Sugar Hill Records

By: Lindani Maphenduka and Sydney Lampkins

SugarHill Records 

  • Sugar Hill Records is an  American record label that was founded by Sylvia Robinson, Joe Robinson, and Milton Malden. It was created in Englewood, New Jersey, in 1979. The record label was developed for the genre of hip-hop music. Sugar Hill records were funded by Tony Riviera and Morris Levy, who is the owner of Roulette Records. This wasn’t the first record company the Robinsons had…​


  • Before Sugar Hill Records, Joe Robinson had a previous record company that consisted of the artist of his wife, that was in a duo with Mickey Baker. They were best known for their number-one R&B single,” Love is Strange,” in 1957. ​
  • The SugarHill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” (1979) was the first record released by the SugarHill label. Despite being their debut single, it quickly gained enormous popularity and peaked at number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

SugarHill Gang

The Sugarhill Gang consisted of three men from Englewood, New Jersey:

  1. Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright
  2. Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson

     III. Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien

 They were discovered by SugarHill Records founder;  Sylvia Robinson. In 1979, the trio’s hit “Rapper’s Delight” became the first rap single to become a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The group released five studio albums with the record label and disbanded in 1985. 

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five came together in the late 1970s. They were signed to Sugar Hill Records in 1980. While at Sugar Hill, they had multiple hits. “The Message,” released in 1982, garnered them mainstream success. The song had such a strong political and social message that I became the driving force behind conscious hip-hop. The group disbanded in 1987. In 2007, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, becoming the first Hip Hop group to be established. In 2002, the group’s hit song “The Message” was one out of fifty recordings to be chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.



Where they are now?

  • Grandmaster Flash ( an artist from the label) decided to part ways with him and his team due to disagreements and Robinsons’ failure to pay them. Due to these circumstances, several label artists chose to depart and join newer independent labels like Tommy boy’s Def Jam in the middle of the 1980s. Joe and Sylvia agreed to work out a contract and sell Sugar Hill Records to MCA in 1983. This transaction caused issues for the two, which put them in a terrible financial situation. Later announcing Joe Robinson and Sylvia’s divorce. But fortunately for Sylvia, in 1987, she founded Bon Ami Records. he eventually founded a group called The New Style. Sadly, they were not popular, so the group moved to Tommy Boy Records and was performed by Naughty by Nature.​
  • Cancer took Joe Robinson’s life in 2000. Congestive heart failure took Sylvia Robinson’s life in 2011, although her family ran Sugar Hill’s commercial operations. West Street’s Sugar Hill Studios was destroyed by fire in 2002. ​
  • Sugar Hill Records’ back catalog is now held by Rhino Records, a division of Warner Music Group, due to being unable to operate in 1986.

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