Jennifer Lopez: How the Song ‘Rapper’s Delight’ Changed Her Life

Every musician has formative moments. Often one song, musical, or album will cause a musician to fall in love with music, or at least recalibrate their sound. Jennifer Lopez had a formative musical moment which is a touch surprising looking in from the outside.

Lopez is often classified as an R&B/pop singer. That doesn’t mean she hasn’t taken inspiration from other genres. Here’s how a rap song which is arguably the first rap song, “Rapper’s Delight,” impacted Lopez.

Jennifer Lopez performing onstage | Christopher Polk/Getty Images for DirecTV

How a song recorded in one take changed the world

“Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang is a great funk and disco song. Because none of the song’s lyrics are sung, many have classified it as a rap song, and it’s often called the first rap song ever. Shockingly, NPR reports, it was recorded in a single take back in 1979.

Some music critics and historians contend “Rapper’s Delight” wasn’t the first rap song, but merely the first Top 40 rap single. Regardless “Rapper’s Delight” introduced the genre to many people, making the song incredibly important. It also had a tremendous influence on Lopez.

Jennifer Lopez on a ‘defining moment’ of her life

The full version of “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang

According to Billboard, Lopez sat down to talk about her career with Elliott Wilson on Apr. 9, 2019. They were surrounded by an intimate audience of 50 or so fans. Wilson is a music journalist who often covers hip-hop music. It made sense for him to interview Lopez due to the heavy rap influence in Lopez’s music, particularly her hits from the 2000s.

Nadine Graham of Billboard wrote “One can assume that J Lo has a special type of loyalty to hip-hop.” Rap was born in the Bronx, just like Lopez. Lopez has vivid memories of listening to “Rapper’s Delight” for the first time as an eight-year-old girl.

Lopez recalled “I was in the schoolyard and I remember getting really excited. It was a defining moment. I’d never heard anything like it, I’d never heard rap like that, to that type of music. I just fell in love with [rap], and became sort of a fanatic.” Idolator reports the Sugarhill Gang’s discography would become a major part of Lopez’s musical upbringing.

How rap – and the Sugarhill Gang in particular – influenced Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez walks the runway | Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

During the discussion, Wilson discussed the way hip-hop influenced Lopez as an artist.  “Although her business may be ‘pop’ at times, to me she embodies hip-hop – from the culture of her loving the music, from the dancing element, she embodies the Bronx. It’s still her home, her foundation.”

One can see the Sugarhill Gang’s influence on Lopez in more ways than just the rap-inspired production in some of her hits. The Sugarhill Gang may have invented rapping, but they also took plenty of influence from other genres like soul, funk, disco, and R&B. Similarly, Lopez’s music has traversed genres ranging from dance music to R&B to pop.

The Sugarhill Gang had a huge influence on rap. They’ve even influenced pop stars. All with a song recorded in one take!

Also see: How Jennifer Lopez’s Body Inspired One of the Most Popular Rap Songs