Music Reviews

Best of Sugar Hill Records

Various Artists

Rhino

“Rapper’s Delight” was that rare song that had to be played, and listened to, anytime, anyplace, anywhere. I knew even then that it was timeless, despite its silly lyrics, incessant “Good Times” bass line sample, and seemingly endless length. I hadn’t heard anything like before, and I haven’t since.

And despite other worthy moments, that is the singular reason why Sugar Hill Records was the ground-breaking label that it was. It launched “Rapper’s Delight,” and with it, rap into the mainstream. Yes, “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five should be considered a more important song, bringing rap into the streets where it was most relevant. And “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” was a biting criticism of ’80s excess. And “Apache” is infectious to the point of danger. But I can’t think of song that was so distinctly representative of a label as “Rapper’s Delight” was to Sugar Hill, which burned out just a few years before rap and hip-hop assumed their rightful place in American popular music.

The Sugar Hill Records box set has already been released, but as the Box Set Revolution dies under the daze of short attention spans, Rhino is answering the call with slimmed-down versions (hence the recent distillation of the Otis Redding box set into a two-disc set). Unfortunately, “Rapper’s Delight” and “The Message,” the two best songs the label released, are provided here in radio-edit form. Shame, shame. But at least they’re there, along with 13 other choice tracks including the aforementioned tunes, as well as Funky 4 + 1’s “That’s the Joint,” which the Beastie Boys honored so gracefully on Paul’s Boutique’s “Shake Your Rump.” Rhino Records, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025; http://www.rhino.com


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