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Remembering a Pioneer: Sylvia Robinson, “The Mother of Hip-Hop”

On September 29th, 2011, we lost “The Mother of Hip-Hop”, Sylvia Robinson. Sylvia was a singer, songwriter, and record producer who formed the Sugar Hill Gang and produced the first commercially successful rap recording. Way before she became the “Mother of Hip-Hop”, Sylvia Robinson had a notable career as a rhythm and blues singer. She sang with Mickey Baker as part of the duo Mickey & Sylvia in the 1950s and had several hits, including “Love is Strange”, which hit the #1 spot in 1956. After succeeding with her group, she had a solo hit under the name Sylvia in 1973 with her own composition “Pillow Talk.” In 1979 Sylvia was dubbed the “Mother of Hip-Hop” after deciding to record the new form of artistic expression called Rap. As the new art form traveled through the club scene, Sylvia and her husband, Joe Robinson, discovered three young rappers – Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike and Master Gee. They soon would persuade the threesome to record improvised raps under the group name Sugar Hill Gang over a rhythm track adapted from Chic’s “Good Times.” The record would soon be called “Rapper’s Delight” and would peak the R&B charts at No. 4, proving that rap was an art form that could stand its own. Her innovation and vision provided a gateway for a new style and genre of music to be born.  Ms. Robinson later signed Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, recording their 1982 classic hit, “The Message.” At the age of 75, Sylvia Robinson left a legacy behind that will stand the test of time. We are forever grateful to her for all her contributions to one of the most influential art forms in the world. Aspire Online Magazine and The High Up would like to send our prayers to Ms. Robinson’s family at this time. Her memory will continue to live on through the music she created and the hearts she touched in all aspects of her extraordinary life.

-Amadi Jae for AOM & The HIGH UP. Follow @AmadiJae on Twitter!

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