Hip-Hop Pioneer Sylvia Robinson Passes Away At 75

By D.L. Chandler

Iconic record music executive, singer-songwriter and producer Sylvia Robinson has passed away today in a New Jersey hospital at the age of 75. Ms. Robinson’s long and celebrated career began in the late 1950s, but she is most known for being the mastermind behind seminal rap group The Sugarhill Gang, helping craft and release their influential single “Rapper’s Delight”— the first commercially successful rap single ever.

The legendary CEO co-founded Sugar Hill Records along with her husband Joe Robinson and backers Milton Malden and record exec Morris Levy.

Finding success with The Sugarhill Gang, the label went on to sign some of hip-hop’s earliest and most notable acts such as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, female rap crew The Sequence, Funky Four Plus One and the Treacherous Three.

As a publishing songwriter, Ms. Robinson wrote some of R&B’s greatest songs. Penning the classic “Love on a Two Way Street” by singing group The Moments, Ms. Robinson also had her own smash hit “Pillow Talk” released in 1973.

In total Sugar Hill Records amassed a reported 26 gold plaques before folding in 1986 due to a distribution deal that went sour. The Sugar Hill Records studio in Englewood, New Jersey was lost in a fire in 2002.

Often called the “Mother of Hip-Hop,” Ms. Robinson’s lasting legacy still flourishes today and she served as an inspiration to young women in the male-dominated music industry where she called as many shots and had equal success as many of her male counterparts.

Rest in peace, Sylvia Robinson.