when hip hop arrived
October 14, 2009 12:31 AM   Subscribe

It was 30 years ago today... October, 1979: Rapper's Delight by the Sugarhill Gang was released. A few days later, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five gave us the tighter and catchier (IMHO) Superrappin'. Hip Hop had arrived. Here's a charming interview with a New York City paramedic who, as a very young photographer on the South Bronx scene back in the day, was the unofficial photo-documentarian of the birth of hip hop.
posted by flapjax at midnite (32 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
"Funky Four Plus One" was the first Hip-Hop/Rap group from The Bronx, New York, United States to receive a recording deal. They were notable for having a female MC, and were the first rap group to perform live on a national television broadcast.

Sorry, but I get a chuckle out of the fact that there's, like, a girl in the group and it's sooo unusual they have to draw such attention to it.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:49 AM on October 14, 2009

And then there's the death of hip hop.
posted by bwg at 12:50 AM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

The original members were The Voice of K.K. aka K.K. Rockwell (Kevin Smith), Keith Keith (Keith Caesar), Sha Rock (Sharon Green), Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams). Rahiem later left the group to join Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. Sha Rock temporarily left as well, and they were replaced by Lil' Rodney C! and Jazzy Jeff, who became the 'New' Funky Four and with the return of Sha Rock who became the Plus One More.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:51 AM on October 14, 2009

posted by Addiction at 12:54 AM on October 14, 2009

Nah, I think this guy was the death of hip hop.
posted by ofthestrait at 1:03 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

What's an "oj"? Anyone know?
posted by creasy boy at 1:12 AM on October 14, 2009

New York, New York big city dreams. It's like a jungle
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:41 AM on October 14, 2009

Joe Conzo:
"The Sugarhill Gang had no respect in the streets because they were a nobody group put together by Sugarhill Records," Mr Conzo says, adding that people were, however, surprised that money could be made from their party music.
It is interesting that Sugar Hill managed to cash in on the demand for hip-hop worldwide, which they did not create. There were other people trying to break open the market at the time, who are not now as well known (using the same breaks as Sugarhill, even). Most of the originators are not financially well off and living in the neighborhoods which they grew up in. Reminds me of the business man James Brown and his erstwhile band members, without whom he would have just been another try-hard fame seeker.

I have heard a collection of 70s hip-hop which predates anything I had previously been aware of, however I think it was not an *official* collection and can't find a link.
posted by asok at 3:15 AM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

30 years. Dios mio!
posted by cavalier at 3:50 AM on October 14, 2009

Yeah ok, so "Rapper's Delight" was probably the first hip-hop I ever heard, but it still really grates to hear mainstream news folks equating Grandmaster Flash and the Sugarhill Gang with the birth of hip-hop. From asok's Kool Herc link:

A young Grandmaster Flash, to whom Kool Herc was, in his words, "a hero", began DJing in Herc's style in 1975. By 1976, it was possible for Flash, and his MCs The Furious Five, to play to a packed Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. Venue owners were often nervous of unruly young crowds, however, and soon sent hip hop back to the clubs, community centers and high school gymnasiums of the Bronx.[26] Afrika Bambaataa first heard Kool Herc in 1973. Bambaataa, at that time a general in the notorious Black Spades gang of the Bronx, obtained his own soundsystem in 1975 and began to DJ in Herc's style, converting his followers to the non-violent Zulu Nation in the process. Kool Herc began using The Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache" as a break in 1975. It became a firm b-boy favorite—"the Bronx national anthem"[12]—and is still in use in hip hop today

1979 as the birth of hip-hop? Give me a funky break.
posted by mediareport at 5:00 AM on October 14, 2009

The birth of rap was a progression from smooth talking over disco and MCs boasting of their skills, and DJs spinning the breaks back-to-back. The dates they sling about are 1976 and 1977, and it sounds like they're describing the elements of hip-hop (the D.J. and the M.C.) that had not yet merged with the breakbeat patterns of hip-hop.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:06 AM on October 14, 2009

Hip Hop had arrived.

Any guesses as to when it will be leaving? I want my couch back.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:57 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

What asok/mediareport/filthy light thief said, except with some additional rambling about Jamaican dancehalls, and Kool Herc as the link between sound systems and house parties/park jams.

I love hip-hop, and I'll even give them some credit as popularizers, but fuck the Sugar Hill Gang. Big Bank Hank biting Grandmaster Caz and then trying to deny it for twenty years when he spells Caz' name in the song, fake battle records with the Furious Five, hiring Doug Wimbush to play the 'Good Times' riff instead of sampling it, verses about how the chicken wasn't any good... they were greedy opportunistic followers and their rhymes are garbage. No disrespect to Sylvia Robinson, though--what an entrepreneur.
posted by box at 6:22 AM on October 14, 2009

The birth of rap was a progression from smooth talking over disco and MCs boasting of their skills, posted by filthy light thief at 5:06 AM on October 14 [+] [!]

I had heard a radio program on NPR a couple of years ago that put the birth of hip hop not at disco, but at dub in Jamaica, or at least dub laid the foundation for what would become hip hop. It's the same thing: poor kids, or MCs beholden to Jamaica's heavy import tariffs, riffing over records of popular music.

It was actually a pretty amazing show. If anyone knows where I can hear it again, I would be grateful at the very least. I may also throw in a hug.
posted by gc at 6:47 AM on October 14, 2009

Well, balls. On preview, what box rambled.
posted by gc at 6:48 AM on October 14, 2009

Neon King Kong standin on my back
Can't stop to turn around
Broke my sacrophiliac
Mid range migraine
cancered membrane
sometimes I think I'm goin insane
think I might hijack a train
cause I'm close to the
posted by HyperBlue at 6:55 AM on October 14, 2009

Joe Bataan's "Rap-O Clap-O" was also released that Fall of 1979, but was beat by a couple weeks by Sugarhill Gang.
posted by applemeat at 6:56 AM on October 14, 2009

hm. i always thought that these guys were the precursors to rap.
posted by lester at 7:12 AM on October 14, 2009

The Last Poets (and Jalal Nuriddin's album as Lightnin' Rod) and the Watts Prophets both made proto-rap stuff years before. Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes, among others, recorded spoken tracks on their albums (they both called them 'raps,' too). There's also Pigmeat Markham, the Fatback Band's 'King Tim III,' Muhammad Ali's album, some jazz projects and, as noted, a bunch of Jamaicans. And if you want to talk about Cab Calloway and Harry the Hipster, or talking blues, or preacherly cadences, well, I'm listening.

It's a chicken-and-egg thing. The challenge isn't finding the first rap record, it's deciding how broad a definition of 'rap' you want to use.
posted by box at 7:17 AM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anyone who is interested in the history (and pre-history) of hip-hop should definitely check out Can't Stop Won't Stop. Sugarhill may have had the first modicum of "success", but there's a lot to the story before them.
posted by togdon at 7:17 AM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

uncanny hedgeman, sadly, it's fairly unusual once again.
posted by ignignokt at 7:23 AM on October 14, 2009

I had heard a radio program on NPR a couple of years ago that put the birth of hip hop not at disco, but at dub in Jamaica

Wouldn't surprise me that dub played a role in the development of hip hop, though I hear a lot of funk in the early hip hop tracks, too. George Clinton and Parliament (and its various combinations through the 1970s) did a lot of talking over beats.
posted by rtha at 7:49 AM on October 14, 2009

Great comments, folks. I knew this thread would become a linkfest, and it's still the early morning in US! I look forward to many more!

Hip hop in particular is a musical form that tends to be pretty authority-intensive (as in, "I'm an authority") and it was clear that a lot of the comments we'd have here would be of the 'no, this came first' - 'no, this was better' - 'no, this was more important' variety. Which makes for a lively and interesting thread. I couldn't resist getting in my own little editorial in the FPP itself, cause Superrappin' so deeply kicks Rapper's Delight's ass it ain't even funny. Of course, it was Rapper's Delight that won the first Big Prize (notoriety/breakthrough success) and in that sense it's historically important, if not especially artistically successful. But hey, nothing particularly unusual about that in the music biz, right?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:18 AM on October 14, 2009

I don't think it's that unfair to credit Flash in particular - while Herc and others were around before, Flash pretty much invented "turntablism" as we currently understand it. (Wiki.)

Also, if it weren't for Sugarhill Records and their need to assemble a rhythm section to make those early hits, we'd never have had Tackhead.
posted by pascal at 8:39 AM on October 14, 2009

Awesome post. Thank you.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:17 AM on October 14, 2009

I heard GM and the Furious Five in concert doing The Message and a few less-well-choreographed numbers. This was in Denver in 1982, and the interesting thing was the crowd: a third white, a third black, a third Hispanic...and all ages.

My thought was "Cool." and "This fad ain't gonna last." Boy, was I wrong.

Although I did invent "cowpunk" in the late 70's as the musical director of Denver's first improv comedy group, years before country and punk actually merged into that particular subgenre...
posted by kozad at 9:23 AM on October 14, 2009

Just to keep the authoritative comments going, I think that dudes like Grand Wizard Theodore and DXT (and Cash Money and Jazzy Jeff, and the ISP/Beat Junkies/X-Men dudes) deserve more credit for turntablism. Flash, as he readily admits himself, is more of a party-rocking DJ.
posted by box at 10:05 AM on October 14, 2009

everyone knows the who somehow invented hip-hop.They invented everything.
posted by djduckie at 5:30 PM on October 14, 2009

Just saw this clip thanks to Mefi's own Karlos the Jackal's facebook post. These guys are my new fave hip hop crew, and they open with, what else? Rapper's Delight. A must hear.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:51 PM on October 14, 2009

Nobody's mentioned Gil Scott-Heron?
posted by blucevalo at 8:19 AM on October 15, 2009

Nobody's mentioned Gil Scott-Heron?

Interesting, bluevalo. I'd hadn't considered Gil Scott-Heron's spoken word style to be ...percussive... enough (for lack of a better description) to constitute what, to me, makes rap rap. But if GSH should be considered part of hip hop’s origin, then I'd also suggest Zappa and The Mothers of Invention's 1966 (!) "Help, I'm A Rock" from the "Freak Out" album.[studio outtake version--could not find the original song on youtube.]
posted by applemeat at 11:04 AM on October 15, 2009

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