Sugar Hill Gang Premiere’s “I Want My Name Back” at TIFF Bell Lightbox [Review]
Toronto, ON - ”I said a hip-hop the hippie the hippie to the hip hip-hop…” Chances are, if you’re reading this you can finish the rest of that line. For most of the world, that was the first time they heard rap in mainstream media. By the time the Sugar Hill Gang released “Rappers Delight” in 1979, hip-hop had already taken to the streets of New York in some of the poorer neighborhood such as The Bronx, Harlem, Queens & Brooklyn. But with the release and popularity of “Rapper’s delight” in 1979 making it to top 40 status not only in the US, but countries like Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and the UK, the Sugar Hill Gang paved the way for generations of rapper’s to come.
(Check out more and watch the documentary’s trailer after the jump link below.)
But the story of what happened all those years back is not all rainbows and lollipops. Thirty years later the original members of the Sugar Hill Gang Wonder Mike and Master Gee pair up with Director and Co-Producer Roger Paradiso to finally share the truth behind those events and the years that followed. “I want my name back” is a documentary that not only celebrates Hip Hop, but also delves into the underworld of the music industry and its ties to crime and corruption. Through a series of candid interviews and conversations the film sheds a light on the unbelievable events taking place behind the scenes in the Sugar Hill Studios and the legal battles that took place both financially and of the identity theft that occurred over the years. In fact, the management of the studio had not only trademarked the name “Sugar Hill Gang” and eventually the names “Master Gee” and “Wonder Mike” years after the group and the rappers had been established, but for a time there were two “Sugar Hill Gang”s out performing shows while a legal battle was being fought behind the scenes.
A lot of the Documentary is filmed across the street from where the original Sugar Hill Studio burned down several years back, and for the most part there are no fancy camera angles or special effects used. The candor and honesty with which everyone in this film speaks is refreshing, and the stories being told is enough to keep anyone talking long after the credits have past.
I was lucky enough to not only view the Canadian premier of the film, but after a short Q&A with the Sugar Hill Gang and the Director, everyone in the audience had the privilege of seeing these true pioneers of hip-hop perform several songs for the crowd. Not only was I impressed by the presence that these guys commanded all these years later, but the reaction of the crowd to the performance. There were people in the crowd that were younger than 20 years old, and there was a lady two seats down from me who mentioned that she was 85. Just two songs into the performance half the audience was up on stage dancing and singing along and I was stuck with the thought that “black, white, red, and the brown, purple and yellow”, people of all ages where all brought together by a group that not only has meant so much for hip-hop, but for the world.
Special thanks to Julie Strifler and Samantha Carter from TIFF
Written by Alex Trifan for HipHopCanada