Wonder Mike (Mike Wright)
Big Bank Hank (Henry Jackson)
Master Gee (Guy O’Brien)
The story of the Sugarhill Gang is perhaps one of the most controversial among old school hip hop and hip hop on a whole for that matter.
A woman named Sylvia Robinson, who herself was involved in the music industry, heard this new underground sound called rap and felt that there was market there for the taking. She began to put together a group to record a rap record.
At the same time, Henry Jackson was a bouncer in club and also a part time hip hop manager. Henry used to listen to mix tapes of various crews of the time and rap along with the lyrics. One-night Sylvia overheard Henry repeating some rhymes of Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers. She asked Henry if he was interested in joining a group.
Here’s where the controversy begins.
Instead of revealing the true author of the rhymes, Henry agreed. He later went to visit Caz who agreed to let Henry use his rhymes. Caz figured if Henry got hooked up, he was later help Caz and Cold Crush do the same. Obviously, he never did.
Henry Jackson, now renamed Big Bank Hank, joined Wonder Mike, and Master Gee and formed the Sugarhill Gang. They went on to record “Rapper’s Delight.” The song eventually went on to sell over 2 million copies, hit #4 on the R&B chart, and became the highest selling 12-inch single ever.
When the true hip hop crews heard the song on the radio they were stunned. Grandmaster Flash recalls thinking, “Sugarhill who?” No one knew who this group was, but nevertheless, they broke the sound from the underground and blew it up worldwide.
In an ironic tint to the whole story, check out one of Hank’s rhymes:
“But whatever you do, in your lifetime/ You never let an MC steal your rhymes”
And how about this one: “I’m the C-A-S-A-N-O-V-A….” Hank was spelling Caz’s named before he shortened it to just Caz.
The group did record several other singles, none of which approached the success of the original, however, some were successful. “8th Wonder” reached #15 on the R&B chart. “Apache” peaked at #13.
They released a new album in 1999 entitled “Jump On It.” But instead of breaking down musical doors, they are doing this one for the children. The tracks will be aimed at the youth listeners and will include a new version of “Rapper’s Delight” called “It’s Like a Dream Sometimes.
Grandmaster Melle Mel will lend his vocal talents to the project as well.
They will be donating a portion of any money raised to The Boys & Girls Club of America.
The group still tours regularly and can be seen from time to time on various TV specials.