With so many hip hop media outlets today. From MTV to BET and more, with people even being able to record music videos on their phones, the idea of releasing a rap song without a music video seems completely preposterous. However, in the mid to late 1970s, when hip hop was finding its feet, that’s exactly what artists did.
Hip hop dates all the way back to the 1970s, but one of the first smash hits from the genre was brought to us by the famous Sugar Hill Gang. The trio undoubtedly made history when their song ‘Rapper’s Delight’ made it into the Billboard Top 40. But the Sugar Hill Gang also brought us the first-ever rap music video.
Released in 1979, ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was recorded at Sugar Hill Studios in Englewood, New Jersey. Signed to Sugar Hill records which was based in New Jersey despite its name, the group was assembled from scratch by the vice president of the record label, Joey Robinson. The label, cleverly capitalising on the growing popularity of hip hop just across the Hudson in the neighbouring city of New York, recruited local MCs to form the group. Wonder Mike (Michael Wright), Big Bank Hank (Henry Jackson) and Master Gee (Guy O’Brien) were all from Englewood, New Jersey.
Irrespective of their regional origin, under the pseudonym of The Sugar Hill Gang (Sugar Hill being a sub-section of the larger Harlem neighbourhood), they began recording their first hip hop track. A popular track in New York City clubs at the time, ‘Rapper’s Delight’ interpolated ‘Good Times’ by Chic into their first track. ‘Good Times’ was an integral part of urban culture at the time. it was popular with the roller skaters, breakdancers, and even Fab Five Freddy freestyled on it.
The song, released on 12” vinyl by Sugar Hill Records, seeming like it it was made and recorded by a group of New York City youths, spread like wildfire and was getting played at block parties and clubs all over the city. The record was purchased so much it peaked at number 36 on the Billboard hot 100, making it the first-ever hip hop song to break into the top 40. It snowballed from there as Robinson decided the group needed to shoot a video. They did, making it the first ever hip hop music video. Watch the music video for ‘Rapper’s Delight’ in the video below.