Film / TVMusic

sylvia robinson, ‘mother of hip-hop,’ getting a biopic

October 5, 2018

Sylvia Robinson became a mother of a sort in a Harlem club in the late 70s. As she sat listening to DJ Starski yelling in spoken rhythmic rhymes to the crowd, she said to her husband, “The spirit has touched me,” describing the feeling that ultimately unleashed a sound which would unseat Rock and Roll as the world’s most influential musical culture. That night, Robinson set on a path to become the “Mother of Hip-Hop”; and now, according to Deadline, Dear White People creator Justin Simien is set to direct the film adaptation of her life.

In 1979, Robinson recorded and produced Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight” for her own Sugar Hill Records, giving the world its first rap hit. Simien, an award-winning writer/director will bring the story to life with a script written by Tracy Oliver, Malcolm Spellman, and Carlito Rodriguez. Marshall producer Paul Wagner obtained the rights to Robinson’s story five years ago from her son Joey Robinson. Another of Sylvia’s sons, Leland, will serve as one of the executive producers. Sylvia Robinson passed away in 2011.

Robinson’s success dates back to 1957, when the singing duo she was a part of, Mickey & Sylvia, hit No.1 on the R&B chart, with “Love Is Strange.”  In 1966 she launched the soul-centric All Platinum Records with husband Joe Robinson, eventually started Sugar Hill in 1979. There she signed numerous rap pioneers, including Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Funky 4 +1 (“That’s the Joint”) and the Treacherous Three (which featured future platinum rapper Kool Moe Dee). Like any musical figurehead, Robinson’s legacy is also mired by controversy related to her claiming the copyrights and credits of her artist’s works. “The music business in the late 70’s was corrupt and male-dominated,” says Wagner and Robinson built her legacy in that world so this biopic is could serve as an opportunity explore the mogul in her entirety.

Simien’s evocative yet self-contained style will bring life to a pivotal and layered figure whose journey weaves out of the death of disco and into the birth of hip-hop. Nicki may have coined the phrase “All these bitches is my sons”, but Robinson might be the only figure who can say that truthfully, so we’re ready to see all of that unfold on screen.