FIRST MEMORY: As hip-hop hits 50, ﬁrst memories hearing rap and how the moment resonated with them. PHOTO COURTESY OF TWITTER
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Remember the ﬁrst rap song you heard? Some of your favorite rappers and DJs certainly do. In interviews with more than two dozen hip-hop legends, Queen Latifah Chuck D, Method Man, E-40 and eight others cited The Sugarhill Gang`s "Rapper’s Delight" as the ﬁrst rap song they heard. But not all were hooked on the new musical style by that track, and their answers reveal the sense of discovery that marked rap`s early years.
Hip-hops roots are traced to 1973 in the Bronx and it took a few years before rap records emerged – "Rapper’s Delight" was a major catalyst for introducing the rap music to a much broader audience.
Here are the stories of a dozen hip-hop stars who got hooked on the genre around the time "Rapper`s Delight" ruled. In part two, another group of legends and young stars reminisce about connecting with rap by hearing songs by acts like Tupac Shakur, Grandmaster Flash, 2 Live Crew or Run-D.M.C.
As a sophomore at Adelphi University, Chuck D was about to hit the stage to perform over the melody of Chic`s "Good Times" at a party in October 1979.At least, that’s what he thought.
When he stepped behind the microphone, Chuck D heard a different version of the song. It kept going and going for – 15 minutes straight.
"I get on the mic to rock the house. Then all of a sudden, I hear words behind me as I’m rockin’. I lipsync. The words keep going. (Expletive) are rockin’ for like 20 minutes," said Chuck D, a member of the rap group Public Enemy who created " Fight the Power," one of hip-hop’s most iconic and important anthems.
"After it’s all over, cats are giving me high pounds like ‘You went on and on to the break of dawn dawg,’" he continued. "Back then, it’s about how long you can rap. I went and turned to the DJ and looked at the red label that said ‘Sugarhill Gang ‘Rapper’s Delight.’ I was like ‘Oh, they ﬁnally did it.’ They were talking all summer long that rap records were going to happen."
He was stunned: I was, like, ‘It’s inconceivable. How could a rap be a record?’
I couldn’t see it. Nobody could see it. And then when it happened, boom."
For Queen Latifah, "Rapper’s Delight" was the ﬁrst rap song she and a lot of others heard and memorized where she grew up in Newark, NJ. But the biggest record in her world as a kid was Afrika Bambaattaa and the Soul Sonic Force’s 1982 song "Planet Rock. "While the Oscar-nominated actor can be seen chasing bad guys on CBS’ "The Equalizer," many forget her roots as a rapper, with hits like "U.N.I.T.Y. and "Just Another Day."
"It changed the sound," she said. "It’s more of a synthesized, 808s, hi-hats. The whole sound of it was different. Some of hip-hop in the original days was live music. It was live bands playing break records. Like ‘Good Times’ was the beat to ‘Rapper’s Delight.’ Some of those records took actual disco records, played the music and rhymed to them."
While heading to school as a seventh grader in 1979, E-40 heard a new rap tune on a local radio station that normally played R&B and soul music in Northern California.
It was "Rapper’s Delight," which interpolated Chic`s hit "Good Times." That’s when he knew hip-hop was going to be a part of his life forever.
"I was like ‘Ohh, this is hard. I’m hooked,’" said E-40, who recalled the moment while driving to Franklin Middle School in Vallejo, Calif. He and fellow rapper B-Legit used to sport the same kind of fedora hats and big gold rope chains Run-D.M.C. performed in. "From then on, I loved rap. In 1979, when I ﬁrst heard The Sugarhill Gang, I wanted to be a rapper. I would play around with it. … We grew up on New York rap. All of us did. We wanted to be hip-hop. We wanted to breakdance. We did it all.
“But that changed everything after we heard Sugarhill Gang. Next thing you know, you’re hearing Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow and Roxannne, Roxanne."
"Rapper’s Delight" was probably the ﬁrst hip-hop song Lil Jon heard. But he became a "super fan" of the genre as a middle schooler in Atlanta after seeing rap groups the Fat Boys and Whodini. It was his ﬁrst time seeing professional rappers onstage.
"I might have been a fan of rap before, but I had never been to a rap concert. I’ve never seen rappers in person," he said. "Maybe just in the magazines. That turned me into like. … a super fan of hiphop."
The ﬁrst hip-hop record Lil-Jon bought was Run D.M.C.’s "Sucker M.C.’s (KrushGroove 1)."
"I remembered my homeboy that lived in the neighborhood. I had to go through some woods to his house with the album," he said. "We put the album on at his house. We were going crazy over listening to lyrics and beats."