Rapper's Delight By Sugar Hill Gang, The First Top 40 Hip Hop Tune: Rare Facts And Stories

By Jacob Shelton


Sugar Hill Gang (L-R Michael "Wonder Mike" Wright, Guy "Master Gee' O'Brian and Henry "Big Bank" Jackson) perform on stage circa 1979 in New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

"Rapper's Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang came out of nowhere to be the first Billboard Top 40 rap hit. The Sugar Hill Gang had no business being the first. Performers like the DJ Grandmaster Flash and rappers in his circle Kurtis Blow and Melle Mel had been pioneering the genre of hip hop to much more acclaim. But the tune to bring rap to the masses was "Rapper's Delight," and the name on the record was the Sugar Hill Gang.

The Sugar Hill Gang didn't invent rap, nor did they even write most of the rhymes in this hit, but the combination of Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and Master Gee has some kind of special alchemy that makes "Rapper's Delight" a single that affects its listeners on a cellular level. With the help of producer and Sugar Hill Records mastermind Sylvia Robinson they brought rap to the mainstream charts with this historic song. They didn't just record the track and call it day. There were challenges, compromises, and a stroke of good luck along the way to turning this song into a Top 40 classic.