By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
Marking the 40th anniversary of the release of iconic rap music single “Rapper’s Delight,” the Sugar Hill Gang were among the nominees elected to the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame during an underground gala at the Hip-Hop Museum Pop Up Experience at Blind Whino in southwest D.C.
“We tried to tell a hip-hop story that shows our love and appreciation of hip-hop and the history we’re trying to preserve,” said Red Summer, curator of the Museum tells the AFRO. “Its constantly growing and this is just the beginning.”
The Hip-Hop Museum launched a month-long gallery show with a concert featuring The Sugarhill Gang, Trouble Funk, Melle Mel, and Grandmaster Caz to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the world’s first commercial hip-hop single and to honor pioneers and contributors to the groundbreaking industry. D.C.’s legendary go-go band Trouble Funk was one of seven contributors selected by the Museum to earn Hall of Fame status after being honored as “the most sampled group in [hip hop music] history.”
That Trouble Funk was honored for its place in hip-hop’s history speaks to how the credibility of both, go-go and hip-hop have grown over the last four decades. Many extreme hip-hop purists of the late 1980s through the mid-1990s were reluctant to appreciate D.C.’s musical art form, which led to animosity between groups from New York City and the nation’s capital.
However, the atmosphere of the museum and the night’s events nurtured a spirit of camaraderie amongst fans and artists from the DMV and around the world. Walls that once proved fatal, which separated regions of the nation who brought different styles to hip-hop shared in this special evening. There wasn’t any east coast versus west coast or rap versus go-go “beefs.” Instead it was an evening to honor the pioneers of the revolutionary music that has become a cultural phenomenon.
“When we started it was all about having fun and telling stories that were important to us,” said DJ Melle Mell from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five who was honored by the Museum. “These days it’s all about being tough guys, beefs and disrespecting women. Its great that we can remember what hip-hop is about through places that tell the history like this.”
According to the Museum’s chief historian, Jay Quan, The Sugar Hill Gang remains one of the most controversial of the early rap artists because of Big Bad Hank’s borrowed and uncredited verses. However, Master Gee & Wonder Mike began writing lyrics and performing before rap records existed. The three blended seamlessly for “Rappers Delight,” which proved to be the foundation for the lifestyle of a new generation.
“The Sugar Hill Gang kicked the door down, and set the template for successful rap recordings,” said Quan.
Grandmaster Caz was honored as one of Hip Hop’s first “rapping DJ’s” who spun and rhymed simultaneously. He is regarded as one of rap’s earliest and greatest storytellers.
The Large Professor is one of rap music’s legendary emcee/producer tandems. His first commercial success came as part of The Main Source. He is responsible for introducing Nasty Nas (who became Nas) to the world by producing his first single. He also produced Fakin’ The Funk with Main Source and remixed songs for Eric B & Rakim, Kool G Rap, Roxanne Shante’ and Slick Rick.
Busy Bee earned the title “Chief Rocker” after recording for various labels including Sugar Hill, but earned his induction because of his on stage presence. He was an original emcee, whose rhyming, scatting, crowd participation and humor were in his performance repertoire.