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The Sugarhill Gang Says Record Labels Didn’t Believe In “Rapper’s Delight”

February 11, 2024

Read the full interview on AllHipHop.com!

The Sugarhill Gang‘s “Rapper’s Delight” is one of the most iconic Hip-Hop songs of all time. Flashback to August 1979 when The Sugarhill Gang created “Rapper’s Delight,” the first rap song to introduce Hip-Hop to a wider audience—and one of the longest.

The song clocks in at almost 15 minutes, equipped with a “Good Times” by Chic guitar sample that would go on to become a rap staple. Forty-five years later, the group—Wonder Mike, Master Gee, Hen Dogg and DJ T-Dynasty—continues to tour the record to this day. The four artists recently crushed their performance, “Live At The Print Shop,” billed as a celebration of the group’s legacy. The Sugarhill Gang delivered a standout performance and later sat down for an interview that took fans on a trip down memory lane.

AllHipHop spoke with Hen Dogg, Wonder Mike, Dynasty and Master Gee via Zoom to discuss what Hip-Hop means to them and why Master Gee never watched their documentary, I Want My Name Back.

AllHipHop: What does Hip-Hop mean to you?

Wonder Mike: It means a lot because the entire group, planet, world is influenced now by Hip-Hop. Through commercials, through when newscasters sign off. It’s everywhere. It’s crazy!

Hen Dogg: To piggyback off what Mike said, Hip-Hop to me is worldwide. We just celebrated50 years of Hip-Hop. Who would’ve thought over 50 years ago that it’d be one of the biggest genres in the world? Record labels didn’t want to even believe in it before “Rapper’s Delight” first came out. They thought it was a fad, something people were doing in the streets. Here today, gone tomorrow type thing.

Now, it’s world culture. Everybody. Hip-Hop is everywhere, all over the world. I believe that the martians are dancing to Hip-Hop, listening to Hip-Hop. It’s a way for people to express themselves. Whatever they’re going through in life, whatever they’re dealing with, now they can put it in their music. Let their feelings be heard. Because everybody’s not politicians, where they can go out and speak and know exactly what to say. But put a mic in front of them, it’s different story.

If you go as far as today’s concerned, it’s a little different than back in the day when you needed a brick and mortar. Today, a kid can sit in his bedroom with a laptop and create hit records. You sit around and watch videos on 9th Wonder. 9th Wonder with a little laptop was killing people. With one laptop, no stuff hooked up but Fruity Loops. Just telling the world Hip-Hop. The man is now very comfortable, so Hip-Hop means a whole lot to us. There’s no end to it, this continues to evolve and hopefully we’ll be right here with it.

Best memory from recording “Rapper’s Delight”?

Wonder Mike: When we recorded the song, there’s a group called Positive Force. They had the record “We Got The Funk,” out of Philly. They laid down the track in one day. In eight hours, me and Hank went to the movies and saw something. When we came back, they were finishing up the music. It wasn’t like you play four bars over the bassline, then you’re punching in and sliding in wherever you want. No, he played that baseline for more than more than half an hour. Because “Rapper’s Delight” is 15 minutes. They stop start, stop start.

When we went in here I’m on the left, Hank’s in the middle and Master Gee’s on the right. I started the song out. He told me before we recorded the record, “Wonder Mike, I want you to start the record off.” Probably because I have an Americana voice or whatever. I wrote something for the record. I didn’t want to jump in willy nilly.

That’s why “Rapper’s Delight” has an intro. “Now, what you hear is not a test,” I got that from the Outer Limits. “I’m rapping to the beat/And me, the groove, and my friends are gonna try to move your feet/Wait, who is this?/I am Wonder Mike and I’d like to say hello! I included the whole world, even purple people!

It jumped off. Guy said he was sure it was going to be a big hit in Newark, Jersey, and Connecticut. I said this is going around the world, because it’s a good record. It’s a catchy record. It’s 15 minutes long. I don’t know which DJs will play it or not, but all the words are recitable. Because everybody says them to this day. I went from dire straits and having no paper or even a residence, to playing for royalty in England three months later.

[Master Gee enters the Zoom]

Last year was the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop. I personally think Hip-Hop should be celebrated every day every year. Do you feel like last year gave you guys the flowers you deserve?

Master Gee: [laughs]

Hen Dogg: Kinda, sorta. Absolutely. It was a celebration for everybody to celebrate Hip-Hop, so it was a good thing. I do realize it was some shows out there we should have been on, then it was some shows we were on. But other than that, it still was great.

Master Gee: I’ma say this, I don’t really feel like we need a year of anything to celebrate who we are. Because the fans in every part of the world celebrate us. Every time, everything we do, we’ve always been the people’s champ. I’ma keep on singing that song. All of a sudden, they want to celebrate 50 years of Hip-Hop, that’s cool. That’s fine. 

But our real flowers are every time we hit a stage, or every time somebody samples one of the songs. Every time somebody acknowledges Wonder Mike. Every time somebody sees Hen Dogg in a clothing store. Every time somebody knows that Dynasty is part of Sugarhill gang. Every time somebody says big shout out to Hank. To me, those are the real flowers. Whether we do something in celebration that somebody decided that they wanted to do something or not, to me doesn’t really represent — 45 years of something that most people can’t even get five years. Beatles five, Journey was 10. We’re going on our 45th year.

Hen Dogg: 45th year, exactly. Without a doubt. Well said.

How did you feel watching back the documentary, I Want My Name Back?

Master Gee: I never saw it. Never watched it. I don’t watch the stuff we do. I’ve seen pieces because it was in my face, but as far as to watch it from beginning to end, I’ve never done that.

Hen Dogg: I don’t think I never watched it from beginning to end. I’ve seen pieces and parts of it.

Wonder Mike: I liked it. I dug it.

Hen Dogg: It was what we were dealing with at the time. It was what we were going through as a group at the time. Things are much different now.

Master Gee: Personally, I didn’t want to do a documentary to begin anyway.

Wonder Mike: If you’re a sports writer and you cover a football team that sucks, that’s what you’re going to write. “They suck. They’re not good, get off the field.” 10 years later, they’re winning multiple Super Bowls. It’s what you’re covering at the time.

Gee, why didn’t you want to be a part of it?

Master Gee: I’m not a public person. Personally what we were going through, to me was not was not the world’s business.

You don’t see it as celebrating you?

Master Gee: No. I didn’t want everybody knowing that that was the reality of what we were dealing with. I really didn’t want that. I was talked into that. I’m a team player, so everybody wanted to do it. But I did it begrudgingly throughout the whole thing. Also, that was a time when I had first come back into the group. I had been away from everybody and the world for 20 something years. I was really private at that point.

Hen Dogg: Mmhmm.

Anything else you guys are excited for? 

All: Yes!

Master Gee: We have so many powerful, wonderful, phenomenal situations. New albums. We got Master Gee’s Theater on Sirius XM. We got opportunities to do film projects. So many day to day opportunities all over the country and the world to be able to be in front of our fans. We got an opportunity to talk to you. That’s what I’m excited about.

Hen Dogg: Music, new tours. We’re very excited about that.

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