TENAFLY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Forty years ago, three guys in Englewood, New Jersey, made hip-hop history.
The Sugarhill Gang helped put rap on the map when their song “Rapper’s Delight” became the first hip-hop track to hit the Billboard charts.
The song was produced by the late Sylvia Robinson and released by her Englewood label, Sugar Hill Records, on Sept. 16, 1979.
“Rapper’s Delight” has been credited for single-handedly launching hip-hop music into the mainstream.
Robinson’s only surviving son, Leland Robinson, says at the time, radio stations thought his mother was crazy to back the Bronx-born music genre.
“No one knew about rap music. No one knew about hip-hop. And she said that she had a vision and this is what she wanted to do and she did it. Forty years later, here we are,” he told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.
Sylvia Robinson handpicked the Sugarhill Gang, including Henry Jackson, better known as “Big Bank Hank.” He auditioned for her while working at Crispy Crust Pizza in Englewood.
Owner Craig Columbo’s family placed a plaque on the wall of the shop, commemorating the restaurant as the place the rap group was born. Columbo was just a kid, but he remembers.
“One day Sylvia came in through the door, asked him to rap, and signed him right there and that’s how it started,” he said.
Many fans, like Darlene Tomlinson, say the song’s infectious beat and catchy lyrics launched a love for hip-hop.
“It brings me back to when I was a teenager, when I was partying a lot and having fun with my friends,” Tomlinson said.
Rolling Stone named “Rapper’s Delight” the second-greatest hip-hop song of all time, only behind “The Message” by Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, which was also produced by Sylvia Robinson.
Leland Robinson, who’s continuing his mother’s vision at Sugar Hill Records, says his mother never got the credit she deserved.
“She’s probably saying, ‘I told you so. I told you,'” he said.
But through this song, her legacy will go on… and on and on and on and on.