Our top 10 The Sugarhill Gang songs list presents the music of a rap trio that catapulted the hip-hop genre to mainstream success with its hit “Rapper’s Delight.” The trio was put together by producer Sylvia Robinson, the co-founder of Sugar Hill Records. Initially, The Sugarhill Gang was formed in an attempt to capitalize on the hip-hop novelty, evidenced by the enormously growing hip-hop culture in block parties around New York.
Master Gee, Big Bank Hank, and Wonder Mike were the three local rappers that Sylvia gathered up for The Sugarhill Gang. In 1979, The Sugarhill Gang released its first commercial hip-hop record “Rapper’s Delight,” and changed the trajectory of rap music forever. The song rose to the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, propelling hip-hop/rap into a full-fledged genre. The Sugarhill Gang went on to release several studio albums before disbanding in 1985. However, the trio reunited for a new release in the late ‘90s but failed to rekindle its once glowing impact in the hip-hop scene.
The Sugarhill Gang’s Album Releases over the Years
Motivated by the success of its debut rap single, The Sugarhill Gang issued an eponymous full-length studio album in 1980. Sugarhill Gang achieved mild success, peaking at number thirty-two on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. The album also charted on the Australian and Dutch Albums Charts. “Rapper’s Delight,” “Rapper’s Reprise (Jam Jam),” “Sugarhill Groove,” and “Passion Play” are the most popular songs by The Sugarhill Gang from the album.
The Sugarhill Gang returned in 1981 with its sophomore release, 8th Wonder. 8th Wonder is the trio’s most successful album on the charts, rising to the fifteenth spot on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. The album also peaked at number fifty on the Billboard 200.
8th Wonder saw The Sugarhill Gang feature Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five on the hit “Showdown.” Other notable songs by The Sugarhill Gang from the album include “Apache,” “Funk Box,” and “8th Wonder.” 8th Wonder performed better than Kurtis Blow’s sophomore studio album, Deuce, which peaked at number one hundred and thirty-seven on the Billboard 200.
Rappin’ Down Town, issued in 1983, marked the trio’s third studio album. The album failed to make it to the charts like its predecessors. However, it managed to feature several notable hits by The Sugarhill Gang including “The Lover in You,” “The Word is Out,” and “Kick It Live from 9 to 5.” 1983 was not only a tough year for The Sugarhill Gang but for the hip-hop genre at large, with only a few songs breaking into the mainstream. Whodini’s eponymous studio album and Kurtis Blow’s extended play Party Time? were the only major releases in that year.
In 1984, The Sugarhill Gang released its fourth studio album, Livin’ in the Fast Lane. Livin’ in the Fast Lane failed to bring the trio to commercial success. However, the album managed to feature some of the best songs by The Sugarhill Gang including “Livin’ in the Fast Lane,” “Troy,” and “Girls.” Livin’ in the Fast Lane also failed to match up with the impact of Escape by Whodini, which went on to become hip-hop’s first Platinum-certified album.
Other notable albums issued in 1984 include Ego Trip by Kurtis Blow, Fat Boys by the Fat Boys (Gold-certified), and Run-D.M.C. by Run-D.M.C. (Gold-certified). Unfortunately, The Sugarhill Gang disbanded in 1985, with Sugar Hill Records going defunct the following year. Rhino Records would later purchase all released and unreleased materials previously owned by Sugar Hill Records in 1995.
The move saw The Sugarhill Gang rekindle its musical pursuits soon after releasing a new album, Jump on It! in 1999. Jump on It! was issued through Kid Rhino, a division of the Rhino Records label. The album was a hip-hop children’s record, with notable hits like “ABC’s” and “Jump On It.”
The Sugarhill Gang’s Legacy
The Sugarhill Gang was the first rap group to reach mainstream success after its hit “Rapper’s Delight” rose to the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. While the trio might not have gotten the best of the commercial gains out of its rap scene, The Sugarhill Gang opened hip-hop/rap to mainstream and commercial success. Through the mainstream success of its debut hit “Rapper’s Delight” major record labels appreciate the rap genre, with Kurtis Blow being the first rap artist to be signed to Mercury Records.
Other notable rap artists who achieved a breakthrough in the ‘80s include Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., The Fat Boys, Whodini, LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys. By the time The Sugarhill Gang was reuniting, the rap genre had undergone a revolution with the golden era introducing the world to rap artists including The Notorious B.I.G., Boogie Down Productions, Nas, Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest, Tupac Shakur, Public Enemy, and MC Hammer. Here we present the ten best songs from the mainstream rap pioneering trio The Sugarhill Gang.
# 10 – Passion Play
Opening our top 10 The Sugarhill Gang songs list is the wonderful hit “Passion Play.” The song is featured on the trio’s debut studio album, Sugarhill Gang. “Passion Play” features background vocals of funk/soul band Positive Force. Unlike some of the best songs by The Sugarhill Gang, “Passion Play” failed to make it to the charts.
However, its impact on the music scene is immense seeing multiple artists sample it, especially the bass. Some of the songs that have sampled “Passion Play” include “Devil’s Shoestring” by Metal Fingers, “We Can” by Kerri Chandler, “Lower the Boom” by The Treacherous Three, “We’re Ready” by Dominant Force, “Havin’ Fun” by Large Professor, and “No/Yes” by Queen Latifah.
# 9 – The Word Is Out
“The Word is Out” is one of the best songs by The Sugarhill Gang from the trio’s third studio album, Rappin’ Down Town. While the album was not a mainstream/commercial success, “The Word is Out” managed to cut its way through to success in the rap scene. The song managed to enter the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart, peaking at number seventy-one.
The trio attack the groovy beat of the song with their magical rap delivery. Big Bank Hank’s vocals stand out in this hit, owing to its commanding and deep nature. His energy on this song is intense and reminiscent of The Sugarhill Gang’s first commercial rap record, “Rapper’s Delight.”
# 8 – Funk Box
Coming in at number eight on our top 10 songs by The Sugarhill Gang is the rip-roaring hit “Funk Box.” The song is among the biggest hits by The Sugarhill Gang from the trio’s sophomore studio album, 8th Wonder. “Funk Box,” is defined by a killer guitar riff and a slamming hot bass rhythm. It stands as one of the most popular tracks in the band’s catalog due to its sizzling groove that will turn your world upside down. The song’s outro gets even funkier, thanks to the uplifting instrumentation. “Funk Box” contains samples of the 1977 hit “Strawberry Letter 23” by The Brothers Johnson.
# 7 – Rapper’s Reprise (Jam Jam) ft. The Sequence
“Rapper’s Reprise (Jam Jam)” is yet another incredible hit from The Sugarhill Gang’s debut studio album. The song was a minor hit in 1980, featuring The Sequence, an American female hip-hop trio. Led by rapper and singer Angie B, The Sequence is best remembered for its signature 1979 hit “Funk You Up.”
“Funk You Up” was also Sugar Hill Records’ second single and the first rap record by a female rap group. “Rapper’s Reprise (Jam Jam)” might not have made it to the charts but remains one of the trio’s biggest hits of 1980. All the six members of the two trios have a verse each, with Angie B taking on two verses (verse two and verse eight). “Rapper’s Reprise (Jam Jam)” was sampled in the 1989 hit “Pump Up the Jam – Rap” by M.C. Sar & the Real McCoy.
# 6 – Kick It Live From 9 to 5
Rappin’ Down Town is home to the fifth pick of our top 10 songs by The Sugarhill Gang, “Kick It Live from 9 to 5.” The song would later appear on the trio’s fourth studio album, Livin’ in the Fast Lane. “Kick It Live from 9 to 5” achieved moderate success, peaking at number fifty on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart. The song sampled the 1977 hit “Joyous” by Jealous and the 1979 hit “Good Times” by Chic.
# 5 – Showdown ft. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Number five on our top 10 songs by The Sugarhill Gang is the collaborative hit “Showdown.” The song finds The Sugarhill Gang collaborating with the then-fellow labelmates, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. “Showdown” was among the musical gems featured on the trio’s second studio album, 8th Wonder.
The song is credited as “The Furious Five Meets The Sugarhill Gang.” This massive collaboration came almost a year before Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five released their signature hit “The Message.” “Showdown” achieved mainstream success, peaking at number forty-nine on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart.
# 4 – The Lover In You
“The Lover in You” is yet another musical gem from the trio’s third studio album, Rappin’ Down Town. The song’s melodic tune and alluring lyrics make the song stand out from all the other hits featured on the trio’s third LP. This classic rap hit was a success in the mainstream, peaking at number fifty-five on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart.
The song also made it to the UK Singles Chart, becoming The Sugarhill Gang’s second song to ever grace the chart after “Rapper’s Delight.” On the UK Singles Chart, the song peaked at number fifty-four. “The Lover in You” was sampled in “Lover in Me” by Moullinex and “The Lover in You” by Big Daddy Kane. The song was covered by 2Ruff, a German hip-hop outfit, in 1997.
# 3 – 8th Wonder
The third pick of our ten best songs by The Sugarhill Gang is the intoxicating hit “8th Wonder.” “8th Wonder” is the title track of The Sugarhill Gang’s sophomore studio album. The song marked the fourth rap hit to ever grace the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at the eighty-second spot on the chart. “8th Wonder” also made it to the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart, peaking at number fifteen.
This rap hit brings The Sugarhill Gang’s usual funky old-school hip-hop sound. “8th Wonder” samples the 1979 song “Daisy Lady” by 7th Wonder, a soul/funk group. The song also sampled Johnnie Taylor’s 1978 hit “Ever Ready.” “8th Wonder” would later get sampled in “Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check” by Busta Rhymes, “I’m Gonna Be Alright” by Jennifer Lopez, “Public Enemy No. 1” by Public Enemy, “Gangster Trippin’” by Fatboy Slim, and “Shake Your Rump” by Beastie Boys.
# 2 – Apache
“Apache” is a fan-favorite hit from the trio’s sophomore studio album, 8th Wonder. The song’s earliest versions were released in 1960 by Bert Weedon and the instrumental rock group, The Shadows. The Shadows’ version quickly rose to the top of the UK Singles Chart, becoming one of the signature hits by the group. Later in 1973, the song was covered by the funk group, The Incredible Bongo Band.
While The Incredible Bongo Band’s version wasn’t a hit compared to The Shadows’, it went on to inspire the hip-hop culture, covered/sampled by notable artists including Afrika Bambaataa, The Roots, Nas, L.L. Cool J., and now The Sugarhill Gang. The Sugarhill Gang’s cover of the Incredible Bongo Band’s version of “Apache” rekindled the song’s success, peaking at number fifty-three on the Billboard Hot 100. “Apache” also made it to the thirteenth spot on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart.
# 1 – Rapper’s Delight
Number one of our top ten songs by The Sugarhill Gang is the groundbreaking rap hit “Rapper’s Delight.” The song is the trio’s signature song and a culture definitive track in rap history. Before it was featured on the trio’s eponymous debut studio album, “Rapper’s Delight” had been issued as a single in 1979. The song made history by becoming the first rap recording to make it to the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Rapper’s Delight” also opened hope for the commercial success of rap recordings. While the song was a massive commercial success, Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” leapfrogged the song to become, hip-hop’s first Gold-certified hit. “Rapper’s Delight” peaked at number thirty-six on the Billboard Hot 100. The song went on to top the Canadian RPM Singles Chart, reaching the third spot on the UK Singles Chart. “Rapper’s Delight” samples the hit “Good Times” by Chic, only to be sampled by multiple hip-hop recordings later on. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2014.
Top 10 Songs By The Sugarhill Gang article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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