Hands up if you’re a diehard rap fan and you’ve never heard of The Sequence? I’ll be honest, I’ve been deep into hip hop for as long as I can remember and I had never heard of the South Carolina female trio until recently.
“A lot of female rappers say they’ve been there since Day One,” said legendary Queensbridge rapper Roxanne Shanté in an interview with Rolling Stone about The Sequence. “I’ve been there since the night before. And they were there before that. When it came to hearing them on the radio, they automatically let me know, OK, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. If it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be no me. And if it wasn’t for me, there wouldn’t be none of them.”
Hailing from Columbia, South Carolina, the group consisted of high school friends, Cheryl Cook aka “Cheryl The Pearl”, Gwendolyn Chisolm aka “Blondie” and their lead singer and rapper Angie Stone, aka Angie B. After an impromptu audition for Sylvia Robinson, the group was signed to Sugar Hill Records and released their single “Funk You Up” in December 1979, a few months after The Sugarhill Gang dropped “Rapper’s Delight.”
In addition to being the first rap record released by a female rap group, “Funk You Up” was also the first rap song to feature a hook, an achievement that is often attributed to Kurtis Blow’s 1980 single “The Breaks.”
“They had the first hook I had ever heard on ‘Funk You Up,’” Kurtis Blow told Literary Hub. “A lot of people give me the credit for having the first hook— ‘These are the breaks’—but no, ‘Funk You Up’ actually came before that. I have to give them their props.’”
Dr. Dre later sampled elements of “Funk You Up” for his 1995 single “Keep Their Heads Ringin’,” and the song was also used in En Vogue’s remix of “Whatever” featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard. However, due to the contract they signed with Sugar Hill Records, the trio weren’t able to reap their deserved publishing income.
Angie Stone: My thing right now is we are legends. We’ve put down generations of work that we’ve not been paid for, we’ve not been acknowledged for and that we could actually need and use right now to survive. All of us are over 50. I won’t say we’re tired because we’re not tired; we love what we do. But I will say we’re tired of being mistreated.The Sequence: The Funked-Up Legacy of Hip-Hop’s First Ladies | Rolling Stone