Get ready Long Island, the Sugarhill Gang is coming to the Suffolk Theater in Riverhead on July 28. So hip-hop and don’t stop, rock it to the bang bang boogie, say up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat! Master Gee (Guy O’ Brien) of the Sugarhill Gang spoke with Dan’s Papers about his excitement for the show, the Gang’s new music and what makes the East End the place to be.
What is it about the Sugarhill Gang’s work that’s different from the hip-hop and rap music of today?
I think it’s the connection that we have to the people. You know, like country-western has that connection to their fans. They shake hands. They take pictures, and we’re that way too. We’re connected to our people. Despite whatever adversities we’ve been through, people are still drawn to us, and we’re connected to them. We identify with our people, and we have generations of people now.
How do you come up with the rhymes and gain inspiration for your songs?
Oh, that’s easy. Most of my rhymes are either things I’ve wanted to happen in my life, things I’ve seen happen, something I wanted people to know about, or something that’s happened in my own life. Like on “Rapper’s Delight” I rapped “It was twelve o’clock one Friday night / I was rocking to the beat and feeling all right…” That was about a girl I had a crush on when I was 17 years old. A lot of the verses in the song have definite connections to my life, and things that have happened around me.
Will Smith performing your song “Apache” on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air must have been fun. What did you love about your song being a part of this show?
It was huge! My daughter, who is 17 now, was catching the re-runs. I happened to be out in LA with her one day, and she was like, “Daddy, you’re a big kid at school.” She might have been 10 or 11. I asked her what she was talking about, and she told me about the episode. On tour I would see people doing this dance, and I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. The Fresh Prince actually made “Apache.”
What was one of the most memorable moments in your career where you suddenly realized the impact and influence your music has?
The first time I went to Europe. We performed in Holland, and at that time nobody in that part of the world had ever seen anybody rap live. They heard the records and all, but we were the first people to go over there and play this music live. And the way the people would look at us was almost like we had come from outer space. The place was quiet. They’d wait till the song was over, then go crazy! I asked what was going on. I thought something was wrong, and they said that they’ve just never seen this before—that we’re the first people to be in this country doing this. And it clicked. I knew at that moment that I was doing something pretty special.
“Rapper’s Delight” lasts more than 14 minutes, which makes it a particularly great dance song. Did you originally plan for it to be that long?
The whole reason for “Rapper’s Delight” was the beat. That’s what we used to spin at parties. The reason it’s so long is because we were all novices in the studio as far as recording was concerned. There were no booths at the time. We were lined up with three mics, and decided who was going first, second and third, and then we started passing the mic back and forth. We weren’t told to stop, so we kept going, and that’s why there are so many raps on one song. And when they recorded the music, they recorded the entire thing, because we kept going until the music stopped.
You’ll be at the Suffolk Theater on July 28. The dance floor is open and tickets are just $10. What are you most looking forward to?
Long Island is a classic town for music. Billy Joel is from out there. Public Enemy is from out there. The list goes on with the music that comes from Long Island, and Long Islanders love to party! And we love to party with the people. It’s a match made in heaven. We’re also working on some new music as we speak, and two years ago we did a hit record with Bob Sinclar called “The La La Song.” We just came back from Venice, Italy, and that song was number one over there. They knew us more for “The La La Song” than they did for “Rapper’s Delight.” “The La La Song” has 20 million hits on YouTube, which has opened us up to an entirely different audience.
Can you tell us about your latest music?
We’re working on some new music as we speak. We have song we’re working on that has a Latin flavor to it, and we have a song called “Party with the Big Boys.”
Are there any places you like to visit while on Long Island?
The Hamptons! What’s not to love about the Hamptons? I love opulence. I love posh living anyway, and what’s more posh than the Hamptons? It doesn’t get any better. Anything you need, whatever you’re looking for—cars, homes, food—I mean, I’m at home when I’m there.
The Sugarhill Gang, founders of hip-hop, performs at the beautiful Suffolk Theater, 118 East Main Street in Riverhead on Thursday, July 28 at 8:30 p.m.. For more information and to purchase tickets visit suffolktheater.com or call 631-727-4343.