Big Bank Hank, one of the founding members of iconic 1980s hip hop group The Sugarhill Gang, died early Tuesday morning after a battle with cancer. He was 57.
The news was first reported by music blog InFlexWeTrust.com. TMZ reported that the rapper — born Henry Jackson on Aug. 5, 1957, in the Bronx — died at about 2 a.m. Tuesday in the greater New York City area.
“So sad to hear of our brother’s passing,” wrote fellow group members Wonder Mike and Master Gee in a statement to TMZ.
Hank’s Sugarhill Gang, which was named after the Sugar Hill neighborood in Manhattan, made music history in 1979 when their single “Rapper’s Delight” became the first hip hop track to be listed in the Top 40 charts in the United States.
The track is widely considered to be the first song to popularize hip hop. Rolling Stone ranked it No. 248 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and it came in at No. 2 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs.
Hank, known in his songs as “the grandmaster with 3 MCs that shock the house for the young ladies,” rapped in his verses about competing with Superman for Lois Lane.
The Sugarhill Gang, a seminal hip group in music history, had five studio albums including their 1980 self-titled record. The group released its last one, “Jump on It!,” a hip hop children’s album, in 1999.