Sugar Hill Not Very Sweet, Says House Drummer

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Indie record labels that achieve legendary status tend to come in two flavors. The first is the scrappy upstart operation staffed with visionaries seemingly blessed with the talent to take one look at the zeitgeist and pick out acts that perfectly represent it, in the process turning them into superstars, or at least minor saints in the pop-music canon. The second is pretty much the same, except with a reputation for ripping off the talent super fucking hard.

In the oral history of hip-hop, Sugar Hill Records—the New York label responsible for the first Top 40 rap single as well as historic sides by the likes of Grandmaster Flash and Kool Moe Dee—has always been portrayed as the latter type. In an interview coinciding with the release of a new Sugar Hill retrospective set, former house drummer Keith Le Blanc has gone on record with the Village Voice about rumors the label mistreated its artists, as well as dispelling some other interesting claims, like that "White Lines" was Grandmaster Flash's inside joke about the Sugar Hill roster's party habits.

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