The Greatest Rap Group (And Record) of All Time
This is my lens on the greatest rap group - who also had the greatest rap record - of all time: The Sugarhill Gang. They're the group that really made rap into a mainstream music form and had the first bona fide hit rap record.
(Image source: Amazon.com)
Rap's Greatest Group: The Sugarhill Gang
They weren't the first rappers. They weren't the first rap group. They didn't even make the first rap song. What they did, however, was put rap on the map.
When The Sugarhill Gang released their single Rapper's Delight in 1979, rap (or hip hop, as it's known now) was considered a fad. It was the hula hoop of the music industry: it might attract a few ardent admirers, but it didn't have any staying power. It wasn't a threat to more traditional or established forms of music, so there weren't a lot of people really following it. Nevertheless, Rapper's Delight went on to become a Top 40 single - the first rap song to achieve that accomplishment. Moreover, it become a worldwide hit. Needless to say, the Sugarhill Gang - made up of members Master Gee, Big Bank Hang, and Wonder Mike - became household names.
Of course, it's not just the success of the record that makes The Sugarhill Gang the greatest rap group in history. It's really the impact. As stated, no one really cared about rap and rap acts prior to the release of Rapper's Delight. However, the group's success proved both the broad-based appeal and staying power of the genre. In other words, The Sugarhill Gang made rap a viable and successful (not to mention profitable) music form that the recording industry suddenly had to take note of. Rap acts suddenly began getting signed to major labels, and the rest is history. But the Sugarhill Gang is the reason that history exists.
Rap's Greatest Song: Rapper's Delight
I said a hip hop, a hippie to the hippie to the hip hip hop and you don't stop..."
Is there anybody on the planet who doesn't know those words? Those are the opening lyrics to Rapper's Delight, which is unquestionably the greatest rap song of all time. It was released in 1979, at a juncture when rap wasn't even fully established a a music genre. And yet, this single essentially came out of nowhere and rocked the music industry back on its heels. The song became not just a hit in the U.S. (becoming the first rap single to crack the Top 40 at #36), but around the globe, becoming a worldwide phenomenon. It topped the charts in most places at either number #1 (e.g., the Canadian and Dutch charts) or #2 (for example, Norway and Sweden) - with the U.K. being a notable exception (#3).
Basically, the song introduced rap to the world at large and made music executives aware of a new genre that had appeal to far more than just a niche market. The success of the song opened doors to rap acts and prompted the promotion of rap music to put it on par with other respected music genres. But far more than the commercial success is the song's sheer prevalence and longevity. Almost everybody has heard the song and knows the lyrics, which may be why even today - over 30 years after it's release - the song is constantly used in various media such as television and films, and the lyrics are consistently used by other artists. That can be said of almost no other song in rap/hip hop, which is an industry that seems to pride itself on being all things fresh and current.
In short, 20 years from now, when all other rap songs are regularly forgetten a year or two after their release, people will still know the lyrics to Rapper's Delight.
While I've stated my reasons for declaring the Sugarhill Gang and Rapper's Delight the Greatest Rap Group and Record, respectively, of all time, there are some other indivudals and group who did their part, and I wouldn't want to leave them completely unacknowledged. This list will not be all-inclusive (otherwise I'd be here all day), so I may continue to add to it as I update this lens. Moreover, these acts are in no particular order and some of them may even have come a little after the Sugarhill Gang's heyday:
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Rapper's Delight Lyrics
Okay, can you really have a discussion of Rapper's Delight and not launch into the lyrics just a little bit? Since the full-length version was on the song was actually about 15 minutes long (and I have no intention of typing all of that out), this portion of the lens is really more of a tease than anything else:
i said a hip hop the hippie the hippie
to the hip hip hop, a you dont stop
the rock it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie
to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat
now what you hear is not a test--i'm rappin to the beat
and me, the groove, and my friends are gonna try to move your feet
see i am wonder mike and i like to say hello
to the black, to the white, the red, and the brown, the purple and yellow...
(Lyrics source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/)