It’s hard to believe, but it was 37 years ago that the first rap single broke onto the Billboard Top 40.
Rap, in various forms, had been around for years but it didn’t find even a hint of mainstream success until Sylvia Robinson, of Mickey & Syliva and Pillow Talk fame, started Sugar Hill Records and heard an early version of the Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight while in a New York nightclub. She brought the group to her new label where they recorded a new version of the track in one take, creating what most consider as the very first mainstream rap hit.
Hit might be taking it a bit far, at least in the U.S. The single peaked at number 36 but, across Europe it went top ten in most countries including the U.K. where it peaked at number 3. The single, though, did have legs and, over the years, it has sold over two million copies in America where it is considered one of the most important records in rap history.
On Monday night, the Sugarhill Gang, in the form of original members Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien along with Henry “Hen Dog” Williams, who in for the late Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson, took the stage on the Conan O’Brien Show for a brilliant version of their classic song.