Excuse my language, folks, but any rapper who disrespects women in their music is a damn fool. Because if it were not for a woman, this woman -- Sylvia Robinson, there really would be no rap music market for the rappers to make money from. A lot of people remember Sylvia for her music, but few people remember or realize her impact on modern music history. I'll talk about that later, but first I'll start from the beginning.
New Jersey's own Sylvia had a large hit, her first, as part of the 50s duo Mickey & Sylvia with a corny pop song called "Love is Strange." Fast forward to the 70s with another large hit, the pornographic "Pillow Talk," which featured Sylvia breathing hard and heavy about 3 years before Donna Summer did it in "Love to Love You Baby." This time Mickey was not part of the act -- good move; it made her a sultry superstar and reached #1 on the R&B charts (#3 Pop). It was also a good move that Sylvia recorded the hit herself, as it was originally penned with the hopes that Al Green would sing it. Also at this time, Sylvia was the owner of a record label empire including All-Platinum, Stang, Turbo, and Vibration just to name a few.
When she acquired the rights to Chess records in the late 70s and began having financial trouble, she needed a way to jump-start her record empire. She hired 3 New Jersey kids, called them the Sugarhill Gang, and had them rhyme a "Rappers Delight" like the authentic rappers she'd noticed in New York. Add a funky house band to play a sure-fire riff ("Good Times" by Chic) and "cha-ching!" Sugarhill records was born. While "Rappers Delight" was not the first recorded rap song, it was definitely the first major rap hit. And over the years, Sylvia remained in charge (production-wise and managerial-wise) of all the great talent that gave up the Sugarhill groove from Grandmaster Flash to Sequence to the Funky Four.
Sugarhill introduced the world to rap music and culture. And Sylvia introduced us to Sugarhill by founding that label. She is as responsible as any of the rappers for the major role of rap music in popular culture. And probably more so because she took that chance that changed the face of music history.
Oh yeah. And her solo albums aren't bad either.
Unless otherwise noted, all written material copyright 1999, Melissa A. Weber.
No part of these pages may be reproduced on another site without my prior written consent.
Sugarhill Box Set Report by USA Today
Lay it on Me, 1977
Pillow Talk by Sylvia, Vibration, 1973
Sylvia by Sylvia, Vibration, 1976
Lay it on Me by Sylvia, Vibration, 1977
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