Published Sep 29, 2011Today (September 29), rap music lost one of its founding figures when Sylvia Robinson died of congestive heart failure at Meadowlands Hospital in Secaucus, NJ. She was 75.
Born in 1936, Robinson was previously a member of the R&B duo Mickey & Sylvia and scored a hit with the 1956 track "Love Is Strange." In 1973, she released the charting solo single "Pillow Talk" simply under the name Sylvia.
Along with husband Joe and Milton Malden, Robinson co-founded Sugar Hill Records in 1979 (not to be confused with the roots label of the same name). She assembled the group the Sugarhill Gang, and produced and co-wrote their chart-topping single "Rapper's Delight." This became the first rap hit, and it is widely credited with popularizing hip-hop around the world.
In 1982, she co-produced "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, which is also regarded as one of the most influential rap songs ever. Her involvement in these breakthroughs earned her the reputation of being "the Mother of Hip-Hop."
The label eventually closed down in 1986. Sugar Hill Studio in Englewood, NJ, was destroyed in a fire in 2002.