Paula Wagner Grabs Film Rights to Mother of Hip-Hop’s Life Story

Paula Wagner Sylvia Robinson hip hop
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Producer Paula Wagner has acquired the film rights to the life story of Sylvia Robinson, the founder of Sugar Hill Records, with an eye toward producing a biopic about the hip-hop pioneer.

Joey Robinson, Sylvia’s son, will executive produce, while music exec Robert Kraft is on board to co-produce. Grandmaster Melle Mel — of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, whose tune “The Message” was produced by Robinson and released by her label — will serve as consultant to Joey Robinson.

The film will chart Sylvia Robinson’s life and career, which stretches from her time as one half of the duo Mickey and Sylvia (best known for 1957 hit “Love Is Strange”) to her time as a producer-writer (The Moments’ “Love on a Two Way Street”), solo artist (“Pillow Talk”) and record label founder. Robinson and her husband, Joe, started R&B label All Platinum in the 1970s and then in 1979 launched Sugar Hill Records, credited with popularizing hip-hop via songs including “The Message” and the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.”

The movie will include the Sugar Hill music of the era, which is owned by Robinson’s family and administered by Universal Music Group.

Wagner (“Mission: Impossible,” “The Last Samurai”), whose current film projects in development also include WWII tale “Moon Flower of the Flying Tigers,” has become an active Broadway producer lately with recent credits such as “The Heiress,” “Grace,” and the brewing musical adaptation of “Pretty Woman.” In a deal negotiated by Kenneth Kleinberg of Kleinberg Lange Cuddy and Carlo, Wagner acquired the rights to Robinson’s life story directly from Joey Robinson, who is the administrator of the Sylvia Robinson Estate.

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  1. Tracey melvin says:

    Kudos Joey on memorializing your mom. I miss her a lot. Lots of wonderful memories as a former sugar hill employee. Love and luck in all your future endevours. Sincerely Tracey Melvin.

  2. It’s about time that someone did a story on Mrs. Robinson. The Robinson family is the first Black family to create a record company and hold on to product and rights so that the surviving family members maintain rights and ownership to all product. You go Joey.

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