"Rapper's Delight" is the title of a song recorded by American hip hop trio The Sugarhill Gang. While it was not the first single to feature rapping, it is generally considered to be the song that first popularized hip hop in the United States and around the world. The song's opening lyric "I said a hip hop, a hippie, a hippie to the hip hip hop" is world-renowned. The song is ranked #251 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and #2 on both About.com's and VH1's 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs. The 15-minute song was recorded in a single take. There are three versions of the song: 14:37 (12" long version), 6:30 (12" short version), and 4:55 (shortened single version).
In late 1978, Debbie Harry suggested that Chic's Nile Rodgers join her and Chris Stein at a hip hop event, which at the time was a communal space taken over by teenagers with boombox stereos playing various pieces of music that performers would break dance to. Rodgers experienced this event the first time himself at a high school in the Bronx. On September 20th-21st, 1979, Blondie and Chic were playing at concerts of The Clash in New York at The Palladium. When Chic started playing "Good Times", rapper Fab Five Freddy and what were the members of the Sugarhill Gang jumped up on stage and started freestyling with the band. A few weeks later Rodgers was on the dance floor of New York club LaViticus and heard the DJ play a song which opened with Bernard Edwards' bass line from Chic's "Good Times". Rodgers approached the DJ who said he was playing a record he had just bought that day in Harlem. The song turned out to be an early version of "Rapper's Delight," which also included a scratched version of the song's string section. Rodgers and Edwards immediately threatened legal action over copyright, which resulted in a settlement and their being credited as co-writers. Rodgers admitted that he was originally upset with the song, but would later declare it to be "one of [his] favorite songs of all time" and his favorite of all the tracks that sampled Chic. He also stated that "as innovative and important as "Good Times" was, "Rapper's Delight" was just as much, if not more so."
According to Oliver Wang, author of the 2003 Classic Material: The Hip-Hop Album Guide, recording artist ("Pillow Talk") and studio owner Sylvia Robinson had trouble finding anyone willing to record a rap song. Most of the rappers who performed in clubs did not want to record. It is said that Robinson's son heard a rapper in a pizza place, and the rapper was persuaded to come to a studio and record someone else's words while "Good Times" was played.
Chip Shearin said in a 2010 interview that at age 17, he was visiting a friend in New Jersey. The friend knew Robinson, who needed some musicians for various recordings, including "Rapper's Delight". Shearin's job on the song was to play the bass for 15 minutes straight, with no mistakes. He was paid $70 but later went on to perform with Sugarhill Gang in concert before backing up such artists as Janet Jackson and Marion Meadows as well as composing movie scores and teaching the business of music on the college level. Shearin described the session this way:
The drummer and I were sweating bullets because that's a long time. And this was in the days before samplers and drum machines, when real humans had to play things. ... Sylvia said, 'I've got these kids who are going to talk real fast over it; that's the best way I can describe it.'
There's this idea that hip-hop has to have street credibility, yet the first big hip-hop song was an inauthentic fabrication. It's not like the guys involved were the 'real' hip-hop icons of the era, like Grandmaster Flash or Lovebug Starski. So it's a pretty impressive fabrication, lightning in a bottle.
"Rapper's Delight" hit #36 on the U.S. pop charts, #4 on the U.S. R&B charts, the #1 single and album of the year on the Canadian Singles Chart (entirely on Quebecian rentals and lets: it was barred in the rest of that country owing to home taping), #1 on the Dutch Top 40, #3 on the UK singles chart, and #2 on VH1's top 100 hip-hop songs of all time. (In Australia it sank without a trace.) Reportedly it became the first hip-hop single to go diamond (5 million copies), but it should be noted that Sugarhill was one of many small independent labels that were not willing to let outside accountants go through their books; thus, it has never been certified by the RIAA. In 1980 the song was the anchor of the group's first album The Sugarhill Gang.
It was the first Top 40 song to be available only as a 12-inch extended version in the U.S. no 7-inch, 45-RPM record was made. In Europe, however, it was released on the classic 7-inch single format on French pop label Vogue, with a shorter version of the song. It was this 7" single that reached number one in the Dutch chart.
The song ranked #248 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2004 list of "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
Other uses in media
"Rapper's Delight" is featured in the video games MLB 2K10, Thrasher: Skate and Destroy, and Tony Hawk's Underground 2.
"Rapper's Delight" is also sampled in DJ Grand Wizard Theodore's Subway Theme.
In an episode of Scrubs the Sugar Hill Gang alarm clock JD gives Turk for a wedding present plays a modified "wake up" version of "Rapper's Delight", later it is played in Turk and Carla's new car.
In episode 22 of season 4, One Tree Hill used this song, as the only song that James Lucas Scott would stop fussing. It was then revealed that whenever Haley was sleeping, Nathan would play old school hip-hop to the womb.
Cole sang "Rapper's Delight" on an episode of Fox's Martin to audition for Biggie Smalls before being thrown out of Martin's apartment.
On an episode of Living Single, the entire cast rapped one verse from "Rapper's Delight". Khadijah started with the line "have you ever been over a friend's house to eat..." before the rest of the cast joined in to finish the verse.
In the 1997 filmThe Pest (starring John Leguizamo), the lead character sings a rap to the tune.
In the 1998 feature film The Wedding Singer (starring Adam Sandler) in a clip towards the end, the elderly Rosie (played by Ellen Dow), whom Robbie (Sandler) has been teaching to sing, surprises everyone when she gets up on stage and starts performing this song.
In 2002, Spanish group Las Ketchup parodied this song in the chorus of their hit "The Ketchup Song (Asereje)", which reached number one in the UK chart.
In 2003, the song appeared in the multi-award-winning Honda television advertisement Cog. Later that year, a rendition was used in a scene in from the film Kangaroo Jack. In July 2009, Evian Water used the song in their roller-skating baby commercial, "Evian's Roller Babies (Live Young)" which is especially popular on YouTube with over 3.7 million hits in a week. The song was produced by Dan the Automator and features Tim Carter, Chali 2na (of Jurassic 5) along with Casual and Domino (of Hieroglyphics). Tepr, Van She Tech and The Bewitched Hands on the Top of our Heads did the remix.
Throughout The Verve's 2008 tour dates, they frequently tagged their "Life's An Ocean" with a brief snippet of "Rapper's Delight."
It was the first song covered by Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon in a bit called "The History of Rap" on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
Big Bank Hank once managed Grandmaster Caz (Casanova Fly) of The Cold Crush Brothers. Hank's verse was originally written by Caz as evidenced by his first line: "I'm the C-A-S-A-N-O-V-A and the rest is F-L-Y". Sugarhill and Hank never gave any money or credits as a songwriter or co-writer to Grandmaster Caz.
- The cast of the film CB4 (including Chris Rock) released a cover on the film's soundtrack
Def Squad (Redman, Erick Sermon, Keith Murray) released a cover in 1998 on the album El Ni o
Keller Williams released a cover version of the song on his 2004 live album Stage.
Southside Allstars (Kano, Sway, Skibbadee among others featured) released as a BBC 1Xtra exclusive.
- Brazilian rapper Gabriel O Pensador used the same beat in his song "2345meia78" in 1997.
- Italian rapper and dj DJ Lugi used the same beat in his song "Boloboogie".
- Italian rapper Flaminio Maphia used the same beat in his song "Rapper do vai".
- The lyrics "hotel, motel, holiday inn" are used in Newcleus's "Jam on Revenge (The Wikki-Wikki Song)" (1983), TLC's "Switch", Pitbull's "Hotel Room Service", De La Soul's "Breakadawn", Cassidy's "Hotel", Dr. Dre's Housewife, The Wu-Tang Clan's "Starter", and Tweet's "Motel."
- The bass is sampled by Bergy in "Race Ya Home".
Insane Clown Posse & Esham released a song "Wicked Rappers Delight" which appears on Forgotten Freshness 4. It takes inspiration from Rapper's Delight, but incorporates "Wicked" lyrics.
- The rap group, Me & My Cousin used the opening lyrics from Rapper's Delight; "Now what you are hearing is not a test, because I'm rappin' to the beat...' in their 1996 hit, Smooth.
Beastie Boys samples the song in "Triple Trouble".
- Italian rapper and superstar, Jovanotti, covered the song for his live album Lorenzo Live - Autobiografia di una festa in 2000.
- Jamiroquai sampled the bass in club citta live concert 1993, and the name of the song appeared as same
Ol' Dirty Bastard uses lyrics from the song in Goin' Down from his solo debut album Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version.
- German trio GLS United including talk show host Thomas Gottschalk re-recorded it in April 1980 as "Rapper's Deutsch". It was produced by Harold Faltermeyer and is considered the first Rap song in German language.
- Quebec, Canada rapper KenLo from Alaclair Ensemble and Movezerbe made a translation of the song named "D lice d'un rappeur" in 2007
- Rapper 50 Cent takes Inspiration of rappers delight on his song Gangstas Delight on his 2009 album Before I Self Destruct
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