Thursday, September 29, 2011

Farewell: Sylvia Robinson

Sylvia Robinson
(March 6, 1936 – September 29, 2011)

We lose yet another pioneer in music. Sylvia Robinson, as a performer known to many simply billed as Sylvia, passed away earlier today in a New Jersey hospital. She's also know as the "mother of Hip-Hop", because she was the driving force behind Sugar Hill Records, both as co-founder and a producer. Sylvia helped to usher in two key records in the Hip-Hop genre, "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugar Hill Gang and "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five.

Sylvia aided in the production and releases through forming All Platinum Records in 1968. All Platinum would eventually purchase Chess Records in the early 1970's, a label that housed artists such as Etta James, The Moments, Shirley & Company, Candi Staton, Jean Carn and more. Eventually, All Platinum wasn't able to keep steady releasing material from the former Chess roster.

In 1973, Sylvia released "Pillow Talk" on Vibration. The single reached #1 on the R&B chart and is considered an early prototype of Disco music. It sold over two million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in May 1973. In 1976 she released her self titled album Sylvia that contained "Sweet Stuff", a tune sampled by Detroit producer J-Dilla for his "Crushin'" tune on his Ruff Draft album.

The mid-1970's brought the founding of Sugar Hill Records with Milton Malden. The label being named after the culturally rich Sugar Hill section of Harlem in New York City. "Rapper's Delight" was released in 1979 and put rap music on the commercial market. Later "The Message" would follow, although it was an abandoned demo. With the guidance of Sylvia and assistance from a session drummer, she persuaded Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five to record what would be the introduction of socially conscious lyrics into Hip-Hop. By commercializing the market for rap records, Robinson is credited as the mother of modern hip-hop. She introduced the idea of re-using existing compositions, a practice that later became known as "sampling".

"The Message" was the first Hip-Hop record ever added to the
United States National Archive of Historic Recordings.

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