Founding members of the Sugarhill Gang Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien, have filed a lawsuit against their former manager and Sugarhill Publishing.
Wonder Mike and Master Gee have charged Sylvia Robinson, the estate of her late husband Joey Robinson Sr. and members of Sugarhill Publishing, in regards to millions of dollars in uncollected royalties for “Rapper’s Delight,” which is considered by some to be the first rap song ever.
Wonder Mike and Master Gee still perform the song, and because the track has been sampled so frequently, they want compensation. They also claim Robinson lied to them about their original contract back in the late ’70’s.
Joey Robinson Jr. has recently denied the statements and claims the platinum rappers are “encroaching on his trademarks”, according to a report in the New York Daily News. Referring to the duo’s lip-synching performances, Robinson tells the newspaper, “It’s really a sham to confuse the public…there was no lip-synching [back in the late 70s]!”
Robinson Sr. and his wife, who also produced the records, founded Sugar Hill Records in 1974 and brought together the original group members Wright, O’Brien and pal Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson in the late 1970’s. However, Robinson Jr., Warren Moore and Derek Smalls have performed the classic song before under the Sugarhill Gang name.
In the back and forth saga, Wonder Mike and Master Gee believe Joey Robinson Jr. has been performing the song, even when though he was never part of the original group. Court documents pertaining to the suit state, “Robinson deceives the audience into believing that he is performing when he is only lip-synching. Robinson is considered be an inadequate performer.”
While “Rapper’s Delight” was the first Rap/Hip Hop song to appear on the Top 40 charts, it has been surrounded by controversy since its creation. Grandmaster Caz, the original writer of the song’s lyrics, has never been formally credited or compensated for his work.
Reported by Benjamin Chesna.