Savvy industry businesswoman and Rap pioneer Sylvia Robinson, who saw a huge genre of music about to develop and explode WAY in advance (hip hop) released the first national recording by the Sugarhill Gang “Rapper’s Delight” in the late 70s. Robinson was originally a singer who recording smash hits like “Pillow Talk” and “Sweet Stuff” in the early 70s and her first smash “Love is Strange” in 1957. These were the days when they did not put black people on album covers (what a wonderful history we have in the states). You can see how she was made to look white on the cover from the video. She has passed away at the age of 75 from heart failure.
Robinson was quite the savvy businesswoman, she released “Pillow Talk” and “Sweet Stuff” on her own label in the early 70s and both were hits.
In the 1970s the Robinsons with Milton Malden founded Sugar Hill Records. The company was named after the culturally rich Sugar Hill area of Harlem, an affluent African American neighborhood in Manhattan New York City, known as a hub for artists and performers in the early and mid 1900s.
Arguably, Robinson’s most significant contribution to music was masterminding the formation of The Sugarhill Gang and the release of their hit, “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979, which became the first commercially successful rap single. The group was discovered in Englewood, New Jersey, where Sugar Hill Records was based.
She also was the visionary and guiding force behind Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s most successful single, “The Message”, which is credited as the rap song that brought socially conscious lyrics into hip hop. She persuaded the group to record the song while it was still an estranged demo recording, surprisingly created by a studio percussionist for the Sugar Hill Gang.
By commercializing the market for rap records, Robinson is credited as the mother of modern hip-hop. The song “Rapper’s Delight” brought rap into the public music arena, and revolutionized the music industry as it introduced the idea of re-using existing compositions, a practice that later became known as “sampling”. Another contributing factor to this musical revolution was the introduction of drum machines and sequencers, which were also frequently used on early-1980 Sugarhill recordings.
In 1986, the Robinsons sold the Chess Records catalog, that they had acquired from GRT back in the 1970s, to MCA Records (who was their distributor since 1984). Their son, Joey Robinson, was a member of another rap act, West Street Mob.
Robinson has been a resident of Englewood, New Jersey.
Her grandson Darnell Robinson’s $297,750 fifteenth birthday party was featured on an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen.