How Nile Rodgers helped invent hip-hop
(Credit: NRK P3)

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How Nile Rodgers helped invent hip-hop

Nile Rodgers made his name with Chic, helping pop music embrace disco. However, his influence on contemporary music is far and wide, including hip-hop, which he accidentally helped to spawn in the late 1970s.

While Rodgers didn’t directly play a part in the evolution of hip-hop on paper, it was birthed in New York City during the late 1970s when Chic dominated the airwaves. Despite gaining mainstream success, Chic were also kings of the underground, and DJs played their string of hits in secretive block parties that formed hip-hop.

When ‘Good Times’ was released in 1979, Chic were already flying high following the success of previous singles’ Le Freak’, ‘Everybody Dance’ and ‘I Want Your Love’. They were ushering in a funk-filled new pop era, allowing people to forget about their troubles and escape in the ecstasy they were serving in their sonic offerings.

‘Good Times’ embodied Chic’s optimistic spirit and went on to cause a ripple effect that Rodgers couldn’t anticipate. During an interview with Radio X, he explained: “‘Good Times’ is probably one of the most important Chic songs to me. It came out in the summer of ’79 when we actually had two number-one Billboard pop singles. ‘Good Times’ was, I don’t like to say it was the unofficial beginning of hip-hop, but it had so much to do with the foundation of hip-hop.”

Rodgers continued: “I remember Debbie Harry and Chris Stein from Blondie taking me to what they called a ‘hip-hop’, there were a line of DJs, and the only music that was played for about four hours was the breakdown of ‘Good Times’, and this line of DJs all had rhymes that went to ‘Good Times’. Then, the next thing I know, ‘Rapper’s Delight’ came out a few weeks later as a single which features many elements from ‘Good Times’. In fact, they actually sample our strings and put it on their record.”

The Blondie duo, who opened Rodgers’ eyes to the hip-hop world, also played a pivotal part in its mainstream rise. They were regular frequenters to these block parties in New York, which acted as a cultural awakening to the musicians, inspiring them to write ‘Rapture’, which incorporated elements of rap.

The single became the first hip-hop song to top the Billboard Hot 100 and helped bring new ears to the genre, who were unaware that block parties even existed. However, Harry also credits Rodgers for playing his part.

She reflected to The Guardian in 2014: “It was a very local, neighbourhoody kind of thing, and just fantastic. I also remember meeting Nile Rodgers around then, before we made KooKoo [Harry’s 1981 solo album], and how his music with Chic was sampled so much through hip-hop. I always thought there was something very jazz-like in Nile’s playing – those chord changes and the jittery rhythms. I like that idea that hip-hop partly came from jazz blues.”

When Chic made ‘Good Times’, they knew it had the credentials to become another hit single. Yet it was impossible to predict how DJs would adopt it in the New York scene and transform the legacy of their creation.