Curtis Fisher, better known by the stage name Grandmaster Caz, is an American rapper, songwriter and DJ.
It’s widely known that he wrote a significant portion of the lyrics for The Sugar Hill Gang’s seminal hit Rapper’s Delight, yet never received a writing credit of any kind for his contribution to the song. In 2000, Caz put forward his version of events in his own song “MC Delight”. He claims in the track that he wrote the lyrics of Big Bank Hank (Henry Jackson)’s verses, but never received any royalties or credit. Jackson himself inadvertently substantiated these claims because he had neglected to alter his verse on “Rapper’s Delight” to reflect his own stage name, and instead began his verse with the now famous refrain, “Check it out, I’m the C-A-S-A, the N-O-V-A, And the rest is F-L-Y.” Casanova Fly was however, Grandmaster Caz’s alternate moniker.
What made Grandmaster Caz special at the time was his wide array of skills and far from being just a DJ and performer, Caz was the total package – an MC that had notebooks stuffed full of lyrics as well.
Back in the 1970s, Hank Jackson agreed to manage Caz’s group, Mighty Force. Jackson then started working at a pizza place in New Jersey to help pay for some equipment for the group. Sylvia Robinson, the owner of Sugar Hill Records along with her husband Joe, discovered him rapping over a tape and subsequently asked him to be in a group she was forming. The problem was that Hank didn’t have any lyrics and so asked Caz if he could borrow some rhymes.
“So when he came to me like, ‘Yo, these people want me to make a rap,’ I said: ‘For what? You don’t rap. You ain’t no MC. Didn’t you tell them about me?’ He’s like, ‘The lady heard my tapes and she likes my voice.’ So anyway. He said, ‘I need you to write me some rhymes because we going in the studio.’ I’m not thinking nothing of it. I’m not thinking this is going anywhere. So I’m like: ‘Cool. Come over my house.’ He came to my house. I threw a bunch of rhymes on the table and said, ‘Say this, say this and say that.’ I mean, I’m not short on lyrics, never have been. When people used to be worried about people biting their rhymes, that was the least of my worries. So I was kinda nonchalant about it, I’m not thinking anything is gonna come from it. And if it did by happenstance, then all right well, hey, he comes from us, so if there’s any trickle-down, it’ll trickle down to us. Who thought it was gonna become an international hit? And as far as trying to protect myself, we didn’t know about lawyers and publishing and writers and mechanical royalties or nothing like that. We weren’t part of the music industry.”
Sugar Hill Records had sampled the music for Rapper’s Delight from Chic’s no. 1 hit record, “Good Times” without giving the group any credit. It was only after the record’s release and as a result of pressure from Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, that Sugar Hill listed the duo as co-writers and paid them. Grandmaster Caz however, wasn’t so lucky. He had handed his lyrics over to a pizza guy and instead of telling people that Caz was the real star of the track, the unknown pizza guy became “Big Bank Hank” and a legend in the world of hip hop.
Rapper’s Delight peaked at number 36 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1980, number 4 on the U.S. Hot Soul Singles chart in December 1979, number 1 on the Canadian Singles Chart in January 1980, number 1 on the Dutch Top 40 and number 3 on the UK Singles Chart. The single sold over 2 million copies in the United States, grossing $3.5 million for Sugar Hill Records and went on to become one of the highest selling 12-inch records of all time.
In our opinion Grandmaster Caz shouldn’t be too downhearted about the whole affair. Our publisher Darcus White once wrote a rap and it never even sold a single bloody copy!