Dear White People creator Justin Simien has been tapped to direct the biopic on the “Mother of Hip-Hop,” Sylvia Robinson.
The project has been in the works since 2014, and the last news we heard about this was in 2016 when Empire writers Carlito Rodriguez (also once editor-in-chief of The Source and writer for HBO’s The Leftovers) and Malcolm Spellman (HBO’s planned series Confederate) were tapped to write the script.
With this week’s news of Simien helming the project, Girls Trip writer and helmer of Paramount Network’s First Wives Club, Tracy Y. Oliver, has been added as a writer. She’ll also be an EP. The film is set up at Warner Bros. with Paula Wagner, music executive Robert Kraft and Stephanie Allain producing. Allain, who produced Dear White People the feature film and also produces the series, is said to have brought in Simien.
Sylvia Robinson, the late co-founder of Sugar Hill Records, was a singer, songwriter and record producer, who formed the pioneering hip-hop group The Sugarhill Gang and made the first commercially successful rap recording with them. She died at 75 in September 2011 of congestive heart failure after being in a coma.
She built a successful career as an R&B singer before she and her husband, Joe Robinson, formed Sugar Hill Records in the 1970s and went on to nurse a musical genre that came to dominate the mainstream.
In the late 1960s, Robinson became one of the few women to produce records in any genre when she and her husband founded All Platinum Records. She played an important role in the development of the group The Moments, producing their 1970 hit single “Love on a Two-Way Street.” But, her greatest achievement was her decision in 1979 to produce a recording in what was then a considered a new musical art form known as rapping. She masterminded the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” the first hip-hop single to become a commercial hit.
Born Sylvia Vanderpool in New York City in 1936, Ms. Robinson made her recording debut at 14, singing blues on Columbia Records while she was still a high school student in NYC. She made several other blues recordings for the label. In 1964, she married Joseph Robinson (who died of cancer in 2000), a musician, and settled in Englewood, New Jersey, where the couple opened an eight-track recording studio called Soul Sound and established the All Platinum label. Over the years, she produced for the likes of Ike and Tina Turner, Diddy, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and more.
No casting news is available yet.
Deadline first reported the news of Simen’s attachment to the project.