‘Rapper’s Delight’ (And Commercial Hip-Hop) Turns 30

Last week, MTV News unveiled its list of the Hottest MCs in the Game (topped, rightfully so, by none other than Jay-Z). This week marks a key moment in hip-hop history, as the Sugarhill Gang‘s “Rapper’s Delight” — the first real hip-hop single — was unleashed a full 30 years ago. If you had described the concept of “Rapper’s Delight” to somebody (“Hey, I’ve got this breakdown in the middle of a disco song — let me rhythmically recite poetry over it!”) in the age before rap music, that person probably would have rolled his eyes at the very concept. But the concept certainly took off, and after “Rapper’s Delight” impacted the pop charts, hip-hop as a commercial force was born and it has rarely relinquished its hold on pop music since.

Though the track consists of the same repetitive bass loop and the rhyming styles of Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank and Master Gee all sound pretty pedestrian by today’s standards, “Rapper’s Delight” holds up amazingly well. It set an incredible precedent for everything that game after it, as the lyrics are full of boasting, comedy, personal stories and even a bit of danger — basically, the four core tenets of any decent rap song. (Champs like Jigga can do all four in the same line.) The Sugarhill Gang still dust off the lines from “Rapper’s Delight” from time to time, but their indestructible legacy is forever cemented by the song and the vast influence they had on everybody who came after them.

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