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.
Robinson, 75, had been in a coma at the New Jersey Institute of Neuroscience and died of congestive heart failure, The New York Times reported.
Back in the days when you couldn't find females behind the mixing board, Sylvia was there, said Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop. It was her genius that made Rapper's Delight a hit, said the Times report.
A singer, musician, record producer, and record-label executive, she was born as Sylvia Vanderpool in New York in 1936.
Making Rapper's Delight was surely a brave thing to do. In the late 1970s, 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 Robinson 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.
In a YouTube video, Robinson speaks briefly of the release of the first rap record: I never liked to copy things that are out there. I always like to come up with something new, something different. And I felt it is that way: If I came up with a concept like this, either it was gonna hit, or it's gonna miss. And I really felt strong about it, that it was gonna be a hit.
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 New York.
Called the mother of hip-hop by some, 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.
Watch the video below.