Sugar Hill Records has had a storied history in the history of Hip-Hop.
The iconic rap label is known for releasing “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979 as well as a string of music that established Hip-Hop as a commercially viable art form. It is also known for unscrupulous business practices with artists.
Some of the past wrongs in publishing have have been righted Friday, according to Rahiem of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and MC Sha Rock.
Sha Rock, who is regarded as Hip-Hop’s first female emcee, posted the following on his Facebook page, outlining her and her cohorts’ plight:
We’ve finally won against Sugar Hill Records. Let me give you the back story
Back in the early 90’s after returning to the United States from Germany. I worked effortlessly
on finding an attorney to take on Sugar Hill Records. No one wanted to take my case. I
eventually came across a woman who put me in touch with Artist Rights Enforcement in New
York City, who fights for artist rights. I became their first hip hop client. I brought in the Funky
4+1 and then went to Rahiem to bring in the furious 5. I also tried to include the Sequence… to
file a class action lawsuit, but they didn’t want any part of the law suit.
1979…. I recorded my first rap record under Enjoy Records. June 1980 the Funky 4 signed to
Sugar Hill Records.
We’ve been back in forth to court since the 1990’s. We’ve won all of our cases. 42 years later I
as well as the Funky 4+1 More, The Furious 5 and Reggie Payne Reggie Reg Crash Crew from
the Crash Crew have been vindicated. We won our final judgement. People use to think I was
tripping, simply because I’ve always spoken on the lawsuit and was determined to see this
through. Some said let it go. I can’t discuss the amount; but it’s finally over. Or we’re be back
in court if my money is short.
Rahiem, who rapped on “The Message,” offered a shorter, but telling comment.
I’m very happy to announce that after almost 40 years of litigation against Sugarhill records, we
settled out of court after an independent arbitrator determined the amount owed and we were
awarded back royalties and moving forward all of our writers & publishing will come directly to
uS! Victory as of TODAY!!!!!
Sugar Hill Records was founded by Sylvia and Joe Robinson in the 1970s. Sylvia, the main force behind the brand, propelled songs like “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang and “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five into America’s national consciousness. Sylvia Robinson died in 2022 of congestive heart failure, but her family continued to managed the business affairs of Sugar Hill.
Big Bank Hank, a founding member of the Sugar Hill Gang, died in 2014 from cancer. Hank is notable for another reason: he stole his lyrics from “Rapper’s Delight” from Grandmaster Caz of The Cold Crush Brothers. Caz was never compensated or given just credit for the record. Whether or not he will be is unknown.
“Rapper’s Delight” sold a reported 5 million copies and was a top 40 hit. Currently, the original video has 15 million views on YouTube.