Joseph Robinson Jr., heir to hip-hop’s first label, Sugar Hill Records, passed away on Saturday at the age of 53, as confirmed by NorthJersey.com. The executor of Sugarhill Music Publishing succumbed to cancer, according to his family.
Though Sugar Hill was founded by recording artist Sylvia Robinson and her husband Joe Robinson Sr., their oldest son, known as Joey, played no small part in helping bringing hip-hop culture from the Bronx to the rest of the world. The teenaged Robinson served as the bridge between his mother, a record label veteran who was running the R&B label All-Platinum, and his rapping peers.
In 1979, on a tip from his friend Warren Moore, the younger Robinson headed down to the New Jersey pizza parlor where Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson was making pies. Jackson and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien auditioned in the back of Robinson’s Oldsmobile 98. Along with Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright, they became the Sugar Hill Gang that night and what is widely regarded as the first recorded rap song, “Rapper’s Delight,” was laid down within days.
In the Nineties, Robinson reformed the Sugar Hill Gang. Since O’Brien wasn’t returning, Robinson stepped in to the performer role and, much to the contention of the band (as revealed in the documentary I Want My Name Back) often referred to himself “Master Gee.” As Master Gee, Robinson performed at the inaugural Vh1 Hip-Hop Honors. In 2013, Robinson was sentenced to three years probation for failing to pay taxes.