Son of hip-hop pioneer Sylvia Robinson speaks with News 12

To celebrate Black History Month and the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, News 12's Naomi Yane sat down with Leland Robinson, the secondborn son to Sylvia and Joe Robinson.

News 12 Staff

Feb 13, 2023, 9:49 PM

Updated 520 days ago


The son of hip-hop pioneer Sylvia Robinson sat down with News 12's Naomi Yane to celebrate New Jersey's ties to hip-hop and Robinson's legacy.
“Love is Strange” is a late '50s hit song by R&B duo Mickey & Sylvia (Mickey Baker and Sylvia Robinson). The song is also remembered from the 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing.” Robinson later became known as the "mother of hip-hop.”
To mark Black History Month and the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, Yane sat down with Leland Robinson, the secondborn son to Sylvia and Joe Robinson.
“Mom was like a pioneer when it came to music. And when it came to creating new things, she had a vision and she went for it,” said Leland Robinson, Sugar Hill Records CEO/president.
While Sylvia Robinson garnered success as a producer, solo artist and as part of the duo Mickey & Sylvia, she's widely known for single-handedly commercializing hip-hop in the late '70s when the genre was thought to be something that would be short-lived
“At the time when she did it, in 1979, and she went to put out 'Rapper's Delight,' they told her it was going to be a fad,” Robinson said. “’It will never work’; they told her that she's wasting her time. She said she felt they were all wrong and she went against the grain.”
Sugar Hill Records, the very first hip-hop record label to commercially distribute rap music, was founded in the Garden State at the Robinsons' home in Englewood by Sylvia and her husband. This was six years after the creation of hip-hop in the Bronx.
The label's first few acts included hip-hop legends The Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Melle Mel.
“There was nobody doing it. So basically, it was all done in the parks, it was done in different clubs, people rapping, and deejaying and the rappers would rap on top of it. She said maybe we could put this on wax and maybe it could work, and it worked,” Robinson said.
Sugar Hill Records was behind some of hip-hop's biggest hits, including “Rapper's Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang and “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five.
In 2014, the city of Englewood honored Sylvia Robinson with a street renaming on West Street. In 2022, the hip-hop pioneer was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of fame.
“It was about time,” Leland Robinson said. “I think that she deserved it. She did a lot for the community.”
Sylvia Robinson’s legacy continues today as Sugar Hill Records continues to work with some of today's biggest artist, including her grandchildren.

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