“King Tim III (Personality Jock)” is the First Commercially Released Hip Hop Song

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The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” is often cited as the first commercially released hip hop song, it was actually beaten out by the Fatback Band’s “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” which was released a few months earlier.

Officially, “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” dropped March 25, 1979 and “Rapper’s Delight” on “September 16, 1979.” However, the latter record gets most of the attention because it was way more successful on the charts.

Interpolating Chic’s “Good Times”, the Sylvia Robinson-produced record is credited as the song that introduce rapping to a wider audience, and was a lot people’s first experience of hip hop music. “Rapper’s Delight” peaked at number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first hip hop top 40 record.

“King Tim III (Personality Jock)”, while not as commercially successful (it peaked at number 26 on the R&B chart), remains just as important to the culture. The record marked the beginning of a new era; no longer was hip hop music confined to local park jams and block parties, it was now on wax ready to be distributed to the rest of the world.

Bill “Fatback” Curtis: I had this one tune in there which was kind of like an instrumental called ‘Catch the Beat.’ I said, ‘Jerry, let’s do a rap.’ First thing Jerry said, ‘Can’t nobody in the band rap. What do you mean, let’s do a rap?’ In the meantime, one of the roadies was in the studio with me and heard me say that. He said, ‘I have a friend that lives in the projects that can rap.’ I said, ‘Yeah, bring him in tomorrow night.’ And he brought in Timothy Washington. That’s his name. He brought Timothy in and I said, ‘Go in the studio and start rapping.’ And he went in there and laid it down in two shots. Bang! Then we changed his name to King Tim III.

The first rap record didn’t come from the Sugarhill Gang. It came from Fayetteville’s Bill Curtis and his Fatback Band | The Fayetteville Observer
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