The Washington PostThe Washington Post

The unlikely origins of 'Rapper's Delight,' hip-hop's first mainstream hit

By Kim Bellware

08 Aug 2023 · 5 min read

informed Summary

  1. "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang, released in 1979, was a monumental song that announced hip-hop's arrival to the mainstream, selling 14 million records. The song was produced by Sylvia Robinson, who was inspired by the DJing and rhyming she heard at a Harlem disco.

In 1979, the Billboard charts were awash in disco grooves and New Wave when a single from a newly formed hip-hop group emerged with a bouncing bass line, infectious rhymes and indefatigable run time.

In hindsight, almost every aspect of "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang appeared miscalibrated: Most members of the hastily formed group hailed from New Jersey rather than hip-hop's home base of the Bronx, and they weren't well-known in the local rap scene.

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