It's hard to believe that 37 years ago, a couple of kids changed hip-hop culture forever - but perhaps it wasn't received by everyone at the time of its release. Digging through the Hip-Hop Evolution transcripts, we put together a few responses to the Sugarhill Records classic - both loved, and hated.
DJ Premier: "For one, "Good Times" was already a huge record, in our house. Huge, you know, so, you know, Chic was a huge group in my era of growing up. From I Want Your Love, to Chic Cheer, that whole album, but you know, when "Good Times" came out, man, it was just some other shit. And then for Rapper’s Delight to use the same melody, and just do it in a different type of a fashion, and then you’re hearing the hip, the hop, the hibbity, the hibbity, hip-hop, you know, like, it was just, there was no way you could not feel like you were attached to that, for what it, you know, what type of energy it gave off to you the first time it hit your ears."
Grandmaster Caz: "The ironic thing about it is, the last rhyme was like, ‘Never let an MC steal your rhymes’ (laughs). But, I mean, at the end of the day, man, it is what it is, you know what I’m saying? It didn’t stop me. You know what I mean? I don’t know where I would’ve been if things had have been different. If you think about it, it’s like all right, let’s say he would have did what he was supposed to do, and told Sylvia, listen, our record, but I manage Grandmaster Caz, you know what I mean, in the Bronx. I can bring him out here, whatever--he never said that. He just got in the car and was like, ‘Yeah, I’m the CASANOVA;’ It was like, yeah, that shit is fly. Bet, you down."
Afrika Bambaataa: "Well we was buggin’ at first, ‘like who this group that’s putting our sound on vinyl that we didn’t trust, what was happening with some of these companies, a lot of negative that was happening with many of them, the groups that were starting to be on these labels. So I took a little while before I decided that I was going to go ahead and get on the labels like some of these groups. Because I was hearing from the other groups, yeah, they wasn’t getting paid, or they fightin’ the company and all that type of thing. So yeah, Sugarhill Gang, was a new steppings tone of putting lyrics on vinyl. Everybody thought it was gonna start messing up the parties and everything. But it added onto the hip-hop culture. And then Kurtis Blow and everybody started doing it after that."
Russell Simmons: "Oh, I was a little bit short-sighted when I first heard it, because I thought of "Rapper’s Delight" as, as a rip-off. It was stupid, but we thought we had our own little tight-knit community, here’s the hip-hop dudes, here’s some other guys, that were inspired by us, and they were not performing artists. They were just recording artists, and they recorded the rhymes that were Cold Crush, that were hip Hollywood, that were Starski, that were all of the rhymes that all these people had borrowed and took a lot up, and just made it into a record. Like, oh shit, they just stole our shit. And I didn’t realize that was a door-opener. My record was on the shelf, what the fuck? You know what I mean? I’ve got a record on the shelf. And in many ways, their record was more legitimate than ours, because they using more rhymes. We had to wait to the second half of "Christmas Rappin’" to get to the point where we was rapping. You know, this shit was, a story about fucking Christmas. And I’m like, what the fuck? So, instead of seeing them as a door-opener, an eye-opener, an opportunity-builder, I saw them as people who had stolen our idea. But, you know, they were the great pioneers, when I look back, in opening the door, that was Sylvia Robinson. So our first reaction was wrong. I think that was not only mine. I think I was at the armoury when I first heard it, and all the rappers in the room, they’re playing it, like what the fuck? A little bit, I think a lot of people felt that way."
Big Daddy Kane: "The first time I heard "Rapper’s Delight," I mean, I was like really… I really felt like oh yeah, it’s on now. It’s on. Because, you know, I remember when I heard King Tim III, and I was like, you know, wow, it’s a rap song. But I found out it was the Fatback Band and I bought it. Then when I heard Rapper’s Delight, it was like, they were passing the mic, like a park jam or a house party type of joint. It was like that real MC vibe. And I’m listening talking about, no, no, no, this was no tape. Nobody playing no tape on the radio. This is a song, I’m telling you, it’s a real song out there. Yeah, I was bugging’."
Kool Herc: "The first time I heard it, I loved it, and the volcano went boom! We’re here. We done broke the ground from under the sea, remember? The island, and now it exploded in ‘79."
Grand Mixer DXT: "In all honesty and respect to The Sugarhill Gang; no disrespect to them at all. But coming up from the Bronx, we thought they were wack. And we felt that they were wack because they was rhyming in a style that already had came and gone in the Bronx. And so we didn’t respect it. Also, Hank was saying a rhyme that we was hearing at the parties already, and he’s saying somebody else’s rhyme. And so for us, that’s catastrophic, a no-no, on a catastrophic level. There are people who would get beat up for saying somebody’s rhyme. So here’s a record where this guy bites and actually records it. Like that was just the worst thing ever. You know, that was worse than making breakbeat records. To hear Caz’s rhyme, and someone else is saying it on a record, and actually saying Caz’s name and everything in the rhyme, we were dumbfounded."
Too $hort: "The first time I ever heard rap, that was to become hip-hop, was Rapper’s Delight. There was some other stuff that came out that had like a sing-song kind of rhythm chant kind of thing, but it wasn’t Rapper’s Delight. So "Rapper’s Delight" came, and shortly after followed Kurtis Blow records, you know, the Furious Five, Grandmaster Flash. Sugar Hill Records was putting out a lot of stuff, the early stuff. 1980, ‘81, was when we really got a lot of hip-hop records to come through Oakland. And prior to that, I was always in the band. I was always a drummer in a band. I tinkered around with pianos, guitars. Anything that would make music, I’d grab it, you know, trumpet. Somebody teach me how to blow it and I started hitting, I just hear notes. I had that thing where I could make music. And I was just thinking to myself one day, probably like 1980, I was just like, I could do that."
Kuris Blow: "'Rapper's Delight' was everything. A lot of people from the Bronx, they did not like that song, and they were really frustrated and angry, because they didn’t get the opportunity to do that. And here comes this group, not from the Bronx, and they made it, they were successful. But the song was on every radio station, every car, every cab, every boombox, every radio on somebody’s house was playing that song 24 hours a day. I mean, it was so hot, I don’t remember a song being as hot as that. Maybe 'Trans Europe Express,' when that was up in Harlem, or, oh my gosh, but what a hot, hot, hot song. It just started hip-hop off with a big bang. You know they’re saying that this record sold 17 million copies? It’s the biggest 12 inch ever. Ever. In the history of music. What a song. And it definitely gave me the opportunity to have a career."
Kool Moe Dee: "When I first heard "Rapper’s Delight," contrary to most people, I didn’t dislike it like everybody disliked it. I understood that we were in a different space. We had moved into more of the B-boy space in terms of what the core of hip-hop was, was being felt, so to speak. But that’s also an age group thing. And the one thing, and I put this on New York, not to say any other place doesn’t do it, and New York and then New York/the Bronx, as a subculture, as a subset to that. We really, really think that our opinion is the opinion. And our time is the time. And every generation does that, I know that, but there’s a whole world outside of what we do and what we think. And things again are happening simultaneously. So when "Rapper’s Delight" comes out, most of us are looking at—and I was—like a one-off. I didn’t see an industry being born. I thought it was like, oh, they’re doing what we’re doing, and they’re doing a Pollyanna version of it, is what I thought. On the other hand, I knew every single word of that record, which is the hypocrisy of most hip-hop people. It’s like, oh, that record was whack, it was corny, it was this. ‘I said a hip, hop, hip...’ You can go from beginning to end, ‘The Master G,’ you know every word; it’s probably the only rap record in the history that everybody knows every word."