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The Life Story of the “Mother of Hip Hop” (Sylvia Robinson) Optioned by Producer Paula Wagner

The Life Story of the "Mother of Hip Hop" (Sylvia Robinson) Optioned by Producer Paula Wagner

Sylvia Robinson, a singer, songwriter and record producer, who formed the pioneering hip-hop group Sugarhill Gang and made the first commercially successful rap recording with them, died at 75 years old, in September 2011, of congestive heart failure, after being in a coma.

She built a successful career as an R&B singer before she and her husband, Joe Robinson, formed Sugar Hill Records in the 1970’s, and went on to nurse a musical genre that came to dominate mainstream music. 

In the late 1960s, Ms. Robinson became one of the few women to produce records in any genre when she and her husband founded All Platinum Records. She played an important role in the development of the group The Moments, producing their 1970 hit single “Love on a Two-Way Street.” But her greatest achievement was her decision in 1979 to produce a recording in what was then a considered a new musical art form known as rapping, masterminding the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” the first hip-hop single to become a commercial hit. 

Some call her “the mother of hip-hop.” 

“Rapper’s Delight” sold more than 8 million copies, reached No. 4 on the R&B charts and No. 36 on Billboard’s Hot 100, opening the gates for other hip-hop artists. Ms. Robinson would later sign Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and in 1982 she produced their seminal song, “The Message.” 

Born Sylvia Vanderpool in New York City in 1936, Ms. Robinson made her recording debut at 14, singing blues on Columbia Records, while she was still a high school student in NYC. She went on to make several other blues recordings for the label. In 1964, she married Joseph Robinson (who died of cancer in 2000), a musician, and settled in Englewood, NJ, where the couple opened an eight-track recording studio called Soul Sound, and established the All Platinum label.

Announced via press release, producer Paula Wagner has acquired the film rights to Sylvia Robinson’s life story, with plans to produce a biopic on the hip-hop pioneer. Sylvia’s son, Joey Robinson (administrator of the Sylvia Robinson Estate), will executive produce, while music executive Robert Kraft with co-produce.

Grandmaster Melle Mel will serve as consultant to Joey Robinson.

The film is expected to cover much of her life and professional career, and will include music from the era during which she made her mark – especially those she was responsible for. 

Producer Paula Wagner’s resume comprises of mostly Tom Cruise projects, including the “Mission: Impossible” franchise of films, “Vanilla Sky,” and “War of the Worlds,” to name a few.

No casting possibilities announced yet. But feel free to speculate…

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