Are you ready for some hip hop!
Bravo has a new show premiering tonight (Sunday, Jan 15) called First Family of Hip Hop. It’s story the story of the late Sylvia Robinson’s family and their struggle to move the record label she created, Sugarhill Records, into the future. Sugarhill churned out hits like “Rapper’s Delight” and “White Lines.” From the clip you can see that family members don’t always agree on how to run the family business.
So who was Sylvia Robinson? She “was an artist and a mogul who officially entered the music business at the tender age of 14, when she scored a recording contract as Little Sylvia with Columbia Records in 1950.”
After learning how to play the guitar Mickey Baker, the two recorded “Love is Strange” which is best remembered as the one of the key songs in the movie Dirty Dancing. Her son, Leland Robinson Sr. remembers his mother as a “dynamic woman who knew how to create a hit, and how to pick out a hit artist.”
“She was a great A&R, she was a great producer, she was a great engineer, she was a great guitar player, musician, she was a great singer — she was just great all around the board,” Leland said in awe. “She was a hands-on person. She worked in the studio with the artists, she mixed the records with the artists, and she did whatever she believed in. If she didn’t believe in it, she wouldn’t have done it.”
In 1979, Sugarhill Records opened their doors with the single “Rapper’s Delight” that eventually became an international hit, launching rap music. But Leland says his mother “never got the recognition” she deserved.
“She was a woman that never got the recognition that she really should have gotten, and I think it’s because she is a woman,” said Leland. “I think that if it was a man in her position that started rap music then he would have been glory to God, but being that it was a woman, I just think that they don’t recognize it as being the person that started a legacy.”
Get this, at first radio stations wouldn’t even play “Rapper’s Delight” and told her the new sound was a phase. Of course, people said television was a phase and look where we are today.
“What she did as a woman was she started a multibillion dollar business for everybody,” Leland explained. “She’s helped out people that were in the ghettos, people who never had anything. They should be thankful for what she created. And she had a hard time creating it! [Radio stations] wouldn’t even play the record at first. They told her that ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was a phase, that it wasn’t going anywhere. The exact words were, ‘Sylvia, you don’t have to stoop this low.’ But by her taking the time to stoop this low, that’s what she got out of it, the biggest rap record of all time.”
First Family of Hip Hop premieres Sunday, January 15 at 9/8c.