Columbia, SC – In the late 1970s, as young Angela “Angie B” Stone, Cheryl “The Pearl” Cook, and Gwendolyn “Blondy” Chisolm came up in Columbia, SC’s Saxon Homes Projects, rap was hardly even a thing in what was then a sleepy southern city. But in far off New York City, the sounds that would come to define a billion dollar global industry were beginning to filter down to those who were ready to hear. When the first wave hit South Carolina radio stations in the form of the Sugarhill Gang’s hit “Rapper’s Delight,” three young C.A. Johnson High School cheerleaders discovered an art form that would become their ultimate claim to fame.
Transforming their original cheers into early versions of rap and practicing their craft at Cheryl’s grandmother’s house, the girls soon hit their big break. When the Sugarhill Gang came to Columbia’s Township Auditorium, the young ladies sweet-talked their way backstage where they bumped into Sugar Hill Records owner Sylvia Robinson. Performing a few songs and charming Robinson with their talent, they heard the words every music artist dreams of: “That’s a hit.”
Finding themselves on a plane to New York, the trio was soon cutting records. The next two years were spent touring, recording, and traveling alongside the Sugarhill Gang and thriving in New York’s bustling hip-hop community. Establishing themselves as the first female rap group with their 1979 smash hit “Funk You Up,” the trio now known as “The Sequence” made a name for themselves alongside legends like Grandmaster Flash, Kool Moe Dee, and Kurtis Blow.
Pioneers in unchartered territory, The Sequence achieved artistic success most only imagine. While over the years, their work was sampled or invoked by artists like En Vogue, Ice Cube, Flavor Flav, De La Soul, and Dr. Dre, much of their success as a group was lost to history. It’s only recently that their name has re-emerged in popular culture. In March 2017, Rolling Stone magazine released a feature called “The Sequence: The Funked-Up Legacy of Hip-Hop’s First Ladies,” returning the group to the national spotlight.
In the almost 40 years since The Sequence’s landmark single, the music scene in their hometown of Columbia, SC has undergone a slow transformation. While Southern-based hip-hop was once a non-entity, subsequent generations of musicians have planted their roots deep in southern soil. In Columbia, there now exists an annual festival dedicated to the genre called Love, Peace & Hip-Hop. Featuring performances by national artists like this year’s headliner MC Lyte and elements of hip-hop culture such as graffiti, b-boys, emcees, and DJs, this free, family-friendly festival draws close to 15,000 fans to Columbia’s downtown for a four-day ode to hip-hop.
Recognizing the importance of their contribution and the parallels to his own experience as a hip-hop artist, Love, Peace & Hip-Hop founder FatRat Da Czar felt it was critical to honor the members of The Sequence in their own hometown. Particularly given this year’s festival theme of All Hail the Queens featuring an all-female lineup and a focus on women’s empowerment, the timing was right:
“Without a doubt, The Sequence pioneered women in hip-hop music, and the fact that they are natives of Columbia cements our city’s place in hip-hop history,” said Czar. “Artists such as myself have built careers on the foundation they laid, and if we expect The Sequence to get the worldwide recognition they deserve, it has to begin with us.”
Dedicating an evening of the festival to honoring The Sequence at the “Love, Peace & Hip-Hop Honors,” Czar has invited the trio to return home. To celebrate their homecoming as well as their four decades of hip-hop history, FatRat Da Czar, Columbia’s Mayor Steve Benjamin, and other local luminaries will look back at the group’s contributions to the genre as well as the long and lasting legacy of women in hip-hop.