R.I.P. Big Bank Hank of the Sugarhill Gang

R.I.P. Big Bank Hank of the Sugarhill Gang
The Sugarhill Gang were one of the most important groups in rap history, and one of the members has now passed away. Henry Jackson, aka Big Bank Hank (centre, above), died this morning (November 11). He was 57.

Jackson reportedly lost his battle with cancer in the early hours of this morning in New York. Bandmates Wonder Mike and Master Gee said in a statement to TMZ, "So sad to hear of our brother's passing. Rest in peace Big Bank."

While the Sugarhill Gang didn't invent rap, they are frequently credited with introducing it to the mainstream. Their 1979 track "Rapper's Delight," one of the first recorded rap singles, was also the first rap song to crack the Top 40.

The Sugarhill Gang were brought together by local label owner Sylvia Robinson of Sugar Hill Records, who had caught wind of the underground trend of rapping. At the time, Hank managed the hip-hop outfit the Cold Crush Brothers, and legend has it that Hank borrowed his rhymes from that group's Grandmaster Caz; that's why Hank's verse on "Rapper's Delight" begins, "I'm the C-A-S-AN, the O-V-A and the rest is F-L-Y," as Caz was alternately known as Casanova Fly.

The Sugarhill Gang went on to have minor hits with tracks like "Apache" and "8th Wonder," but they never matched the success of "Rapper's Delight." The band released a few albums, most recently 1999's children-oriented Jump on It!