listed as the song's writers, but now the only composers listed are Rodgers and Edwards, who receive all the songwriting royalties it brings in (Edwards' share goes to his estate, as he died in 1996).
  • The group was put together by Sylvia Robinson, owner of the New Jersey label Sugarhill Records, to take advantage of the rap music that was gaining popularity at New York City block parties. Her son, Joey Robinson, just 18 years old at the time, was the vice-president of promotion for the label and found the rappers for the group: Wonder Mike (Michael Wright), Big Bank Hank (Henry Jackson) and Master G (Guy O'Brien), all from Englewood, New Jersey. None of them had much credibility, and weren't part of the "Crews" that were rapping and dancing at the block parties. Some members of the early hip-hop scene thought the group was a sham, but the song became very popular in clubs and had a huge impact.

    Robinson, a shrewd businesswoman who died in 2011 at age 75, is the same Sylvia who had a hit in 1973 with "Pillow Talk," and was half of Mickey And Sylvia, who had the 1956 hit "Love Is Strange." She discovered rap music because her kids likes it, and used her business savvy and industry experience to create the first hit in the medium.
  • You can find many different mixes of "Rapper's Delight," but the original 12" single went on-and-a-on-and-on-on-and-on for 14 minutes and 27 seconds (although the label on the single said it was and even 15 minutes). The radio edit runs 4:55, removing lots of bragging, some of the Superman and bad meal stories, and verses of unresolved metaphors ("Like a Perry Mason without a case, like Farrah Fawcett without her face").
  • "Big Bank" Hank Jackson, one of the three rappers in the group, stole the Superman part from MC Grandmaster Caz, a rapper who was part of a crew called the Cold Crush. Hank worked as a manager for the Cold Crush and was a bouncer at a club where they played. He used the rap to get in the group, and even used the part where Caz spelled out his nickname - "Casanova," going so far as to rhyme that he's "The grandmaster with the 3 MCs" (The Sugarhill Gang had just 3 members, the Cold Crush had 4). Caz feels he was never given proper credit, and in 2000 he released a song called "MC Delight" where he addressed the issue, rapping: "the cat who bit this rhyme was my manager, pure treason I'll tell you why..."

    In Caz' version of events, Hank called him up after he got the gig with Sugarhill Gang, asking for a rap he could use with the group. Caz gave it to him, but expected some credit in return, which never came. Neither did the royalties, as Caz didn't sue.
  • There was a video made for this song, thus making it the first rap music video. It was a performance video with the rappers doing the song in a disco while the crowd dances along. It was low budget, but professionally done with decent production value (switcher wipes!).

    The disco was called the Soap Factory. Located in Palisades Park, New Jersey, it hosted a syndicated TV series called the Soap Factory Disco Show from 1977-1979. In 1979, The Sugarhill Gang performed this song on the show, and that performance became the de facto video.

    Sylvia Robinson at Sugar Hill Records was an innovator in this regard, as she understood that videos were a great way to promote a song in Europe, and commissioned them for some of her artists (Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five got one for "The Message"). As America caught on to music videos, the clip got a lot of exposure on New York shows like Video Music Box that featured rap videos. MTV, which launched in 1981, didn't play a rap video until 1984, when they aired Run-D.M.C.'s "Rock Box," but when they started Yo! MTV Raps in 1988, "Rapper's Delight" got some spins.
  • This song opened the floodgates for many more rap records. Many of these releases were on the Sugarhill label, which was home to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5, Spoonie Gee, and a female group called Sequence. In December, 1979, Kurtis Blow became the first rapper to release a single on a major label when he put out "Christmas Rappin'," and in 1980 he had the first rap gold record with "The Breaks." Blondie became the first white act to chart with rap when they hit #1 with "Rapture" also in 1980. Most rap records at the time were coming out of small, independent labels like Bobby Robinson's Harlem company Enjoy. It took a few more years before major labels signed a significant number of rappers, although in 1982, Tommy Boy Records had some success with Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock."
  • This was a far bigger hit in the UK, which was a step ahead of America when it came to widespread acceptance of rap music. In England, where there is a large Jamaican population, rap music wasn't too far removed from the Reggae music that featured "toasters" who added vocals over breaks in the music. Kurtis Blow's "Christmas Rappin'" made the UK Top 40 the same month as "Rapper's Delight": December, 1979.
  • At first, this was not released on an album, only as a 12" single, because Sugarhill Records did not think an entire album of rap music would sell. It has since appeared on numerous compilation albums.
  • The Sugarhill Gang made one more visit to the Hot 100 when "8th Wonder" charted at #82 in 1981. They faded into obscurity, but returned in the '90s to play nostalgia shows. In 1999, they released a children's rap album called Jump On It.
  • In 1998, The Sugarhill Gang performed this for a Turner Broadcasting party. Turner used the performance in a commercial for The Goodwill Games, but did not have the group's consent and was ordered to pay the group almost $3 million in a 2001 judgment.
  • The bass line on this song was played live by a 17-year-old named Chip Shearin, who got the gig for the session because his friend knew the studio owner, Sylvia Robinson. Shearin was paid $70 to re-create the bass line from the song "Good Times" for 15 minutes. He recorded the part with a live drummer, which formed the rhythm track for the song. When he asked Robinson what she was going to use it for, she replied: "'I've got these kids who are going to talk real fast over it."

    Sheerin ended up playing some live gigs with the band and became a successful studio musician and composer of jingles.
  • This was covered by the Def Squad (Redman, Keith Murray, Erick Sermon of EPMD) in 1998 on the El Nino album which was released on Def Jam. It was called "Def Squad Delite," and the verses were partly changed. It also appeared on the compilation In Tha Beginning... There Was Rap (1997 Priority), where different hip hop artists covered famous old hip hop hits. (thanks, Benjamin - Berlin, Germany)
  • The 2002 hit "The Ketchup Song" (known in Spanish as "Asereje"), is about a guy who loves this song but doesn't understand the lyrics, so he makes up his own. What he makes up translates into the lyrics of "The Ketchup Song."
  • This song has been used in a variety of TV shows, including One Tree Hill, Martin, Scrubs, Entourage and Medium. Its most famous movie use was in the 1998 Adam Sandler movie The Wedding Singer, where it is sung by the elderly actress Ellen Dow, playing up to the comedy trope of old lady rapping. Other movies to use the song include Kangaroo Jack and CB4.
  • Kid Rock sampled this on his 1998 hit, "Bawitdaba."
  • In 2001, this was used in commercials for Dasani water.
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Comments: 25

On September 5th 1981, the Sugarhill Gang performed "Rapper's Delight" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
Twenty-three months earlier on November 4th, 1979 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #84; and on January 6th, 1980 it peaked at #36 {for 1 week} and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100...
It reached #4 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
On the same 'Bandstand' show the trio also performed "8th Wonder"; it stayed on the Top 100 for 9 weeks, peaking at #82...
They had one other record make the Top 100 chart, "Apache", it reached #53 and spent 11 weeks on the chart.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
check the great live version of this song over at BBC 6 Music - http://www.bbc.co.uk/6music/live/artists/sugarhillgang/John - London, United Kingdom
The 2nd rap single ever released, after King Tim 3rd (Personality Jock) by Fatback Band. "Real" rappers love to criticize Sugar Hill Gang, but they don't mind making money because of what these pioneers began.Chris - Vancouver, Bc
To Answer Tushan, the sample at the beginning was from the '79 dance hit "Here Comes That Sound Again" by Love De-LuxePaul - Oceanside, Ny
I have a copy of this on 7 inch 45. The label is stamped 1979. It was entered in Billboard Top 100 charts on November 10, 1979. Side 1 has a short version 5:02 & Side 2 has a long version 6:30. Recorded on Quality Records Q2357X. Clean copy anyone wanna buy it?Alf - Kingston, Canada
The "pool which really is on the wall" is a shower.Bob - Oakland, Ca
Although "Rapper's Delight" was the first successful rap song, it was not the first rap record. That honor goes to "King Tim III (Personality Jock)" by the Fatback Band, which was released two months before "Rapper's Delight". "King Tim" was featured on the Fatback Band's "XII" album, and it was on the b-side of the first single from the album ("You're My Candy Sweet").John - Nashville, Tn
Sugarhill Gang used 2 copies of the instrumental of Good Times to rap over, essentially a sample. Afrika Bambaataa played the melody from Trans Europe Express, not a sample. I would really like to know what track they sampled right at the beginning of Rapper's Delight, the bass, piano and cowbell lick?Tushan - London, United Kingdom
I'm an absolute 'hater' of rap, especially what it has become today. But, I think the fact that this song is so radical and genuine is respectable. It's simply a cool beat for a couple guys to just rhyme to and thats cool. It's not, yoyoyoyoyo boobs, money, guns, drugs. It actually has a demeanor and it deserves much credibility, besides being the song that paved the way for the rap genre in whole.Age - C-ville, Pa
By the way. there is a slight error. This song is actually a 70s song, not an 80s song - It came out right at the end of 1979, so is often thought of as an 80s but is still technically 70s.Mjn Seifer - Not Listed For Personal Reason, England
I seeMjn Seifer - Not Listed For Personal Reason, England
The Chic song is called 'Le Freak' but they're not referring to that, they're referring to the dance called the Freak.Luke - Manchester, England
It's interesting to note that aswell as sampling a song from Chic ("Goodtimes") They also mention a song from Chic ("The Freak").Mjn Seifer - Not Listed For Personal Reason, England
"Rap was considered a fad at the time, and many people thought it would soon go away."

I laughed so hard when I first saw that Songfact! - I have nothing against rap but I know a lot of peLooks like they were wrong as rap is EVERYWHERE know ople wish it WOULD go away!!
Mjn Seifer - Not Listed For Personal Reason, England
don't think this would be a fave at a Karaoke night ....you'd be there all night doin the songPete - Nowra, Australia
The first rap song, and as far as I can tell the only remotely good one to gain any popularity. Rap may not be a passing fad, but I often wish it were. There's no particular reason that a rap song can't be good, but it sure does seem like none of them are. So I don't hate rap, but I hate very nearly every rap song I've ever heard except this one. Well, Ton Loc was at least kind of funny. Most rappers are appallingly witless for guys who are working in a style that's supposed to be about being clever. But This one is fun. I was actually in a really bad band in high school that did this song - the two gutiarists were white, the drummer was Japanese, and we had a black guy on keyboards and his sister on bass as well as a black sax player and a couple of white horn players. Very odd racial mix, but we had a good time. I didn't rap; I just played the guitar lick. We actually started off by playing Good Times, which I sang (in a totally different, very white style) and then we segued into the rap. It was a lot of fun, even if it was about the only good thing we did. But I digress...Dennis - Anchorage, Ak
kid rocks not sampling it as in using the beat but quoting it. "bawitda de bang de bang diggy diggy diggy said the boogie said up jump the boogie." as wonder mike says in each of his versesObzcure - Auckland, New Zealand
The begining of the end.Ben - Nyc, Ms
This was the song that put rap on the map. The elderly woman who sang that song in The Wedding Singer was Ellen Albertini Dow.Howard - St. Louis Park, Mn
Has anyone else noticed the similarity between the 'Good Times' beat that plays on RD, and the bass line in Sister Sledge's 'We Are Family?'Paul - Knoxville, Tn
Kid Rock didn't sample this song on ''Bawitdaba''. He just repeated the phrase ''Bawitdaba, da-rang-a-dang, diggy-diggy'' and used it as the title. And even if he has sampled it, he'd actually be sampling ''good times''.Joey - Boston, Ma
This song seemed to be used by EVERYONE, from Cassidy to Kid Rock to a 2002 honda advert. next time you listen to any song, chances are you'll find something taken from this rap masterpiecePaul - London, England
I love this song. I love the bang boogie part. Classic song. It is too bad bad this is their only good song. My friend's dad knew the guy who wrote this song. :)Dawson - Draper, Ut
Okay, well I'm not into rap (random songfact), but I'm did something about it in Music Tech. They take the break of a song, not the bridge, and loop it over and over by dragging the record back to the beggining of the break. Hence the term breakdancing. Just a quick history lesson on rap for all those interested.James - Bransgore, England
Technically, this was not a "sample". The Sugarhill Records house band recreated the bridge of "Good Times" by Chic, and extended it. This song was made before sampling was even possible. If you compare the two songs, the bridge from "Good Times" (the bass and guitar lick) is tighter than "Rapper's Delight". Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force's "Planet Rock" is the first sample from Kraftwerks's "Transit Express".Sylvan - Berkeley, Ca