The music world is mourning the death of rapper Big Bank Hank, who delighted fans and changed the course of hip-hop with the Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 classic, Rapper’s Delight.
Big Bank Hank, who was born Henry Jackson but was also known as Imp the Dimp, died early Tuesday after a battle with cancer, according to TMZ.
David Mallie, who manages the group’s two remaining living members, told Fox News that Jackson died from kidney complications due to cancer. Mallie confirmed the news, saying that he had seen Hank “several times” over the last several years and that his health had been declining as he went through chemotherapy and dialysis treatments.
Wrote DJ Funkmaster Flex on Twitter.
Rest in peace… Big Bank Hank… Hip hop pioneer dies of Cancer …. Legend… Sugarhill gang August… http://t.co/RD7qo2KG4C
— Funk Flex !!!!! (@funkflex) November 11, 2014
Said Hank’s fellow Sugarhill Gang members, Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright and Guy O’Brien, known as Master Gee:
“So sad to hear about our brothers passing. The three of us created musical history together with the release of Rapper’s Delight. We will always remember traveling the world together and rocking the house. Rest in peace Big Bank.”
Before Rapper’s Delight became a multiplatinum hit — one of the first rap songs played on the radio and the first hip-hop single to become a Top 40 Billboard chart hit — rap music was seldom heard outside the neighborhood block parties of its Bronx birthplace.
Sylvia Robinson, founder of Sugar Hill Records, brought together the Englewood, N.J.-based trio of Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike and Master Gee in 1979 for the label’s debut record to capitalize on the new trend. In doing so, what began as a novelty song, with the catchphrase “hip hop and you don’t stop” and lyrics chanted over a repetitive bass-line, gave rise to a new music genre that has since exploded worldwide.
Hip Hop Wired.com notes that Rapper’s Delight wasn’t just a catchy hit song. It was “the song is considered the moment that hip-hop became commercially viable.”