The Sugarhill Gang review: A priceless encounter with some bona fide legends
- Credit: Ian Rook
In 1979 a new music scene emerged from New York and spread worldwide.
It was driven by two groups, The Sugarhill Gang and Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five. On a Thursday night four of the groups' surviving members took to the stage to bring the original sound of hip hop to Norwich.
The turntables might have been replaced with MacBooks and the Waterfront doesn't quite have the atmosphere of a Bronx house party but the group showed they had lost none of their energy or passion for the sound they created.
After a big build up from their DJ, Ty Dynasty, The Sugarhill Gang's Master Gee and Hen Dogg burst on stage belting out a succession of their smaller hits while endlessly bigging up themselves, each other and the crowd. It's easy to forget who you're watching and how successful they are so it's nice to be reminded. Their biggest praise came for their fellow rappers Melle Mel and Scorpio from the Furious Five who ramped things up a notch as they took over for the second segment of the show.
I'm not always one to respond to calls to "put your hands in the air" or "make some noise" but as the DJ dropped the intro to The Message it was hard not to be caught up in the moment as the duo gave a tight rendition of this rap classic performing the last couple of choruses a cappella as the DJ cut the track. After their other notable hit White Lines (Don't Do It) they were joined by the Sugarhill rappers to form a hip hop super group.
It was a shameless parody of the genre as the blinged up performers posed and strutted the stage, Hen Dogg brandishing a fake champagne bottle. But there was no glorifying of guns or violence, an element of hip hop they fiercely condemned.
One of the great innovations of hip hop was turntablism, but while the DJ was often as vocal as the rest of the group and had a well-equipped booth he did little to demonstrate the art form apart from a bit of digital scratching.
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Excluding the intros and well rehearsed banter the show barely lasted an hour, but you can't undermine a unique brand with a rich heritage. The show naturally culminated with the hit that put hip hop on the map: Rapper's Delight. The disco-sampling record sounds as fresh as it did in '79 and the group did it justice. Then they got all preachy about love, peace and unity, and in a final coup de grâce they turned the stage into a merchandise stall beckoning punters to come up and part with their cash for a T-shirt and a selfie. Not the greatest show on Earth but a priceless encounter with some bona fide legends.