The Sugar Hill Gang – 8th Wonder // Sugar Hill Groove (Sugar Hill Records) 1980. One of the more obscure Sugar Hill tracks is the B-Side to 8th Wonder by the Sugar Hill Gang entitled The Sugar Hill Groove and that is a major oversight. I am not aware of it being comped on any Sugar Hill retrospectives. I think this is because as a rap record it’s just not that good. Sad to say but The Sugar Hill Gang were just not that good at rapping. Rappers Delight was a novelty record and as some folks now know, large portions of it were lifted verbatim from Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers. Yep, it’s another classic example of access to resources determining history. It doesn’t matter that rap started in the Bronx by emcees like Caz. To casual listeners, rap was started by three marginal dudes from New Jersey.
Of course, here at Last Days we are anything but casual listeners. And Sugar Hill Groove is anything but a casual listen. As mentioned earlier, it aint much of a rap record. But as a funk record, this thing is freakin’ GODHEAD. And this brings up another overlooked figure in the history of rap…. Doug Wimbish, or more to the point, the house band at Sugar Hill Records which was made up of Doug on bass, Keith LeBlanc on drums and Skip Mc Donald on guitar. All three of these musicians created the core Sugar Hill sound.
Doug Wimbish was a journeyman bass player who had been navigating through the underground funk scene in NYC during the late 1970s. He ended up in a business relationship with Sylvia & Joe Robinson, the future proprietors of Sugar Hill Records and ended up performing with a funk act entitled Wood Brass & Steel that was associated the Robinsons. After being in the Sugar Hill house band he went on to play with Tackhead and Living Color. The full story can be found in a great interview with Doug here.
On this track, Doug and company lay it all out there. The insanely heavy bass line, the New Yorican timbales, the nascent synth line. It’s all in the Sugar Hill Groove. Musically it is a cover of Catch a Groove by the band Juice (another obscure 1970′s funk act) but listen to the playing. Sit back and turn this up REAL LOUD and witness the greatest funk act ever as they run through nine plus minutes of pure unfiltered groove. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Sugar Hill Groove.