Monday, September 10, 2018


l-r:Mr. Schick,Jimmy Mac,D.j. Mr. Nice,Julio
The Summer of 1981 was on fire musically. I often speak of the magic that surrounded the anthemic summer releases of the early 80s and the subsequent rap songs that would use the same musical backdrop, but insert that unmistakable youthful energy that no music until that point could. It's the same energy that The Sugar Hill Gang had inserted into Chic's Good Times two years previous with Rappers Delight. That energy would transform Tom Tom Club's already perfect 1981 classic Genius Of Love into It's Nasty by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5; an incredible recording that was part of the soundtrack to my first middle school dance as a 6th grader. That energy blew my 11 year old mind when Grace Jones dominated every urban dance floor, boom box and radio dial with Pull Up To My Bumper. A five man Bronx Crew calling themselves The Mean Machine would take Ms. Jones' Sly & Robbie produced track and transform it into a bilingual game changer. It's an honor to speak with Mr. Schick of The Mean Machine!

JayQuan: It's an honor to speak to you bro. Where were you born and raised, and what were your early music inspirations?

Mr. Schick: I was born and raised in the Bronx in 1957, and I moved to Puerto Rico for the second through fourth grades. Then I moved back to the Bronx, and I moved to South Carolina in 1982. I was inspired by Latin music in the streets and R&B.Gospel played a lot in my house, my mother was a Christian. 

JQ: When did you first hear rap music and experience Hip Hop culture.

MS: I lived all over the Bronx - near Bronx River, Fordham Rd, Jerome Avenue, White Plains. I was a graf writer for 10 years before rap even appeared on record, but being in the Bronx I heard rap everywhere from it's inception.

JQ: That's interesting. Grandmaster Flash caused some controversy a few years ago when he suggested that graffiti isn't a part of Hip Hop culture,but instead was just something happening in impoverished neighborhoods at the same time as the other "elements".

MS: Well, of course graf was around long before any element of Hip Hop. It's possible that KRS ONE used to write. I've never met him, but that sounds like a graf name. I used to write Schick 1. But I would agree with Flash, it wasn't necessarily an element, but it was one of many things happening at the time of Hip Hop's beginning. 

JQ: Where did the name Schick come from. Does it have any special meaning?

MS: I was walking around in our neighborhood corner store one day, and I was looking around to see if any name caught my eye. I saw Schick razor blades, and I went with that. I just added Mr. when I started rapping.

JQ: So how did you end up becoming an Emcee, and a member of The Mean Machine?

MS: Well, my parents moved from the Bronx to South Carolina and I chose to stay behind. I had my own job and apartment. I lost my job and as a result my apartment, and I was literally homeless. I had a cousin who lived a few blocks away and I stayed at his place for awhile, but he was married and his wife wasn't really digging me staying there,so he let me know in a nice way. I was sleeping in cars and abandoned buildings.
Julio who was the leader of the Mean Machine lived right across the street from me. My Father owned a store and he used to ask the guys to come and play music in front of the store. I believe that my father saw it as a way to attract potential customers. I was looking for any way to stay warm and fed, so I asked the group if I could carry equipment, crates of records etc for them as a way to get a little bit of money. They agreed, and I would hang out at their rehearsals as a way to stay warm. One of the group members got locked up, and I knew all of his parts, so Julio's son (Cool Cliff) suggested that I become his replacement until they could find someone else.

l-r: Mr. Schick,Jimmy Mac,Cool Cliff, Julio
JQ: So when you arrived to the group, it was Julio, Jimmy Mac and the DJ Mr. Nice. Was Cool Cliff part of the group yet?

MS: No he wasn't. Cliff was actually Julio's son, who was ten years old. We added him later. I believe that he passed at the age of 14. He was at a phone booth in front of a store talking to his girlfriend and some guys robbed the store. Cliff got hit by a stray bullet. That's the story that I heard.
But I started writing my own rhymes, and I felt like I wanted to do something different, and no one was rapping in Spanish so I started incorporating Spanish parts. I kept this to myself, and I only told my cousin who I mentioned previously because even though I could speak Spanish fluently I couldn't write it as well as he could, so I needed help with certain words. We used to do these remotes (shows at various locations sponsored by a radio station) for WKTU, and we were doing one at a beach. It may have been Brighton beach or Coney Island - I cant remember which.

JQ: Let me interrupt for a second. This was before you made your record correct?

MS: Yes, this was definitely before our record. Our record was released in 1981.

JQ: And you were actually doing shows with the group before Rappers Delight and the first rap records?

MS: Yes definitely.

JQ: Were you playing at any of the clubs like the Fever , Harlem World etc?

l-r:Julio,Mr. Schick,Jimmy Mac
MS: I rapped at the Fever but not on an official show. But i've gotten on the mic at the Fever, just like in what guys call a cipher now. Nothing official at all. Julio was cool with The Harlem World Crew which was Charlie Rock, Son Of Sam, Jeckyll & Hyde and those guys. We were definitely in Harlem World. In fact I remember in the Dj booth there were these plastic back-lit letters that spelled out Mean Machine. I never knew why, and I never asked. I just assumed that it could have something to do with Julio and his affiliation with them. I always thought that was strange though.

JQ: My apologies. Just wanted to clarify the timeline. So before you even made a record you were doing these WKTU remotes...

MS: Yes, and we had one at this beach and there were what seemed like thousands of people there, mostly Black & Hispanic youth. But it was wild. When you're in your own neighborhood and you know your surroundings it's one thing, but we weren't, so it was a little wild. But we started performing and when it was my turn I started saying my Spanish rhymes. Jimmy & Julio looked at me like I was crazy for going off script. But the crowd went wild so it was cool. After the show was over they were giving us high fives and cheering us, because they weren't used to being represented like that. My position in the group became permanent at that time.

JQ: Wow. You were making history.

MS: Yes, and I just wanna say that there were many Latinos in Hip Hop from day one. I've seen people label me the first Latino MC. That's not my claim. I may have been the first recorded MC rapping in Spanish, but there were many Latino Mc's.

JQ: I remember people debating whether Spanglish by Spanish Fly (on Enjoy Records) dropped before Mean Machine. I know that they both dropped in '81..... So how did you guys get signed to Sugar Hill Records?

MS: Julio & Jimmy went to the label hoping to meet Sylvia. She wasn't around, and they were told to come back the next day. We went back, and we were going to originally leave a demo tape with them, but I knew that I had something special with the Spanish rhymes, and I didn't wanna leave a tape with them. What if someone stole my rhymes? So we had Mr. Nice mixing Pull Up To My Bumper by Grace Jones, and we rapped over that.

JQ: Wow, so that wasn't the labels idea. You came in the door with Pull Up .

MS: Yes, and that's how most of the groups on the label got their music. They already knew
what beat they wanted to rap over, and they brought it to Sylvia, and she had Jiggs Chase write arrangements and the band would record it. So we performed for them, I think it was Joe, Sylvia and someone else. The only person in the room who wasn't Black was Milton.

JQ: He was the money guy right?

MS: Yes he was. They liked our audition and they told us to come back the next week, and the contracts would be drawn up. When we returned the track was already done. We just had to lay vocals.

JQ: I know that Sylvia was an excellent producer and arranger and she had the ear for a hit. Was she in the studio, and how active was she in the recording process?

MS: She was there, and she was hands on, but not too much.

JQ: That was a well put together record. Especially at the end when you're doing your Spanish parts and the way that the percussion blends with it.

MS: Yes, that was Ed Fletcher (Duke Bootee). I actually saw him doing that. I remember that he couldn't get the sound that he wanted, so he took these 2 by 4 wooden planks into the hallway with a mic and beat them together for the sound he wanted.

JQ: When you guys toured with the Sugar Hill Revue how did you get along with your label mates?

MS: We got along well. We shared a bus with Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 and The Sequence. We had lots of fun.

JQ:On your first verse of Disco Dream you did this fast rap "soul shockin', body rockin, finger poppin, never stoppin',know what's coming never going, getting crazy never lazy, hypnotizing mesmerizin' money makin booty shakin, got the power never sour I'm expanding never landin, always smoking never choking, overtaking never breaking".....that was dope. Did you write that?

MS: Yes I did

JQ: Between The Treacherous 3 with the fast raps on New Rap Language and you with that verse,
Mr. Nice
you inspired many of us who were Mc's. But of course your next verse with "wepa wepa". I didnt understand a word that you said except "American Latina".

MS: Wepa doesn't really have a meaning. It's an expression of excitement like oh yeah!

Schicks verse:

WEPA, WEPA Ahi namas 
Les abri las puertas a este ritmo, si que tanto  les facina 
Se lo traje en espaƱol mi gente para America Latina 
Si ustedes quieren gozar
Y de la vida disfrutar
Olviden los problemas Y empiezen a bailar 
Tiren sus manos al aire yes...means throw your hands in the air y sigan con el Baile means dance your body like you just don’t care...
Como la sal y la pimienta que sazonan tu comida 
Aqui esta Mean Machine para sazonar tu vida.

The thing is that I had so much more Spanish, but I had to chop it down to fit the song. I really wish that I could have said everything that I wrote. I will translate it real quick for you. I don't have it written down so bear with me. But it's basically: " I open the doors to this rhythm that fascinates you so, I bring it in Spanish to my people for Latin America. If you want to enjoy life, forget your problems and start dancing ". I was trying to give an intro to what I was doing, like when Wonder Mike said "what you hear is not a test, im rapping to the beat".

JQ: Wow i've been waiting 37 years to hear that translation (from you). Dope! I was looking forward to the next Mean Machine single. What happened?

MS: Sugar Hill had their hands in everything. When you first signed they wanted to trademark your name. That's what happened to the Moments (later Ray, Goodman & Brown) and The Sugar Hill Gang. But we came with our name and our own management. We were kinda frowned upon out of the gate because they wanted to be the manager,publisher and record label. When we saw our royalty statement, it said that we were in the hole. I knew that couldn't be right because our record was selling. I looked at the catalog number on the royalty statement and I know that our record # was SH 564. On the royalty statement it said SH 546. I looked up SH 546 and that was Super Wolf!

JQ: Wow, Super Wolf Can Do It . Lol. I begged
my Mother to buy me that because as a kid I had to have every Sugar Hill Record. I know that you guys sold more than Super Wolf.

MS: Right. So the finances weren't right, and we were on the radio being interviewed by Frankie Crocker. He asked how it felt having one of the hottest records of the summer. Jimmy was the youngest in the group and
.he started talking about how the label wasn't paying us. Of course they heard it, and they sat us down. They froze us and left us there to fizzle out. We couldn't do anything. I moved to South Carolina and the other guys went on and made a few records on other labels.

JQ: Wow...I always wondered was there another Mean Machine because i've heard some New Yorkers refer to "The Mean Machine from Spanish Harlem".

MS: Yes, I heard much later on that there was another Mean Machine. We never heard of them back then though.

JQ: Its been an honor. With rap music being as big as it is many of the pioneers make claims of being the first to do something. But you truly set off something that is still felt and heard today. I heard a Cardi B remix recently, and there's a guy rapping in Spanish for the entire song, and I couldn't help but reminisce and reflect on Disco Dream.

*Special thanks to Randy Duke for connecting me with Mr. Schick

Saturday, August 25, 2018





"How's it going Jay? Hows the family?" That intro to conversation is one that I hear daily, and it's just an expected greeting, and of course the expected reply is "everything is good bro, how about you & yours?" When Red asked how you were doing, you felt that it was more than just the cliche' greeting that we bestow upon each other as we attempt to fit a conversation into our busy lives. Everything about Red was genuine. Collins Leysath was genuinely one who was more concerned about the well being of his fellow man than his own. I knew that based on my almost 20 year friendship with Red, but it is also solidified through the words of others. His social media pages have been flooded with one testimony after another of how good Red was as a human being.There are instances of him personally calling people that he'd never met face to face to wish them Happy Birthday. I saw an instance where someone's Mother transitioned, and he personally called them to let them know that he was available to talk and listen, because he understood that pain. I can count on one hand the times that I've heard Red use profanity (outside of his recordings of course). This is in stark contrast to the persona given to us by the group that along with NWA set the precedent for extreme vulgarity and profanity on rap records.

Balls & My Word

One day in 1988 I was record shopping like I did every weekend. As I thumbed through the dollar bins at Carrington's Records in downtown Richmond,VA I came across an album called Making Trouble by the Ghetto Boys. Even for the low price of 1 dollar, I only bought records that I had heard before, or that contained something familiar to me like a producers name, the record label or a song title that really grabbed me. I saw that the record label was Rap A Lot, which was the same label that Raheem The Vigilante released records on. Raheem had a single called Dance Floor, and the video was getting good rotation on BET. He even had the nerve to diss L.L. on the song, when L was at his zenith.The fact that this record was on Rap A Lot had earned my 4 quarters, but I noticed on the cover of the lp that the midget (Red would later tell me that Lil Billy aka Bushwick Bill was a dwarf) that was dancing on Raheem's video was part of this group. Once I got home and listened to Making Trouble, I was more than pleased with my purchase. The movie Scarface had been released 5 years before, and certain lines that Pacino said in the movie were classic. Someone had taken the best snippets and put them over top of Roland TR 808 drums. And the Mc's were dope! On songs like Assassins and Snitches the lyrics were gangster, but these were stories that were obviously just tales to entertain, as much of the so called early "Gangster Rap" was. But these 808 beats though. There was a slow tempo interlude that sampled the famous Scarface line "all I have in this world is balls and my word". I wanted more of this sound.

Geto Boys



D.J. Ready Red, the producer of the first 3 Ghetto Boys lps had crafted quite a soundscape. 1989's Grip It On That Other Level caught the attention of Rick Rubin who had left Def Jam and started his own label Def American Records. He would eventually sign Johnny Cash and comedian Andrew Dice Clay. He would also re-master,tweak, re-arrange,re-title and re-release Grip It on Def American in 1990 as The Geto Boys (Assassins from Making Trouble was re worked and added as well). A few things happened between the release of Making Trouble in '88 and Grip It in '89. Prince Johnny C & Juke Box (the Mc's that I mentioned earlier) had been replaced with D.J. Action and Willie D. Bushwick Bill was now an MC in the group and Red was still D.J./producer. I don't remember which song I heard first from Grip It/Geto Boys, but I distinctly remember being at the Tropicana, a Richmond ,VA night club that we affectionately called "The Trop" and hearing a mixture of the drums from Paid In Full (which were actually a sample from Ashley's Roachclip by The Soul Searchers), Blues & Pants by James Brown and Gimme What You Got by Le Pamplemousse. This incredible sound that I heard was D.J. Action on a song called Scarface. This song would become such an anthem that he would drop the name D.J. Action. The song started with the signature "balls & my word" sample that Red had interpolated to perfection just a year or 2 before. This was the production of D.J. Ready Red. It's not just about sampling, but crafting a song. What are you going to scratch on top of the track? Which samples go well with what? I told Red every chance that I got that Grip It/Geto Boys is a lesson on sampling, scratching and programming beats. Red was a master, because he was a good student.

Playing Tricks

Every artist from James Brown and Prince to The Beatles and George Clinton has had to ask their record label that age old question. Where's the money? Im writing and producing these songs that people are buying. Where's my cash? D.J. Ready Red was no exception, and when the answer wasn't to his liking he walked, some time in 1990. Prior to his departure he had found the soundtrack to Tough Guys by Isaac Hayes, and he really liked a song called Hung Up On My Baby. He suggested that the group should sample it at some time in the near future.They did just that, and scored the biggest hit of their career. In fact My Mind's Playing Tricks On Me is the definitive Geto Boys song. The song charted, it was their first and really only song to receive prime time radio airplay, and any list of the 50 or 100 best rap songs is bound to contain it. Red missed it. He literally built the house, but was not able to benefit from the success and/or accolades.

The Foundation

My first time on the internet was in 1995. My best friend had just got accepted to law school
JayQuan & Ready Red 2016
, and we were at the library of the University Of Richmond. The internet was brand new, and there was no Google or You Tube, additonally there was no such thing as social media. I typed the words Hip Hop and rap music into the search engine (possibly Excite at the time) and 2 stories came up. One was about KRS One and one was about Run DMC. I knew on that day that I would learn how to publish web pages, and that I would write and post pictures about the (still) little known history of the genre. By 1998 I had a full website up and running with pictures and biographies, and I was getting contacted by people from around the world about my writings.I received an email from Red. It was definitely an honor to communicate with someone whose work I admired, and I always wondered what happened to him as far as the group. Of course today we are aware of everyone's movements, but this was before the internet and social media. If someone dropped out of sight, they were out of sight and eventually out of mind.

Red thanked me repeatedly for my website, and he explained to me almost every time that we talked, that it helped him to get back on his feet. "Jay I've been through it all. I've suffered with drug addiction and I was homeless". Red told me that he would go to the library in the early days of the internet and read and research on the web. A search of his favorite group Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 brought him to my site, and he says that he would read a little bit everyday. Red began to reveal his story to me. Not that of D.J. Ready Red, but that of Collins Leysath; the Mama's boy who loved Hip Hop and Dj'd at the rollerskating rinks in New Jersey. He told me of his younger days when his parents disliked rap music, but after hearing The Message & You Are by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5; they accepted the music and bought him equipment. We didn't just talk about music, we talked about life, and music was an important part of the fabric and the back drop to both of our lives. I told Red about my early regional successes with rap music and let him hear my music. Red would always address me as a legend, and I always rejected the title and let him know that it was he, not I that deserved legendary status. Time waits for no man and life gets in the way. Red & I planned on making music together, I've interviewed him but we never finished. "Jay I haven't told anyone the whole story yet. Im saving that for you. Your work helped me get back on track, just let me know when you're ready". Shit.....we always think that we have time, but we clearly aren't in control totally. I talked to Red about 2 months ago,he sounded
like he was in good spirits, and we had a good conversation. He had acquired all of his equipment back piece by piece. He was getting a few write ups in magazines,he received endorsements by Stanton (DJ equipment company), was the opening act for legendary funk band Instant Funk. He also opened for DJ Premier and Public Enemy in recent years, as well as appearing on TV One's UnSung. Red survived a really bad automobile accident about a decade ago, that no human being was supposed to walk away from alive. Things were looking up for my brother. This wasn't supposed to happen to a person like Red. He was a deeply spiritual and  religious man, and I can hear him now saying "Jay it's not for us to question the good Lord's timing, he calls us when he sees fit". I know Red, but still.

PS: Red was always apologetic in what he saw as his role in rap music's content going where it did. "Jay, we weren't thugs at all. We all came from good 2 parent households, and we were all good students. We were far from trouble makers, we just needed a way to get into the music industry. Life started to imitate our art, and we had to tote guns to our shows because our music was attracting real criminals and thugs".

Rest In Power D.J. Ready Red

Thursday, July 26, 2018


The sophomore jinx is a popular phrase in the music business. Will the artist in question be able to live up to the greatness of their debut? Was the debut some cosmic fluke where the planets aligned just right for the artist, producer and engineer? No need to ponder such questions when discussing Follow The Leader, the incredible follow up to the genre changing debut Paid In Full by Eric B & Rakim. Everything was a step up on FTL.

For starters most of the songs were new to the ears of the public. One of the glaring weak points of Paid In Full was that Eric B Is President and Check Out My Melody had been released a year before. When you combine that with instrumental fillers like Extended Beat (essentially the instrumental to Move The Crowd), Chinese Arithmetic and Eric B Is On The Cut you really only had 5 new songs of Rakim's superior word play on that release. Dj cut up tracks on lps had been a staple in rap since Jay's Game on Run DMC's debut lp, but fans of Rakim's cadence, sentence structure and unique voice wanted more of the R at the time.

Follow The Leader gave the starving masses what they yearned for. Even though FTL contained filler
instrumentals like Just A Beat and Beats For The Listeners as well as the cut track Eric B.Never Scared, there were many more unheard songs for the listener to enjoy. Combine that fact with an astonishing video for the title song Follow The Leader, and a dope video for Microphone Fiend, and the result was a more than satisfied Eric B & Rakim fan base.

The production was also stepped up on FTL. Where Paid In Full was mostly looped samples,FTL was a combination of loops & live instrumentation courtesy of Rakim's brother Stevie Blass Griffin. Instead of sampling Rock Creek Park for The R, or looping the horns from Mandrill's Fat City Strut for To The Listeners, these pieces were replayed for a more live and musical effect.

If Rakim showed us hints of lyrical genius and superiority on PIF, then he solidified his greatness on FTL. On the lps title track he confidently spits "music mix mellow maintains to make melodies for emcees motivates the breaks - im everlastin' I can go on for days and days with rhyme displays that engrave deep as x rays". Or one of my favorite lines ever - "what can you say as the Earth gets further and further away - planets as small as balls of clay astray into the milky way ,worlds out of site as far as the eye can see not even a satellite". Chunks of Nautilus by Bob James are thrown into the mix to add to the celestial tone that Rakim sets with his wordplay.

The black & white Untouchables themed video for FTL solidified the return of the God Emcee,as did the club themed video for Microphone Fiend. Microphone Fiend was Rakim justifying his title even further with lines like "rhymes over flowin' gradually growin' everything is written in a code so it can coincide - my thoughts the guide - 48 tracks to slide". The greatest example of lyrical greatness on FTL is the chaotic Lyrics of Fury. Over a frantic combination of James Brown's The Funky Drummer and Funkadelic's No Head No Back Stage Pass; Rakim spits "musics a clue when I come you're warned apocalypse now when im done you're gone/there's only one capable breaks the unbreakable melodies unmake able patterns inescapable". Seen by many Eric b & Rakim fans as their best release - FTL still sounds as good in 2018 as it did in 1988. Happy Birthday.....

Saturday, March 31, 2018


By JayQuan 3/31/18

By the end of 1979 there were no less than 20 rap records on the market. Rappers Delight by The Sugar Hill Gang dropped in September of 1979 and is widely credited as being the first ever rap recording (modern rap – not Pig Meat Markham, Cab Calloway & the like). King Tim The 3rd by legendary funk group The Fat Back Band dropped a few weeks earlier than The Sugar Hill Gang on the Polygram/Polydor distributed Spring Records. This is a story of impact. In an effort to discredit the Sugar Hill Gang (whose members Master Gee & Wonder Mike rapped with Phase 2 & Sound On Sound respectively in New Jersey before being discovered and assembled by Sugar Hill Records founder Sylvia Robinson) many early fans of the rap genre will say that the Fat Back Band record was the “real” rap recording between the 2. In all honestly if real is using a beat that was heavily used in actual Hip Hop clubs and parties before rap records,then the Sugar Hill Gang (*with their replaying of Good Times – the undisputed summer anthem of 1979 by Chic) is a contender for the title. King Tim III, based on the mysterious guest Emcee of the same name on the Fat Back recording, contained the popular old school Dj/Rapper cadence of Dj’s like Jocko, Gary Byrd & Hank Span. These were “jive talking” Djs who spoke over records similar to the Jamaican style of “toasting” before rap records. As with many early rap records, borrowed segues like “hot butter on the popcorn”, “the highs in your eyes/the bass in your face/we’re the funk machines that rock the human race” and “slam dunk do the jerk/let me see your body work” were used in this recording.

Mickey & Sylvia
Even though Polydor was a powerful record label that distributed recordings by the likes of Con Funk Shun, James Brown and The Bar Kays at various points; they were not powerful enough to get this new “talking music” on the radio. Sylvia Robinson who was phenomenal as a musician, producer and recording artist on her own – penning the first big hit for Tina Turner, and scoring a gold selling top 20 hit under the name Sylvia Vanderpool with Love Is Strange (alongside her former musical instructor Mickey Baker) had that power and executed it perfectly. Sylvia Robinson began to open her own night clubs, learn the business of music publishing and create her own record labels shortly after the success of Love Is Strange. By the 1970’s Sylvia had established Soul/R&B labels All Platinum, Stang, Turbo and Vibration. These labels boasted the rosters of Sylvia herself, The Rimshots, The Moments (later Ray Goodman & Brown), The Whatnauts, Wood Brass & Steel, Donnie Elbert, George Kerr and the list goes on.

By the end of the 70’s Sylvia was having financial problems with her labels. In fact if you listen to her only recorded rap song It's Good To Be The Queen (an answer to Mel Brooks It's Good To Be The King), she actually gives an autobiographical account of how “it started back in ’79 my whole damn future was on the line”. Fate would solve Sylvia’s financial woes in the form of a birthday party for her niece at the legendary Hip Hop club Harlem World. Simultaneously rapping and Djing that night was the late great Lovebug Starski. This was Sylvia’s first time hearing rap music, and at that moment she knew that this music would restore her music empire, and more importantly keep her financial boat afloat. Starski would eventually be approached, recruited and recorded at 96 West St. in Englewood,New Jersey. As with most people at the time Starski didn’t believe that anyone would want to hear someone talking over someone else’s music, and he felt that he was making enough money Djing at  various New York Hip Hop hot spots, so he turned down the gig. Fate would intervene for Mrs. Robinson again when she walked into Crispy Crusts Pizza in Jersey and heard the late Big Bank Hank rapping along to a tape of a group that he was managing called The Cold Crush Brothers. One thing led to another and Sylvia ended up auditioning Michael Wright and Guy O' Brien and eventually she married the 3 of them, giving the world Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike & Master Gee – The Sugar Hill Gang. Sylvia, a heavy believer in numerology believed that 3 would be the magic number as far as group members, just as it had been for the Moments. The creation of the Sugar Hill Gang, her new label (titled Sugar Hill, after the affluent area of Harlem where she partied) and the Gang's debut single Rappers Delight changed the course of black music, then music in general and eventually popular culture.

Scorpio PKA Mr. Ness of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 told me that people had approached them for years with offers to sign them to recording contracts, but like the previously mentioned Starski, and other groups from the era before rap records, they didn’t think that it would work. One of those approachers was Bobby Robinson of Fire N' Fury and Enjoy! Records. Bobby had previous success with Frankie Lymon, Gladys Knight & The Pips and many other Soul groups. Mr. Robinson (no relation to Sylvia) owned a record store in Harlem and was hearing rap music all around him in the late 70s. His nephew Gabriel rapped, his son rapped and every “OJ” (a car service which was almost like the Uber of that time) that passed by was playing this “talking music”. Just like Sylvia, Bobby wanted to cash in on this new music before it fizzled out. Bobby asked his nephew Gabriel (later self-christened Spoonie G) who the best rappers were. Within a year of Sylvia releasing Rappers Delight and signing the first southern all-female rap group, Columbia South Carolina’s The Sequence; Bobby had signed and recorded The Funky 4 + 1, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5, The Treacherous 3 (of which Kool Moe Dee was a member),Spoonie G and Kool Kyle The Starchild. The distinction between Sylvia’s signings
and those of Bobby Robinson is that the groups that Bobby signed were all from the Bronx (with the exception of Spoonie & The Treacherous 3), and part of the fraternity of artists who had established the genre via the chitlin’ circuit of performance venues such as The T Connection, Harlem World, The Disco Fever, Burger King Disco, The Hoe Avenue Boys Club etc.

Sylvia Robinson wanted it all. By the end of 1980 she had licensed every relevant rap record and released a compilation called The Great Rap Hits. Furthermore by 1982 she had bought the contracts of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5, The Treacherous 3, The Funky 4+1 and Spoonie G from Bobby and signed them to Sugar Hill. What Spring/Polygram (and Bobby Robinson,Paul Winley & Peter Brown) lacked was the relationships with the network of independent distributors and radio people that Sylvia had developed in her Stang/Turbo/All Platinum/Vibration days. Her direct relationships with radio Dj’s like  Philadelphia’s Joe Butterball Tamburro of WDAS would prove invaluable in getting a 15 minute “talking record” (Rappers Delight) played on the airwaves all day every day for months. Where Bobby Robinson's Enjoy! may have been like the grittier Stax compared to Sylvia’s more polished Motown, it was Sylvia’s vision that separated  her from Bobby. Sylvia was the one who enlisted the “King of the Timbales” Tito Puente to play on the Sugar Hill Gangs
second single Sugar Hill Groove (B side to 8th Wonder). It was Mrs. Rob as she was affectionately called, that told Melle Mel of the Furious 5 to “put that child is born verse that you did for Bobby on the end of The Message”. More importantly it was Sylvia who kept pushing Ed Fletcher's AKA Duke Bootee’s (at the time) spoken word idea The Message to her stable of groups who wanted nothing to do with the slow and depressing 7 minute state of Black America in 1982.

There was no template for rap recordings before 1979 and Sugar Hill created the template.
Marketing many singles by an artist as opposed to full albums was an important Sugar Hill technique. Also using the record label logo as the record jacket instead of a picture cover was also a Sugar Hill staple. Rappers Delight contained a long version on one side, and a short version on the flip. 1979’s Funk You Up by The Sequence contained the same template. In all fairness, the template that still exists today of an instrumental flip side for rap singles began on Kurtis Blow’s 1980 single The Breaks on Polygram Mercury and Sylvia started following that template right around that time. Sugar Hill as a label is responsible for many firsts:

·         Rappers Delight – First platinum and later multi platinum rap recording

·         Sugar Hill Gang – First rap full album

·         Sequence – First all-female rap recording

·         Sequence & Sugar Hill Gang – First “posse cut” on Rappers Reprise

·         The Message – First socially conscious rap recording

·         The Message first rap song entered in the library of congress archives

·         Disco Dream by The Mean Machine – first bilingual rap record (released the same year as Spanglish by Terrible 2 on Enjoy Records)

·         Adventures On The Wheels Of Steel - First record with DJ scratching & cutting

·         First “rap revue” with all of the artists on the label touring nationally

There are actually more than that, but those are the most notable and they all impacted the genre and the industry. Mentions are certainly due to Profile records who signed many of the Enjoy! artists that Sylvia didn’t sign like the Masterdon Committee, The Disco 4 (of whom Bobby Robinsons son was a member) and the late great producer and drummer Pumpkin. Of course Profile also signed Run Dmc who changed the game on multiple levels. Def Jam, Tommy Boy, Sugarscoop, West End, Party Time, Jive Zomba, Select, Pop Art, Sunny View, Paul Winley Records,Sound Of New York and many others helped to push rap where it would ultimately go all before 1985. It is fashionable to say today that if XYZ didn’t do it, then someone else would have. But would they? Say what you want about Rappers Delight, but that’s the record. That’s the 15 minute record that you still remember every word of. That’s the record that your parents know. How many people can recite every lyric to King Tim III?

*The bass line to the Rappers Delight track was played by Chip Shearin. No punch ins, samplers or sequencers. He played the bass line for more than 15 minutes flawlessly.