Thursday, November 13, 2014

Audio- Sugar Hill Gang Wonder Mike & Master Gee talk about Big Bank Hank! ft Kurtis Blow & Chuck D


Exclusive Interview with Wonder Mike, Master Gee & Hen Dogg
ft Chuck D & Kurtis Blow 
By Belinda Trotter James
Audio Interview by Tha Dee Jay 360

Back in the day the only way you heard someone rap to music was in the park or at the club on Saturday night. The rapid fire tongue of the rapper was so organic that guys would just spit a rhyme off the top of their head.  It was sheer genius and talent. The Sugarhill Gang is important to the hip-hop culture because it was the start of something greater than we could have ever imagined. Sugarhill’s iconic song, “Rapper’s Delight” signified the opening of a new door to a future generation to accomplish great things. To be able to play a rap record anytime, anyplace was huge. 

In our historic exclusive interview Who's That Lady Entertainment along with our sister 360 radio station with DEEJAY 360, spoke to the two surviving members Wonder Mike and Master Gee along with Hen Dogg who performs Big Bank Hank's part plus  Chuck D, Kurtis Blow, Big Daddy Kane,DJ Kayslay and others chimed in with some memorable stories.  It was a sad day however, the guys got together to remember Hank in good times. This is an historic interview because this group single-handedly opened the door for the hip-hop culture to transcend into uncharted territories that have never been explored by young men and women of African-American decent with a mic, two turntables and a DJ.

They have become legendary in their own right and have traveled the world to the delight of fans everywhere performing their hit song that started it all ‘Rapper’s Delight.”  It seems that a little light should also be given to Sylvia Robinson who was looking for talent in Englewood, NJ and came up with the idea of capturing someone rapping on a record.

Master Gee reminisces about Hank’s spirit and says, "The thing about Hank is that his voice was so electric. Mike had that smooth American sound and when Hank came in, the way his voice hit the microphone, it just crashed through. Hank was like the party rocker. Mike was like our announcer; Hank just took the party to the next level and they decided to let me to come in from the rear and swoon the ladies. We all had distinct sounds and that was the chemistry. You can identify each one of us by our sound. To this day people can identify us by our sound. We also had our distinct personalities… Hank was the big-time party rocker, I was a teen idol because I was only a teenager at the time.  Everybody had their job."
                 RAPMANIA THE 15th Anniversary of Hip Hop (Apollo Theatre)

Because of a disagreement between Wonder Mike, Master Gee and Big Bank Hank, the group parted ways. Hen Dogg started performing with Master Gee and Wonder Mike as the group, “Rappers Delight.” Hen Dogg gave us a little flashback as to how he became part of the group.  "I started out as a music producer and I was producing and writing songs for them.  Then I went to being the hype man until 2005 when Mike and myself decided to leave Sugarhill Records.  We brought Gee back into the mix and we have been pushing ever since. I have been with the group for 20 years. I also want to add that we love Hank and that he will be missed.  When all of us got together and went to the hospital to visit him, we let him know that all was well and that there was no animosity.  He was always welcomed to come back into the group and get on stage with us. He was one of the original members and is an icon."
 Since we had the opportunity to have Chuck D with us on this interview, Wonder Mike was curious about how Chuck felt about “Rappers Delight” when he first heard it. Chuck D replied, "I was floored by it because it was inconceivable that a rap record could happen.  Everybody had been whispering and talking about it all that year in 1979. I remember Eddie Cheeba was going around talking about,  'I'm going to get ready to come out with my record.'” So I'm going to an Eddie Cheeba gig thinking, ‘how the heck is he going to come out with a hip-hop record?’ A gig was like three hours so how are you going to put three hours on a record?" Chuck D went on to tell the story of how he first heard “Rapper’s Delight” on  WBLS when Frankie Crocker played it on the radio. It was definitely a good day for hip-hop. He went on to tell another great story about the groups performances.  "I remember when you guys played at the Holiday Inn and it was pandemonium. It was Beatlesque,” says Chuck D.  “The place could only hold maybe 1000 to 1500 people and it had to be like 15,000 people on line outside. It was crazy! They were lined up all the way around the block.”  Wonder Mike added, “Girls would chase us down the street and we had to jump into these little cabs in Europe; it was crazy.”
 Kurtis Blow said that his fondest memories of Hank was when they went on tour and pulled a fast one on one of their friends Joey Robinson… “Hank and I got together and decided we wanted to get Joey back because he used to be lucky at playing cards,” began Kurtis.  “He used to beat us all the time.  He would go home with our money all the time. So Hank and I got together and said on this tour we are going to get Joey. We are going to team up and split the winnings.  So I would tap on Hank’s foot to let him know how many cards I need and then the next night Hank would tap on my foot and tell me how many cards he would  need. So we did this for about three weeks and Hank and I split about four or $5000 of Joey's money. We got him good on that tour," laughed Kurtis Blow.

Currently there is a documentary that was put together called, “I Want My Name Back” and it basically goes through the history of the Sugarhill Gang. Master Gee explains, "We are married to the music and the world is always going to know us.  The documentary was basically our story because the story wasn't always told properly. Some people got certain misinformation about different things. So this documentary gave us a chance to tell the story from our perspective and also to get people to understand that at the end of the day no matter what type of adversity you’re faced with, if you maintain a positive attitude and stay strong with the people that you get down with, you will prevail and that's basically where we're at. People still call for us to perform and we are going out as Rapper’s Delight.  We have all types of opportunities presented to us each and every day. As we speak there are some things that we are working on that are in development plus shows that we have coming up".

 In closing we asked the members of this interview if they could say one last thing to Big Bank Hank, what would it be?

Kurtis Blow spoke first and he said,  “If I had Big Bank Hank here right now, I would say Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. Because of you and your group, Sugarhill Gang and that song, “Rapper’s Delight” I owe you so, so much. I got the opportunity to be the first rapper who was signed to a major label.  It was the start and I don't think it has ever been a record that was as big as that one; 17 million copies.  A lot of careers were started and launched because of that song. I love you man; rest in peace."

Master G said,  “I would say to Hank exactly what I said when I saw him, at the end of the day it's me, Mike and Hank. That's the way it's going to be to the world and no matter what, my conversation and vibe with him was always love. So beyond everything else I love him and I will always love him. He is my brother, Mike is my brother and we will always be connected.”

Chuck D said, “I grew up as a sports fan and I always admired how there was always a thread between the players you looked at, the ones that were coming in and the ones that came from the Hall of Fame and the All-Star games.  All of those things were very important to me however, I'm not in the world of sports. I wasn't good enough to be in sports however, I was blessed and honored to be associated and brought into the world of rap music and hip-hop. I would also tell Hank all those wonderful things that Curtis Blow just said in thanking him and paying homage to history and the pioneering aspect which is indisputable. A lot of times people come up with saying this or that, but you know what… documentation is the most important thing you can have. You can't get any better documentation than a recording. They can't remove history or truth in documentations.”

Hen Dogg answered, "If Hank was here right now, I would say, Hank, thank you man. I toured all over the world with you, we've been onstage, we were rocking and having a lot of good times together and I will always love you as a brother and from now on every time I hit that stage you will be onstage with us; love you.”

Wonder Mike replied, "If I had Hank in front of me right now, I would say thanks for the memories; for being part of this group.  Although we did not invent the music form of hip-hop, we kicked the door in for everyone else to come in and eat at the table and get the deals.   That record opened the door and to be a part of that I thank Hank for that. I would also say thank you brother for all the amusing tall tales." Everyone  busted out in laughter because they knew that Hank could tell some really amusing stories. Wonder Mike continue to say, “Thanks for the memories, thanks for just being there even when we butted heads. You know that's what brothers do and I would just say, ‘Thank you’."

Big Daddy Kane said, “Every record label in the world was willing to take a chance with Hip-Hop after the success of Rapper’s Delight.  So for that I say, ‘Thanks for opening the door and may you rest in peace’.”

Mark Skillz who is a Hip Hop Historian said, “Big Hank was the first to use a big tough persona on wax, but he wasn’t that.  He was a big teddy bear of a guy who was quick to smile and enjoyed hearing his fans recite his lyrics.” 

DJ Kayslay said,The Hip Hop culture took a major blow with the passing of Big Bank Hank from the Sugarhill Gang. Rappers Delight is the National Anthem and it's because of his contribution to Hip Hop that a lot of artists are where they are at today. May he Rest in Peace 

DEE JAY 360 ended the night by saying, "I would like to say to Big Bank Hank thank you once again for the memories and opportunity for me to even start to love hip-hop. Thank you Wonder Mike, Master Gee. I ask a lot of artists what song was your inspiration and they tell me Rapper's Delight. I admire the Sugarhill  brand and their  iconic stature. I admire Chuck D and Public Enemy from Flavor Flav to the S1W to DJ Lord who is a beast on the turntables. I admire Curtis Blow as he stood like a superhero as a solo artist in handling his business in the music industry back in those days.  I think the people who are here at this iconic interview who are dedicated to the culture of hip-hop and what it stands for are all here in remembrance of Big Bank Hank who passed away November 11, 2014, but he is forever in our hearts, our stereos, our boomboxes and on our 12 inches on the turntables going back-and-forth getting these parties started even until this day.

It was a remarkable hour of joy and laughter as we all came together to celebrate and remember the life of Big Bank Hank.  To hear the recorded interview in its entirety along with bonus clips of stories and memories of Big Bank Hank. Stay tuned.
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Hank’s funeral services will be at the Henry Jackson Community Baptist Church, 224 First Street, Englewood, NJ  07631 The viewing is from 4pm-7pm, Funeral 7pm-8pm and the Repast following service at the church.

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