Sylvia Robinson, best known as the mastermind behind the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” the first hip-hop single to become a commercial hit, died Thursday in Edison, N.J. She was 75, according to New York Times.
Robinson, who lived in Englewood, N.J., was in a coma at the New Jersey Institute of Neuroscience and died of congestive heart failure, a family spokeswoman said.
“Back in the days when you couldn’t find females behind the mixing board, Sylvia was there,” said Dan Charnas, the author of “The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop” (2010). It was her genius that made Rapper’s Delight a hit, the Times report said.
A singer, musician, record producer and record label executive, she was born as Sylvia Vanderpool in New York City in 1936.
Making Rapper’s Delight was surely a brave thing to do. At that time, there was no way to even know if the audience that attended hip-hop parties would be interested in buying a single. But a trip to the New York disco Harlem World gave her a glimpse of the future — and convinced her to put her money and muscle behind the new form, reports nj.com.
As I was sitting there, the deejay was playing music and talking over the music, and the kids were going crazy, Robinson told The Star-Ledger of Newark in 1997. All of a sudden, something said to me, ‘Put something like that on a record, and it will be the biggest thing.’ I didn’t even know you called it rap, the report said.
Robinson made her recording debut at the age of 14 singing blues with the trumpet player, Hot Lips Page, on Columbia Records while she was studying at Washington Irving High School in Manhattan.
Called by some “the mother of hip-hop,” she achieved her biggest success in 1979 with the decision to record the budding art form known as rapping, which had developed at clubs and dance parties in New York City in the 1970s.
Robinson has three sons Joey, Leland and Rhondo, and 10 grandchildren. Her husband died of cancer in 2000.