Growing up in my late teens, I always use to hear about Sylvia Robinson and how much she has contributed to hip-hop. It was up until a few months ago, I learned that she had something to do with one of my all time favourite joints and group, “Rappers Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang. An extraordinary woman who was recognized as the mother of hip-hop. I applaud her for the life that she had lived, helping to groom, nourish and make sure things were set right for rap groups and rappers. I mean, those are qualities that a mother has for her children right?
Born in the late 30’s, Sylvia was an R&B artist the early age of 14 and went by the name of Little Sylvia. I took in the first song she made, “Love Is Strange” that came out in the 50’s, which was a duo with Mickey. Twenty years later, she had her own classic, “Pillow Talk”, which has a sexy and sultry vibe.
Fast forward to 1979, Sylvia made a visit to Harlem World Disco and then discovered her love for rap. During her journey learning about the genre, it wasn’t until she changed the lives of three New Jersey cats, Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike and Master Gee. The outcome? Sugarhill Gang.
Let me just remind you, back in those days, they had to make their own music. No auto-tune or any drum makers existed. So then, Sylvia took a band, added in some bass and funk and created a fire track, “Rappers Delight,” sampled from “Good Times” by Chic.
Sylvia and her husband Joe then founded the Sugar Hill Records which you could say started a movement for hip-hop. Dope artists that joined the label in the 80’s were: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Funky Four Plus One, the Treacherous Three and the West Street Mob, the Sequence, and the Cash Crew. In 82’, “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was a second hit for Sugar Hill Records.
Sylvia could smile about the 26 gold records she had with her label before it closed in 86’. They normally say, all good things come to end, but despite the fire destroying the Sugar Hill studio in 02’, what Sylvia did was pave the way for rap culture.
The first mother to hip-hop passed away last year at 75 to congestive heart failure, but leaves behind a legacy. Hip-hop artist, Jay-Z sampled, “Love On a Two Way Street” written by Sylvia and Bert Keyes but performed by “The Moments,” making a hit for “Empire State of Mind” featuring Alicia Keys.
So before you want to degrade women in your rap, think about the woman who birthed hip-hop. I mean, you don’t want anyone to diss your own mom right? Sylvia, with hardwork and determination owned and produced from her record label when hip-hop was in its infancy. A true hip-hop pioneer, for real.
Rest in peace Sylvia, and thank you for giving us hip-hop.