"The Rhythm, The Boogie, The Beat:" Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight' 40 years later

April 10, 2019


 Photo: Boston.com


This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of "The Rhythm, The Boogie, The Beat:" Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight' 40 years later’s debut single, “Rapper’s Delight.” A song famous for lines such as “hotel, motel, holiday inn,” and the ever timeless “hip-hop hippie to the hippie to the hip-hip hop,” the timeless classic broke through musical barriers, becoming one of the early successes of the emerging hip hop music genre.


Released in the fall of 1979, the song was the first “hip-hop” song to enter the Billboard Hot 100, ushering hip-hop into the mainstream. The song was featured on the group’s 1980 self-titled debut album. One of the earliest templates of a hip-hop record, the New Jersey based group believed to have been composed the song in one take. 


Comprised of 3 songwriter-rappers: Henry “Big Hank” Jackson, Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright, and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien, O’Brien mentions in a 2017 Guardian interview that the song utilized a sample of the 1979 Chic hit “Good Times.” Since the inner workings of hip hop was relatively new at this time, the rappers did not think they needed permission from the New York based group to sample their song. They would soon learn otherwise in the following lawsuit from Chic members Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who would eventually be awarded songwriting credits.


With sonic sounds and innovative lyrics, “Rapper’s Delight” stands as one of the earliest rap songs to be recognized within the pop landscape of the 1970’s. At the time of it’s release, hip hop was in its early infancy and had barely made it out of the predominantly black neighborhoods. History.com writes, “prior to the success to ‘Rapper’s Delight,’ hip hop was little known outside of New York City…you could not walk into a record store in Times Square and buy a hip hop album… hip hop was something you had to experience live, in clubs and at parties in neighborhoods like  the South Bronx and Harlem.”


With the creation of “Rapper’s Delight,” hip hop reached a level of recognition. A recognition that would pave the way for succeeding rap groups such as The Sequence, Funky 4+1, Run DMC, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, N.W.A, Naughty by Nature, and many more.  Earning a place in music history, Matthew  Guerrieri  writes in his 2009 Boston Globe article, “today, ‘Rapper’s Delight,’ is considered a watershed in popular culture, the song that introduced rap in  the wider pop music landscape…demonstrated that there was money  to be made in hip hop records.”


Today, the song has been used in several films and television shows such as the 1998 romantic comedy The Wedding Singer, and the Fox series The Simpsons.


Revered as the early example of a “party anthem,” America began to embrace not only this upcoming trend in music but the culture that followed. A culture that would define the scope of the Black community at the turn of the century.



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