Funky Fresh

Hip hop, hippie to the hippie, to the hip, hip hop and you don’t stop” rockin’ along to rap pioneers, the Sugarhill Gang, performing Saturday at Harrah’s Beach. The iconic hip-hop group burst onto the scene with their hit track “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979. It was the first rap single to break the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 36 on the chart in January 1980.
Record producer and founder of Sugar Hill Records, Sylvia Robinson, put the group together from a rag tag bunch of guys she found spitting some verses on their free time or at their current jobs in Englewood, N.J. The original members included Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright, Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien.
At the time, rap was not considered a genre that was profitable to produce records, but rather was to be performed live. The Gang changed that outlook with “Rapper’s Delight” and their self-titled first album, which hit No. 4 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1980.
Wonder Mike recounted their instant popularity in an article with The Guardian, “When I was 7, I saw the Beatles’ film, ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ with all the screaming girls. When Rapper’s Delight hit, there was a lot of hysteria. We were in a record shop and the manager had to ferry us out through the back. I remember thinking, ‘Man, this is just like A Hard Day’s Night.’”
When the song first hit the airwaves it created a bit of controversy, however, as it used the music from Chic’s “Good Times” as the base. Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards settled with the Gang and were credited as co-writers on the record. Some of the rhymes were also taken from Curtis Fisher, a.k.a Grandmaster Caz, another pioneer of the rap game from the East Coast. The group admitted to borrowing Fishers verses and gave him credit for his part as well.
“Rapper’s Delight” was preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2011, which honors songs that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” In 2014 the record was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The group released three more albums in the ‘80s and was widely popular in Europe during that time. They disbanded in 1985, but reunited to produce a children’s hip-hop album in 1999.
Unfortunately, Big Bank Hank lost his battle with cancer in 2014, but Wonder Mike and Master Gee decided to embark on a world tour beginning in 2016. The Gang is bringing their old school funk to Laughlin as part of that tour and will be joined by a second R&B group from the ‘80s, Club Nouveau.
Club Nouveau was born as a result of the Timex Social Club disbanding. Record producer Jay King put the group together in 1986 in Sacramento, California, naming it “new club” in French as a rebirth of Timex, which he formerly produced.
The group’s original lineup consisted of King, Valerie Watson, Samuelle Prater, Denzil Foster, and Thomas McElroy. They found success with their debut album, Life, Love & Pain, released in 1986. The hit single “Jealousy” from the album, was a response to Timex Cub’s “Rumors,” which had been that group’s biggest hit.
Club Nouveau scored three more hit singles off their debut album with “Situation #9,” “Why You Treat Me So Bad” and their cover of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me,” which nabbed the group a Grammy award for Best R&B Song in 1987.
The group’s lineup went through a few changes, but the current tour consists of original members — King, Watson and Prater.
Most recently, they released a soul album in 2015 titled Consciousness, which is available on iTunes. For more on the band, see their website at ClubNouveau.me.


SUGARHILL GANG AND CLUB NOUVEAU

The Beach at Harrah’s

Saturday, July 14 (10 p.m., gates open at 8 p.m.)

See”Showtimes” for tickets