Label owner, 'mother of hip-hop' Sylvia Robinson dies

Singer and record label owner Sylvia Robinson, one of hip-hop’s founders whose label put out the early rap hit “Rapper’s Delight,” died Thursday in Seacaucus, N.J.

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Sylvia Robinson, a music executive who lit the fuse that ignited the popularity of hip-hop, died Thursday morning at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, N.J. She was 76.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said her publicist, Greg Walker.

Robinson and her husband, Joseph Robinson, founded Sugar Hill Records in Englewood, N.J., in the 1970s. It was Sylvia Robinson -- half of the 1950s rhythm-and-blues duo Mickey & Sylvia -- who became intrigued by the rapping she heard in June 1979 at a party at a Manhattan club.

Back in Englewood, she discovered three young men who called themselves Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank and Master Gee.

Robinson christened them the Sugar Hill Gang. Their 1979 hit "Rapper's Delight" topped out at No. 4 on the R&B charts and No. 34 on the Billboard pop charts and is regarded as the first commercially viable rap single.

More successes for the Robinsons' label would follow, including Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message," a brutal take on ghetto life.

Robinson's nickname, "the mother of hip-hop,"reflected her influence.