“C’mon Hank, sing that song.” If there was a single man whose rhyme and story pushed hip hop from its origins into the broader culture it was Big Bank Hank (Henry Jackson), who died today at 57. Rapper’s Delight, the seminal track by Sugar Hill Gang, was flawlessly constructed out of beautiful hooks, happy humor, straight truth and liquid rhymes that were memes–long before memes were a thing.
Rapper’s Delight was one of the most influential songs of all time, an ear-worming intro to a whole new world for millions of people who heard it upon release in 1979. The song remains durable, irresistible and influential. Hank, who parried in worldly style with Wonder Mike and Master Gee on Rapper’s Delight, gets credit for the famous lines “Ho-tel, mo-tel, Holiday Inn/If your girl starts acting up, then you take her friend.” Those lines alone inspired about half of every rap song that came after. But the drive of Hank’s part is penetrating and pure the whole way through. “I’m gonna rock the mic” he raps, and he sure did. “Damn, fly guy, I’m in love with you,” he sings in “that song.” And the world sure was–in love with Hank. RIP, Hank. And thanks.