The Mother of Hip Hop!
Now, I don’t know much about rap. My first real listen was to Tupac Shakur because I had read his powerful book of poetry, The Rose That Grew from Concrete. I loved it. When I learned about Sylvia Robinson, I was curious. Here is a little of what I found.
Sylvia Vanderpool Robinson was born on May 29th, 1935 in Harlem, New York. Her father, Herbert, was an immigrant from the Virgin Islands who worked for General Motors. Her mother, Ida, dropped out of school at the age of 14 and began recording music for the Columbia Record label, under the name of “Little Sylvia.”
In 1954 she met Mickey Baker who was a guitarist from Kentucky and he taught her how to play guitar. In 1956 the duo, Mickey and Sylvia recorded the rock single, “Love is Strange” which topped the charts in R&B and reached number eleven on the Billboard pop charts the following year. They split up in 1958, but not before they released several more fairly successful songs. Silvia married Joseph Robinson later in 1958. In 1960 Sylvia began her solo career and released “You Talk Too Much” as Sylvia Robbins, which was a significant hit, but she did not receive any credit.
1961 found Mickey and Sylvia recording more songs together for various labels, including their own, Willow Records. On Ike & Tina Turner’s hit, “It’s Gonna Work Out Fire” Robinson provided vocals and Baker played guitar. This number earned Ike & Tina their first Grammy Award nomination. I remember Mickey and Sylvia well and always loved them!
The 1970’s found her not only singer, record label executive and record producer but founder and CEO of the Hip Hop label, Sugar Hill Records. The company was named for the culturally rich Sugar Hill area of Harlem an affluent African-American neighborhood in Manhattan. She was the driving force in Rap and has been dubbed “The Mother of Hip Hop,” receiving the Pioneer Award for vocals and the founding of Sugar Hill Records. Rap became an instant hit, revolutionizing the music industry and creating a voice for the voiceless in the streets of NYC and the rest of America. Sylvia Robinson was the start of it all.