Sylvia Robinson is a name perhaps often forgotten to a lot of hip hop heads today, but that doesn’t mean her impact on our beloved culture hasn’t been absolutely massive. Even before the invention of Hip Hop and rap music, Sylvias music cv was fairly jam packed, releasing several hits in her teens under the name Little Sylvia and then going on to score a massive hit with Love is Strange alongside guitar teacher McHouston “Mickey” Baker in 1957, known to millions after it’s use in Dirty Dancing.
However, it was attending a party in an up market club in late June, 1979, near her home in New Jersey, that she really began to write history. The then 43 year old Sylvia head a DJ called Lovebug Starski, who was hyping the crowd by throwing his own rhymes and catchphrases over the top of r&b records. People were calling it ‘Rapping’, and it inspired a brainwave within Sylvia. Her group of record labels All Platinum was in decline and her music career coming to an end, but she realised that something like the vocal ingenuity of Lovebug on a record would be the biggest record of her life. She set up Sugar Hill Records, alongside husband Joe Robinson, and went on to produce Hip Hop’s first commercially successful single, Rappers Delight, as well as writing Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s anti drugs anthem White Lines (Don’t Do It).
Speaking to Vanity Fair, she said this on the matter:
“”I saw him talking to the kids and saw how they’d answer back, he would say something every now and then, like ‘Throw your hands in the air,’ and they’d do it. If he’d said, ‘Jump in the river,’ they’d have done it. A spirit said to me, ‘Put a concept like that on a record and it will be the biggest thing you ever had.'”
In a New Jersey hospital on 29th September, she sadly passed away after congestive heart failure, according to her publicist Greg Walker. Rest in peace for a true legend, both as a trend maker, an business woman, a musician and a music lover.
Check out more information and the full story behind Sugar Hill Records, check out a really good, in depth article over at Vanity Fair.