Big Bank Hank, one-third of the Sugarhill Gang, has passed away at the age of 58.
The Sugarhill Gang are known as the pioneers of rap.
The cause was complications of cancer, said David Mallie, business manager for the two other members of the Sugarhill Gang, Wonder Mike and Master Gee.
The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” was not the first commercially released hip-hop single, but it was the one that effectively birthed the genre as a commercial force. The song, which used the break from Chic’s disco smash “Good Times” as a foundation, became a radio staple soon after its release in 1979, reaching No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100. Sugar Hill Records, the group’s label, said it sold two million copies.
Big Bank Hank was born Henry Lee Jackson in the Bronx on Jan. 11, 1956, and grew up close to DJ Kool Herc, Coke La Rock and other hip-hop pioneers.
He was not originally a rapper by trade. In the late 1970s he was working the door at a Bronx club called the Sparkle, where he met a rapper named Grandmaster Caz. He offered to manage Caz’s group, the Mighty Force MCs, borrowing money from his father to get it a worthy sound system for its live appearances. To pay back the loan, he took a job at Crispy Crust Pizza in Englewood.
“He was boisterous — he filled the room,” Wonder Mike told the New York Times. “Ralph Kramden-type stuff.” The Sugarhill Gang released its first hit single, “Rapper’s Delight,” in the fall of 1979.
May you rest in peace Big Bank Hank.
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