Disposable Heroes of Hiphopcrisy? (by Chris Byrne)
‘Rappers Delight’ by the Sugarhill Gang (widely thought of the first hiphop record) was released in July 1979 and went on to sell two million copies. Big Bank Hank from the Gang in one of his verses spells out Grandmaster Caz’s original name (Casanova Fly) as being his own in one of the verses. Grandmaster Caz was one of the hip hop pioneers the Cold Crush Brothers from the Bronx, New York (immortalised in the film ‘Wild Style’). Caz (who has never received any royalties or credit for his rhymes in that song) has said that Big Bank Hank’s verse from ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was stolen from him. Caz has publicly cited the lyrics, “I’m the Grandmaster with the three MCs” as proof: the Sugarhill Gang numbered three MC’s in total. He has claimed these lyrics were a reference his role as leader of Cold Crush.
Jay-Z ‘avenged’ Caz with a lyric in ‘Izzo’ on the “Blueprint” album in 2001:
“Holla at me, I do this for my culture
To let ’em know what a nigga look like, when a nigga in a roaster
Show ’em how to move in a room full of vultures
Industry shady it need to be taken over
Label owners hate me I’m raisin’ the status quo up
I’m overchargin’ niggaz for what they did to the Cold Crush
Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you hoed us”
The Crash Crew were another pioneering group of the early hip hop years in New York and peers of the Cold Crush. From the Lincoln Projects in Harlem, they were known for their innovative use of sung vocal harmonies in their routines. The group consisted of emcees Reggie Reg, Lashubee, EK Mike C, G-Man and Barry B-Stro, but the whole Crew consisted of more than 20 people who provided security, built sound equipment, made flyers and established hip hop’s first indie record label (Mike & Dave Records). They set a precedent for crews like the Wu-Tang. According to Mike C of the group in an interview on daveyd.com, Jay-Z used the hook from a vintage Crash Crew routine in his song ‘Girls Girls Girls’ (also on the “Blueprint” album). Jay’s song features Biz Markie, Q-Tip and Slick Rick singing the hook like Disco Dave did 25 years ago.
In 1979 the Crash Crew released ‘Hi Powered Rap’ on their own label and featured founding member Disco Dave singing the hook, “Girls, girls, girls, girls / Girls I do adore”. The hook was most pronounced when Dave introduces G-Man, “Girls, girls, girls, girls scream and shout and clap your hands / The mellow on the mic that I know you’ll like is the one they call G-Man” There is a statement on The Legendary Crash Crew’s msn group page stating that the group were not given credit or public acknowledgment. They weren’t even mentioned on the album’s cover credits. To them it was bit ironic since Jay-Z used to attend some of the old Crash Crew parties. I called over to Rocafella records yesterday to find out what the deal was with regard to this. I was told that the Jay-Z had gone through the proper channels and cleared all his samples and interpolation rights. As far as they were concerned, he had properly handled business.
The Crash Crew members insist that no one was ever contacted. They state that samples weren’t cleared and phone calls and emails to Rocafella’s CEO Damon Dash went unanswered and unreturned.
Yoda from the Crew said on daveyd.com that what Jay Z accused ‘the industry’ of in ‘Izzo’
“He did it to us. So, where’s the respect, loyalty, or love for what you calling yourself doing if you’re gon’ accuse somebody else of what you’re doing?”
Just to increase the hypocrisy and bring the story full circle, it was recently reported on allhiphop.com that the Beastie Grandads (sorry, Boys) are being sued by the Sugarhill Gang, who allege that the Boys used parts of ‘Rapper’s Delight’ without authorisation on the single ‘Triple Trouble’ off their “To the 5 Boroughs” album.