Sylvia Robinson, who enjoyed a long career as a singer, songwriter, producer and co-founder of Sugar Hill Records, died early today in New Jersey, according to the New York Times and other sources. She was 75.
While she had success as an artist in the 1950s – as part of the duo Mickey & Sylvia, with hits including “Love Is Strange” – and the 1970s – as Sylvia with “Pillow Talk” – there’s little question her crowning legacy will be the formation of Sugar Hill Records and the Sugar Hill Gang, which released the first commercial rap record, “Rapper’s Delight,” in 1979.
The company — which she co-founded with her husband, Joe — was the dominant record label in the early years of hip-hop, following “Rapper’s Delight” with hits by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – whose 1982 hit, “The Message,” was arguably the first socially conscious hip-hop release.
Billboard.biz will have a more extensive obituary later today.