The Sugarhill Gang, hip hop icons, headlining Grand Rapids African American Art & Music Festival

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The Sugarhill Gang, the legendary hip-hop group that pioneered American rap with their 1979 hit song “Rapper’s Delight,” will perform in downtown Grand Rapids this weekend as part of a free arts and music festival.

The hip hop group is one of several artists scheduled to perform at the annual Grand Rapids African American Art and Music Festival that is slated for Friday, Sept. 15 and Saturday, Sept. 16 at Rosa Parks Circle, 135 Monroe Center St., in downtown Grand Rapids.

The two-day multicultural festival, which has been around for over 30 years, will feature a wide variety of African American food vendors, music, art, and live entertainment in an effort to uplift and celebrate Black culture.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip hop this year, the festival is bringing in the iconic Sugarhill Gang to headline the event to celebrate one of the first groups to help popularize hip hop, said Lisa Knight, board chair for the Grand Rapids African American Arts and Music Festival (GRAAAMF).

“They were one of the first groups in hip hop to be on the scene and really doing rap, so I think it’s very poignant and timely that they were able to come here,” Knight said. “It took a little bit of searching and negotiating to be able to get them here for this time, so we are really, really excited that they’re going to be here in the city.”

Sugarhill Gang’s hit song, “Rapper’s Delight,” was released in 1979 and was the first rap song to break the Top 40 in the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 36 in January 1980.

The Sugarhill Gang is scheduled to take the stage at 9:15 p.m. on Friday. The group was originally founded by Michael Anthony Wright (Wonder Mike), Guy Anthony O’Brien (Master Gee) and the late Henry Lee Jackson (Big Bank Hank). Master Gee and Wonder Mike have continued to perform under the group name with other rappers. It was unclear specifically which original members would be present Friday prior to publication.

Other scheduled performers throughout the two-day festival include Lady Ace Boogie, Asamu Johnson and the Associate Blues Band, Avalon Cutts-Jones Music, Entyce, New City Kids, and a Battle of the DJs.

“We’re hoping that those streets are packed with people listening to a little bit of old school music and some hip hop, and just really be able to sit back and reflect and enjoy themselves,” Knight said.

A full list of performances is available on the Grand Rapids African American Arts and Music Festival Facebook page, linked here.

The festival runs from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday, and from noon to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The Grand Rapids African American Arts and Music Festival is one of the official opening events for ArtPrize, which kicked off on in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, Sept. 12. ArtPrize began partnering with the African American cultural festival 14 years ago in an effort to bring in more minority representation, Knight said.

Knight said the two-day festival serves as a great opportunity for people to enjoy the creativity and artistry of the Black community.

“There is resiliency and there’s beauty and there is a sense of unity and harmony in the midst of our people, and so the resilience that the African American people have to weather storm and hard time and still be able to show all the great gifts and talents that people embrace, is huge for us,” she said.

“We want people to just come and enjoy themselves and enjoy the food and enjoy the music and enjoy the dance and the art and all the things that people have to share with our community.”

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