Sylvia Robinson, the singer and producer who founded the Sugar Hill Gang and was known as “the mother of hip-hop,” died earlier this morning at a hospital in New Jersey, according to the New York Times. She was 75.
After a long career as an R&B singer, Robinson and her husband, Joe Robinson, founded Sugar Hill Records in 1979.
It was Sylvia Robinson, who (with the help of her nephew) then discovered and found three rappers from the New York City area and had them rap as the Sugar Hill Gang, most notably on “Rapper’s Delight.” She later signed the legendary Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, who recorded their smash, “The Message” in 1982.
Her production on The Moments 1970 single, “Love On a Two Way Street” would later be sampled on Jay-Z featuring Alicia Key’s “Empire State of Mind.”
Robinson, a pioneering female producer, wasn’t without her faults, however, when contributing to hip-hop. “Rapper’s Delight” included rhymes originally penned by the Cold Crush Brothers, particularly from Grandmaster Caz’s notebook. The song’s release went onto to become a milestone moment in hip-hop history, launching the culture out of Bronx clubs and into public consciousness. Caz, though, was never properly compensated and became a symbol of industry greed. Jay-Z shouted out Caz and company on “Izzo (H.O.V.A.): “Industry shady; it need to be taken over/ Label owners hate me; I’m raising the status quo up/ I’m overchargin’ niggas for what they did to the Cold Crush/ Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you hoe’d us.”
Still, without Robison, who operated her label as an independent, it’s unlikely the hip-hop would have had the global impact it later achieved.
Stay tuned to <i>XXLMag.com</i> for more on Robinson’s passing. —Mark Lelinwalla and Jayson Rodriguez