sugar hill gang

Sugarhill Gang

Hip Hop’s first commercially successful rap group the Sugarhill Gang was formed by “the mother of modern Hip Hop” Sylvia Robinson in the late 1970s.[1]  She enlisted members Wonder Mike (Mike Wright) and Master Gee (Guy O’Brien) hailing from Englewood, New Jersey and Big Bank Hank (Henry Jackson) from the Bronx to create a rap record for her and her husband Joe’s label Sugar Hill Records.[2] [3] [4] After seeing the audience’s excited response  to the fresh sound of Hip Hop at a party in New York, she recruited Henry Jackson as a Sugarhill Gang member when she heard him rap along to a tape by his friend Grandmaster Caz at a New Jersey pizza parlor.[5] 

Hank  Jackson remembers how the rest of the Sugarhill Gang was formed.  “She asked me to audition. ..Wonder Mike, who was part of Phase II, happened to be across the street, so he came over. This had to be God’s doing because Gee just happened to be walking down the street. What are the odds of that!!! All 3 of us were on the same block at the same time. We just started battling and Sylvia said ‘I found my group.’  The rest is history,” stated Hank.”[6]

The group recorded the 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight” which sampled Chic’s “Good Times” and was recorded in 17 minutes on the first take. [7]It became the first commercially successful Hip Hop song.[8] Controversy soon followed the record’s success because many players in the newly formed Hip Hop culture did not consider the Sugar Hill Gang to be a genuine group.[9]  Also, the true MC Grandmaster Caz was never credited with writing the lyrics to Big Bank Hank’s opening verse.[10]   Nevertheless, the single went on to sell over ten million copies, hit #4 on the R&B chart, and became the highest selling 12 inch single ever.[11]

After getting immense play on radio and being credited with introducing the world to Hip Hop, the Sugarhill Gang soon released “8th Wonder” in 1980 which reached #15 on the R&B chart and 1981’s “Apache (Jump On It)” which peaked at #13.[12] [13] The group’s popularity faded, and they eventually disbanded in 1985, and the trio worked odd jobs outside of the music business.[14] [15]  

In 1990, Joey Robinson, Jr., reformed the group, taking on the name of Master Gee and acted as manager while Kory O served as a backup member. [16] [17] In 1999, they released a new album teaching children grammar, spelling and history called Jump On It and donated some of the proceeds to the Boys and Girls Club of America.[18]  They will be the subject of a documentary entitled I Want My Name Back which will address topics like their experience in the music industry and their legal woes and financial problems.[19]  The group still tours from time to time and has reunited to work on their first album in more than 10 years.[20]


Wonder Mike and Mike Gee from Englewood, New Jersey.  Big Bank Hank from the Bronx.


Sugar Hill Records

Music Videos:

“Rapper’s Delight”


“Apache (Jump on It)”


“The Lover in You”


“8th Wonder”



Like Kemosabi, of course it’s me 

I’m better known as the Master G 

A firing squad, sensed the danger 

When they’re stung by the rapping ranger” 

– Master Gee on “Apache (Jump on It)”

“But whatever ya do in your lifetime 
Ya never let a mc steal your rhyme 
So from sixty six til this very day 
I’ll always remember what he had to say”

-Big Bank Hank on “Rapper’s Delight”

“Once upon a time not long ago
everybody had on their radio
And then the fella came on with a groovy noise
To put the wiggle in the women and girls and boys” 

-Wonder Mike on “8th Wonder”

“So let’s make a start, unlock your heart 
This is, the place to be 
And as we’re movin’, to the music groovin’ 
You’ll bring out, the lover in me”

– Master Gee on “The Lover in You”

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_Robinson

[2] http://www.oldschoolhiphop.com/artists/emcees/sugarhillgang.htm

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_Robinson

[4] http://www.soulinterviews.com/music-pastures/777-music-pastures-sugarhill-gang-dea.html

[5] http://www.thafoundation.com/cazint.htm

[6] http://www.soulinterviews.com/music-pastures/777-music-pastures-sugarhill-gang-dea.html

[7] Ibid.

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapper%27s_Delight

[9] http://www.answers.com/topic/sugarhill-gang#ixzz1bFuTKrPz

[10] http://www.oldschoolhiphop.com/artists/emcees/sugarhillgang.htm

[11] Ibid.

[12] http://www.soulinterviews.com/music-pastures/777-music-pastures-sugarhill-gang-dea.html

[13] http://www.answers.com/topic/sugarhill-gang

[14] http://www.soulinterviews.com/music-pastures/777-music-pastures-sugarhill-gang-dea.html

[15] http://www.answers.com/topic/sugarhill-gang#ixzz1bFuTKrPz

[16] Ibid.

[17] http://www.soulinterviews.com/music-pastures/777-music-pastures-sugarhill-gang-dea.html

[18] Ibid.

[19] http://www.soulculture.co.uk/blogs/sugar-hill-gang-to-reunite-for-new-album-and-documentary-music-news/

[20] Ibid.

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