By Lee Cahill
I Want My Name Back tells a story that, unfortunately, has become commonplace in the music industry: artists getting ripped off by their record label. Only, in this case, it went far beyond the usual story of naïve kids signing a crooked contract after being deluded by a hefty advance. The film, instead, looks at The Sugarhill Gang today, 32 years after releasing the first international Hip-Hop sensation, “Rapper’s Delight,” and how even Hip-Hop legends aren’t immune to slimy and horrifying dealings with record companies.
20 years after The Sugarhill Gang blew up, their label Sugar Hill Records, without the knowledge or consent of the band, trademarked the name of the group as well as the members’ stage names. The label then proceeded to send lip-synching impersonators of the original members on tour, prosecute promoters who booked the real Sugar Hill Gang, and even tell reporters that the original members were deceased – identity theft to the extreme! I Want My Name Back gives us a window into the group’s struggle to reclaim not just their names, but their part in music history.
Given the current state of the recording industry, with labels becoming desperate to survive, more of these stories will likely surface, but films like this help new artists outsmart “the man” to take control of their art and their livelihood.