Big Bank Hank (pictured) of the ’70s era hip-hop group The Sugarhill Gang has passed away at age 57, after battling cancer, according to TMZ.
Hank, whose actual name was Henry Jackson, was part of a group that is noted in rap history books as the first hip-hop act to have a hit single, “Rapper’s Delight, which debuted in 1979.
The affable larger-than-life big guy was born in the “Boogie Down Bronx,” and after graduating high school, Hank attended Bronx Community College, where he received an Associate’s degree in oceanography. Hank went from loving water to loving wrestling and managed to win several competitions in the sport but could not carve out a career in either of his loves.
Therefore, in order to make ends meet, Hank secured a job at a pizzeria. Soon Hank’s diligent work ethic was noticed by the shop’s owner, who kept him in mind when he expanded his growing business to New Jersey.
When Hank was presented with the opportunity to manage his boss’ new pizzeria location in Englewood, N.J., he jumped at the chance. Hank toiled at the pizzeria job during the day but moonlighted as a manager for the rap group Cold Crush Brothers during his spare time.
Hank was actually discovered by the late-recording industry phenom Sylvia Robinson‘s son, Joey, who happened to have stumbled upon Hank while he was just rapping some of the Cold Crush Brothers’ rhymes at his pizzeria. Joey liked what he heard and persuaded Hank to come to his mom’s studio to record someone else’s words while “Good Times” was being played. Soon Hank, who was 22 years old at the time, was asked by Robinson herself to join the hip-hop group she was forming, which also consisted of Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright (pictured far right) and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien (pictured middle).
Robinson signed all three youths to her Sugar Hill records label and the rest is history!
The Sugarhill Gang only really had one monster chart topper, “Rapper’s Delight,” and even though the group did have a few Euro hits, they were never able to secure another hip-hop mega success in the United States like their first hit.
Still, in recent years, the Sugar Hill Gang has performed with all three original members.
Hank will always be remembered for one of the most-memorable lyrical contributions in “Rapper’s Delight”:
…“Ho-tel, Mo-tel, what you gonna do today (say what)
I’m gonna get a fly girl, gonna get some spank n’ drive off in a def O.J.”
Watch the Sugarhill Gang perform “Rapper’s Delight” here:
RIP, Big Guy!
Editor’s note: This posting has been updated with the correct version of Henry Jackson’s stage name.