Jump Off – Wonder Mike – The First Recorded Emcee
Wonder if this cat realizes how many people he has affected around the
world. When Rappers Delight dropped in 1979 , not only did it usher in
rap to the masses , establish the 12 inch record as the standard format
to promote rap and change music forever. It also blew my 9 year old
mind, and along with a few other rap songs in the following years
changed my life. When we heard “hip hop hip to the hippity” it was
no doubt some other sh*t. All day long cats thought that the local disc
jockeys had recorded a spoof of “Good Times” by Chic. But when we
saw that it was official we ran to the record store with the quickness
to get a copy. This cat became my favorite Emcee for a minute, and his
was the first real autograph that I ever got. It’s an honor to tell
the story of the first Rapper that most of us outside of New York ever
heard – Wonder Mike.
It’s an honor to speak to you. What year did you start rhymin’ and
what did you hear or see that made you want to rhyme?
Mike: It was May of ’79 and my cousin came to my house with a big boom
box. Some guys were rhymin’ on a tape and I said what’s that? He
said that it was the new thing in New York. He started sayin’ some
stuff that he made up and it sounded good. I remember listening to the
tape and thinking that everyone sounded the same. I had a job moving
furniture and I started makin’ rhymes in my head. I let my cousin hear
them – he had a Dj group called Sound On Sound and I joined them about
2 weeks after I heard rap music.
: Do you remember who was on the tape that you heard?
No, I don’t.
So when Rappers Delight came out you had been rapping only a few months?
: Yep, actually 3 months. I know it’s a thorn in some guys side but I
can’t help how the fuck I grew up or where I grew up.
Wow, so you never heard King Tim the 3rd or anything like
that before your record dropped right , because they were only weeks
Right, I never heard it before our record , but we did run into them on
the road a few times after our records were out.
So contrary to popular belief you were in a crew before you met Sylvia
Robinson and so was Master Gee.
: Right. And she did put us together, but I don’t see the crime in
that. But people will always put stuff under a microscope and try to
find something to dislike. But yeah we were put together, where is the
One of the things about these stories is that people have conflicting
accounts of what happened, which is understandable after 30 plus years.
But I was wondering were you in the studio with the Furious 5 when
y’all did Showdown. Kid Creole said that you weren’t, Master Gee
said that you were.
It was the same session,and we were in the studio at the same time, but
we weren’t physically in the booth at the same time.
Ok that makes sense. In the book Yes Yes Y’all they quote you as
saying that Master Gee was in a car and passed by Hank rappin’ for
Joey in front of Crispy Crust. It also says that you were across the
street playin’ a guitar , and you saw all this go down , and then you
: Man, I don’t know where that shit came from. The guy who suggested
Good Times for the track was in Sound On Sound ; he was my Dj and his
name was Ron the Mad Master Mixer. I accompanied him to the Robinsons
house later that night , but I wasn’t around when they met at
McDonalds and Crispy Crust where Hank was workin’. I was at the house
later listenin’ to Hank & Master Gee go back and forth and Mrs
Robinson said that she was gonna use both of them. Im sittin there and
its 2 in the morning and they are finishin’ up and something told me
to speak up. I said Mrs Robinson I can rap too. She told me to rap and I
did the Hip Hop hippit thing and I talked about the dog , the furniture
and everything in the room. Then she said she would use all 3 of us.
Master Gee said that there was another guy who was supposed to be on
Rappers Delight originally , but he backed out.
Yeah Casper. He was in Sound On Sound too. He had a Donnie Simpson type
of voice. His father was an executive at Atlantic Records, and he told
him not to do the record. Hank was gonna be the only one to do it at
Mrs. Robinson had actually heard a tape of you before, but you were
under the weather or something wasn’t right with your voice?
Yeah I had bad asthma , and I was running out of breath. I was actually
mad at my dj for letting her hear that.
Master Gee says that you were goin' at it so hard that night for Mrs.
Robinson that you actually caught an asthma attack that night.
(laughs hard) Nah I don’t remember that.
That whole intro to Rappers Delight the Hip hop hippity rhyme – did
you hear anyone do that before. Because people credit it to Cowboy and
Luv Bug Starski.
I heard it within Sound On Sound. Everybody was sayin’ it like a
filler line. I thought that it sounded fly but people always cut it
short. One night we were in Patterson (NJ) and I was doin’ it , and I
just kept goin with it , and I decided to keep it. That was like my
signature way of saying it.
How about the bang bang boogie part?
That was being said in the group also. But I liked how the letter B
sounded. It sounded syncopated and percussive so that’s why I said
“baby bubba to the boogie bang bang the boogie” and all those Bs in
Yeah im glad you did. That record changed my life…..I will ask you
like I asked Gee did you write any of those rhymes specifically for
Rappers Delight , or were they just rhymes that you had already.
The intro was written for Rappers Delight. I kinda had a sense that this
was gonna be a big record , at least in the tri state area. I didn’t
wanna just come on with a story rhyme. So I used that part from an old
tv show that said “don’t
adjust your tv set this is not a test”. But of course I changed it to
“what you hear is not a test”. A few things were adlibbed like the
pass offs to each other, but everything else was just stuff we had
already. It was a crude set up in the studio – there were 3 mics right
together with no wall or anything , and we were all 3 right there next
to each other. I was on the left , Hank in the middle and Gee on the
That rhyme about going to a friends house to eat is classic – even my
10 year old daughter knows it. Was it based on something that really
It was true. It was my ex girlfriends house, and her mom made some
chicken that looked great but wow!!!
I bit into it and blood came out. I just ate the peas and
macaroni & cheese.
How did that record change your life, like money wise and everything.
In the beginning the show money was good. I remember breaking the 1000
dollar barrier at some show in New York.
That was good money at the time?
Yeah that was good for ’79 with no prior musical history.
When you toured with the funk bands they treated you like shit right?
Yeah man in San Diego we were bustin’ everybodys ass and the Bar Kays
had the lights turned off in the middle of our set. I remember once it
was us , Slave , Cameo, Zapp and Skyy and we were opening up the show.
This was 1980 and by the end of the tour we were headlining. I remember
them sayin' “they ain’t singin’ they just talking”.
At what point did you know that Hank hadn’t written his Rappers
It was concealed so well. Im a 3rd of the group and I
didn’t know until like the mid 90s.
Gee says that Hank never wrote anything after Rappers Delight.
That’s true and I thought that it was a case of him getting all of his
creative juices out in one great blast !!
I’ve heard the Cheryl The Pearl from Sequence wrote 8th
Wonder is that true.
Yes she wrote some of it. I wrote my parts and the “get up, throw down
we’re funk ward bound” part. Cheryl was a great writer and she had a
really great ear for hooks. Angie Stone & Blondie wrote some also.
How was it in the studio with Sequence
, I know you did Rappers Reprise together which is on of my
favorites…..(Mike cuts me off laughing)….what?
Wack wack wack. That’s our collective all time worst song – we hate
it. It’s like our Titanic.
The rhymes are like some corny Sesame Street shit – I hate it. We
always hated it. We used to do it in concert until Hank just didn’t
come out for that song. I asked the audience “y’all like this
song” they said no, so we said lets not do it anymore. We really hated
that and those wack ass party tracks.
Oh with the crowd noises in the background?
I think that gave the record a good party vibe. I remember on one song
– it was either the “Word is Out” or “Kick It Live” at the end
you said – “where the food at man?”
(laughs) I remember that…
What is your favorite song by the Sugarhill Gang?
8th Wonder. I think that its our funkiest. I always
complained that our records never had enough bottom (bass). In the
studio it sounded fine , but once it was mastered something was lost.
And your least favorite was Rappers Reprise?
Yeah that horseshit!!!! (laughs) man Hank hated that song !!!
Sugarhill Groove was dope !!!
Yeah we tried to use two different grooves on that record (Glide by
Pleasure and Catch A Groove) but we didn’t capture it like we wished.
Also I wish that we could have gotten a better sound on our voices –
it sounds like we are far away from the mic. It is a fun song and a real
Did you get any jealousy from your label mates? I know that some of them
have said that they were nice to you guys only because you were Mrs.
Robs favorite group.
: Yes it was unfortunate and unnecessary because I had love for
everybody. Im a middle son so im always tryin’ to make peace. Just
because we were first on the label and Mrs. Robinson had an affinity for
us everybody started hating. You could see it in everybody's eyes when
they talked to us. Sometimes it would manifest itself more than others ,
but there was always that undercurrent of resentment.
How was it touring with that Sugarhill revue – being young with a hit
: It was ok. I really didn’t like it too much because we went on last
, and by the time we came on the crowd was beat. Sometimes I would go to
the mall until it was time for us to go on because I got tired of
hearing that much rap music all the time.
What other groups on Sugarhill records did you like?
Mean Machine !!! They were crazy in the pocket. And Mr. Shick was crazy
with the Spanish rhymes!! They also did this half rap / half harmonizing
thing that was good too.
Was the track to Rappers Delight already laid down?
No I saw them lay it. They did it instrument by instrument. There was no
sampling , no loop – the bass player played for fifteen plus minutes
straight. That was Positive Force. The track was done in one day, and
the lyrics were done almost in one take. There was one retake. Its funny
Guy’s (Master Gee) first verse was like 40 bars long, and I was like
pass off !!! My intro verse was only 8 bars long. That wouldn’t fly
today , everything has to be the same amount of bars.
When did you start noticing that the money wasn’t quite right?
: We went to Europe in1980 , and when we got back we were supposed to get
some foreign royalties , but when we got back me & Guy went into the
office and they said we already paid you. It was like “where the hell
is it?” We had gotten a US royalty of like 43,000 a piece. We were
waiting for our foreign royalty because we were number one or 2 in like
16 countries. We were waiting on a fat check, but they told us that we
had been paid. That was between Rappers Delight and 8th
You guys had Hot Summer Day that was right after Rappers Delight, had
you all recorded other material at the same time as Rappers Delight, or
did you wait for Rappers Delight to see if it would blow up?
We recorded it around the same time, because they had a good feeling
that Rappers Delight would be big, and they wanted a follow up. A lot of
that stuff just wasn’t promoted at all. It was just put in the stores
like people would buy our records based on Rappers Delight. People start
to think that they are bigger than what they really are. Even Denzel
Washington goes on Jay Leno and every other show to promote his new
movies, and he is at the top of his game!!! Same thing with Tom Cruise,
Samuel Jackson or any entertainer.
Im gonna name some of your records, and I want you to tell me the first
thought or funny story associated with that song.
Delight – Wow. We were in Cleveland with the Sylvers , and during the break of
Rappers Delight me & Gee went and jumped in the crowd to stir the
girls up. Well when we went to get back on the stage, it was high as hell.
It was higher than I was, and I was 6 ft 5 at the time (Jay is buggin’).
We had to play it off and jump back on stage , our band members had to
pull us back on it was crazy.
Groove – I remember being in the studio and Hank doing his part , and
he said we’re a better combination than salt & french
fries. I always thought that was kinda fly.
– I was in the mall and when I got home Guy called me. He let me hear
this music over the phone and I said what’s that? He said its our next
hit!!! I got to the studio and heard it and it almost wrote itself. But
I remember him blasting it through my phone.
– How did your parents react to your success? – I know that you were
on American Band stand , Solid Gold , Soul Train etc….
My parents were extremely supportive ‘cus I grew up with music in the
house – jazz stuff like Cannonball Adderly , Coltrane
and the Crusaders. Then I had influence from the Beatles and rock
stuff. My mom still has copies of every chart that we were on.
Back to the songs….
: That was a difficult track ‘cus it had some good parts , then came
that corny shit again. I remember that when I listened to Furious 5s
tracks and Kurtis Blow and other New York guys their tracks just seemed
cooler. That ooonga ooonga
(chant from Apache) and Tonto shit. That was the beginning of the end
for us. Artists always wanna expand , but the label was like if it
ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Yeah I remember after Apache y’all had a lil hiatus , then came Kick
It Live and The Word Is Out but they seemed kinda dated. I think Run DMC
had just come out too during one of those singles.
Yeah everyone was saying slicker stuff , and we had those kinds of
rhymes , but they didn’t wanna record them.
Yeah I remember the day that I heard Sucker Mc’s by Run DMC. It was so
different that you could feel the changing of the guard. I wish that
Sugarhill Records would have stripped the music down like they did , cus
honestly I tried to like some of the music after ’83 but there were
too many horns and bass guitars- that was cool in 1980 and ’81.
Yeah every record had to have horns. And that damn party track (Sugarhill
Records always left a track open for crowd chants and noises usually
performed by different artists signed to the label. This track was also
referred to as the clap track).
Back to the songs….
Summer Day : That was the first song that we recorded outside of Sugarhill. We
recorded it somewhere in New York. I remember sayin “wow this shit
sounds like Lawrence Welk”. That’s not really my voice on those
records – I mean its my voice but they wanted me to sound a certain
way like “boogity woogity be bop the bippty bop” that kinda
shit. That’s not my regular speaking and rapping voice , I like my
voice better when I was with Sound On Sound.
Word Is Out – Good record. I don’t
remember recording it but it was another difficult record. The timing
was off ,almost like a jazz fusion record but it was good to open a show
with because our live show wasn’t like our records. We busted some
peoples asses during our live shows.
: Damn I don’t remember how that one went.
We party from 9-5, it doesn’t matter when you arrive, cus when you
come you’ll have some fun and kick it live….
Oh God….what a piece of crap!!!! Another over produced Sugarhill
At least they finally put some scratching in your songs….
I thought the scratching might spark the label to go in a different
direction , but of course there was no promotion.
Living In The Fast Lane – My 3rd favorite. Its 8th Wonder , Rappers Delight then Fast Lane. That was a nice jazzy record. Hank always did the most takes out of all of us, and he would get really frustrated. His voice was crazy , but his timing was off. Well me & Guy had already done our parts and Hank came in late and did his part in one take !!!! He came in serious , we gave him his part – he read it and boom!! That’s why he starts his verse with “get hip y’all”…he added that lil part - he was hyped!!!!
: That was our best produced record ever. It finally sounded like we
didn’t record in a funky little basement!! It sounded almost like a Quincy
Jones record. It sounded produced and clear with bottom and good tones to
it. Eric Thorngren engineered it. It sounded like a record , not like
some shit that somebody cheap put out to make money for themselves and
not their artists.
I heard that the Message was offered to you guys first.
Yeah when I heard it there was only Duke Bootee on it doin’ the hook.
It sounded muffled and un interesting. It was a sound that was unheard
of at the time for a rap record (the original music track to the Message
was just drums like a Last Poets record).
Do you regret not doing the Message since it became such a big hit for
Yeah ‘cus it would have given us a chance to introduce our more
natural sound. The way they made us sound on Apache would have never
worked for the Message.
We always cut 2 sets of vocals, and they would use the most sanitized,
sugar free, gelatin fuckin’ flavor and neuter it and water it down!!
Basically Furious 5 kicked our asses on that record.
Is it true that Sequence wrote y’all's parts for that?
No , I wrote that , and somewhere in a landfill are the original lyrics
that I had. Sugarhill wanted us to have an image so we had to change the
lyrics. Sometimes I felt like we were the Wayans brothers at the intro
of the show like sell outs.
: Are you part of the class action lawsuit against the label?
Yes, but I can’t talk about some things.
The ’89 remix of Rappers Delight – did you get royalties?
was a whole lp with the ’89 remix but the other songs were 10 years
old , and the cover had y’all with brown suits on. In 89 cats were
rockin baggy pants and polka dot shirts.
It was laziness. Not spending the money for new photos. Even though we
were disbanded from 85 – 94 they used some old pictures pasted
together and insulted the publics intelligence.
What did you think of The Def Squad remake of Rappers Delight?
I liked it , but I knew we wouldn’t get a dime.
You didn’t get paid from that.
Nope , nor The Wedding Singer or Kangoroo Jack.
: You gotta be kidding…..
: There was a chipmunk that came out called Fat Daddy Mack from 3 years
ago. He says my rap and my name and I see nothing from it. Missy Elliot
has a song right now where she uses Apache. Not something where there is
a question of whether its Apache , but the whole record. We see nothing.
Lil Kim has used my words….how ever anyone has used our stuff EVER we
have NEVER seen a dime.
What about the Dr Dolittle Soundtrack. You actually performed a song on
Yeah we got paid for the session , but there should be a performance
royalty , but …nope….
Damn……..how was Soul Train and American bandstand.
It was cool we flew out to L.A. for 2 days with a lady named Raye
Alexander. We did Soul Train and American Bandstand one day and Solid
Gold the next. Dick Clark was cool….very accommodating and Don
Corneleuis was very cool also.
Do you have any regrets?
:Im cool with the history and signifigance. I’ve learned to take the
good with the bad , and you cant change history. People will dislike you
for no reason, they say we are fake or whatever…Fuck ‘em.
We really kicked the damn door in for Hip Hop. All these r&b
guys were dissin’ us and we flipped it and were headliners.
Did you continue to keep up with rap music over the years.
No. I was into so many different kinds of music. Jazz, Rock , Country ,
Jazz Fusion. So when rap went left field I didn’t follow it. Im 48
years old so I grew up looking at Black people protest and get beat by
the cops. We watched this on the news. I watched Chuck Scarborough, this
shit is everyday getting fire hoses and dogs put on us for nothin’. Now we talk about killin’ each other.
What’s so glorious about that. Right now the Ku Klux Klan has nothing
to do. They are the most bored organization in the world.
The stuff on the inside of your first lp, was it true or just stuff that
the label wrote? Like it said that you were a born again Christian who
enjoyed painting reading the Bible, sketching and writing poetry.
Yeah that was true.
I will never forget , you wrote “to Jermain best wishes , Jesus loves
you” on my autograph.
Yes, I will always write that. I don’t have the best or cleanest
language – I ain't perfect , but it remains true.
My last question – in 94 you guys did a song called “Boyz From The
Hill” with Sugarhill again. Master Gee rejoined you for that song. How
did that song come about?
Angie Stone called me and said that Joey and Hank were doin’ shows as
the Sugarhill Gang, so I went to find out what was happening. I started
touring with them until April of last year when I just left.
for your time Bro…..
2006 JayQuan Dot Com
told to JayQuan Febuary 2006
No part may be reproduced without authors consent.
SPECIAL THANKS TO MY MAN BLAKSMIF !!!
SPECIAL THANKS TO MY MAN BLAKSMIF !!!