K-Chuck Radio: The Sugarhill Pulse

I recently watched the TV One Unsung episode about the history of the Sugarhill Gang, and during that video I understood that the group – whose classic “Rapper’s Delight” sold 14 million copies and became a worldwide hit – went through the wringers in terms of royalties, creative control, and ultimately losing the rights to the group name.

But throughout that documentary, I remembered the amazing music that came out of that label – how Sugarhill Records helped bring the rappers and remixers from the Boogie Down Bronx to worldwide audiences.

I should also say that Sugarhill Records was the soundtrack of my high school life.  Let’s face it, I think every student at Street Academy High School had at least three different Sugarhill Records 12-inch dance discs in their collection.  Heck, I think I had at least twelve or thirteen Sugarhill tracks before I even went to college.

And true story – when my freshman year roommate Bob and I started comparing our musical tastes and record collections, he pulled out the B-52’s and Squeeze, and I said, “What’s that stuff?”  I then countered with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the Sugarhill Gang and the Funky Four +1 – and he said, “Well, what’s THAT stuff?”

Here’s what “That stuff” is. Let me introduce you to the great tracks of Sugarhill Records.

SPOONIE GEE MEETS THE SEQUENCE
Monster Jam

Spoonie Gee was one of the earliest rap artists to have his lyrics pressed on records; and this collaboration with Sugarhill’s girl group The Sequence was a major rap hit.

THE FUNKY FOUR PLUS ONE
That’s The Joint

The Funky Four Plus One was unique in that their crew was gender-mixed; Sha Rock was one of the first female rappers committed to vinyl.

THE SEQUENCE
Funk You Up

Three cheerleaders from South Carolina – Blondie, Angie B and Cheryl the Pearl – had several hits with Sugarhill Records; this was the first.

GRANDMASTER FLASH AND THE FURIOUS FIVE
Freedom

When the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” became a worldwide hit, many other Bronx-based rappers signed with Sugarhill Records – including the greatest rap crew of all time, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.  This was their first hit on Sugarhill Records.

THE SUGARHILL GANG
Rapper’s Delight

Nothing needs to be said.  This is the gold.  Fifteen minutes of old school classic rap.

GRANDMASTER FLASH
The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel

I’ve said in the past that this record was the first 12-inch dance disc I ever bought.  And to hear what Grandmaster Flash did with two turntables and a bunch of old records – this was the first opportunity for people outside of the Boogie Down Bronx to hear the true sound of a B-boy party.

THE SUGARHILL GANG
Eighth Wonder

This was the Sugarhill Gang’s second hit after “Rapper’s Delight,” and I remember people goofing on the rap – “I Am (I am) Somebody (Somebody…)” and re-singing it as “I Am (I am) Salami (salami) Now you a sandwich.”

GRANDMASTER FLASH AND THE FURIOUS FIVE MEETS THE SUGARHILL GANG
Showdown

So what do you do when you have two of hottest rap groups on your label?  You have them perform on one single disc in an old school rap battle.  While I appreciate what Sugarhill Records did with this disc, damn I wish they could have had tape from the old Cold Crush Brothers rap battles back in the day…

GRANDMASTER FLASH AND THE FURIOUS FIVE
The Message

The seminal record that changed rap from party music to social commentary.  The most important record that Sugarhill Records ever released.

THE SUGARHILL GANG
Apache

If you only know “Apache” from the soundtrack of Guy Richie movies, you have to know that the Sugarhill Gang had fun recording a rap on it.  Although the group’s costumes have not aged well over time…

WEST STREET MOB
Break Dance – Electric Boogie

The West Street Mob were a trio of electro-funk artists, whose members included Joey Robinson Jr., the son of label head Sylvia Robinson.

GRANDMASTER AND MELLE MEL
White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)

By this time, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five had split down the middle; half the group (including Flash) left for another label, while lead rapper Melle Mel stayed with Sugarhill Records.  The “Grandmaster” in this group was not Flash, but “Grandmaster Joey Robinson Jr.”  Hmm…

GRANDMASTER MELLE MEL
Jesse

This was recorded to promote Rev. Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign run in 1984.  True story – the higher-ups at my college radio station told me I would not be allowed to play this record until after the New York primaries; they feared that the record would be construed as a political advertisement.  Fine.  If Walter Mondale felt like recording a rap track, he’s more than welcome to do so.

THE MOMENTS
Baby Let’s Rap Now

This is not the Moments of “Love on a Two-Way Street,” so don’t get confused.  That “Moments” group became Ray Goodman and Brown, while a new group of “Moments” performed on this disc.

Sadly, Sugarhill Records folded in 1986; their masters are currently owned by Rhino Records, who have kept the music alive with new CD compilations.

And I still have a collection of blue-sleeved, multi-colored 12-inch dance discs with the soundtrack of my youth.

Which allows me to share this wonderful music with you today, on K-Chuck Radio.

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