The Sugarhill Gang

Back to the Old School: Rapper's Delights

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Try to picture the late '70s: disco is burning up the pop charts, Carter's in office, and in the clubs and streets of New York City a style of music is beginning thrive within the African American community. Dismissed by some as a passing trend, rap was overlooked by major labels. Sylvia Robinson, a small time record label owner, decided to take a chance on the sound with a novelty record. To put it together she assembled Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike, and Master Gee. The trio cut the 14-minute single "Rappers Delight." The rest, so to speak, is history. While the actual lyrical style could be traced back to scat and jump blues, at the time it sounded incredibly fresh and, as a result, the single achieved world wide success. Twenty years later the "passing fad" has become one of the most influential musical genres in American history, taking its place along side jazz, blues, rock & roll, and countless other fusion styles. Now when people think back to the days of "the old school" it seems like a fond trip down memory lane. To help the nostalgia the Sugar Hill Gang released a 20th anniversary collection highlighting their music from this era. In addition to "Rappers Delight" the album contains some of their other, but not nearly as successful, singles including "Hot, Hot, Summer Day," "Apache," and "Sugar Hill Groove." In its musicological context the music sounds like an offshoot of disco and funk, so it's almost a wonder the genre broke out at all. Still, with the seemingly endless stream of commercialized nonsense that dominated the genre in the 1990s, these old songs still sound fresh and fun. As a result this album could still get the party going just as it did back in the day.

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