Carlito Rodriguez and Malcolm Spellman, the writers of Fox’s hugely successful music industry TV drama Empire, are on board to write a film about a woman who has been called the “Mother of Hip-Hop”—the late co-founder of Sugar Hill Records, Sylvia Robinson. Warners bought this project just as another historically based hip-hop drama, Straight Outta Compton, proved to be a big hit. That film was released by Universal after Warners turned it down.
Much of the film is devoted to the intriguing, behind-the-scenes story of how the very first rap record got released. Robinson, a savvy businesswoman who had a good ear for music production, not only introduced rap but also brought hip-hop into the mainstream.
According to Paste Magazine, “The film, which is said to be more American Hustle than musical biopic, will focus on the race to release the first hip-hop record. The Sugarhill Gang’s Robinson-produced song, Rapper’s Delight, was widely credited as the first song to thrust hip-hop into the mainstream in the late 1970s. She was also responsible for the hit, The Message, by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.”
Rodriguez and Spellman are a good match for this screenplay, not only because of their work on Empire, but because of their extensive experience in the music industry. Rodriguez previously served as editor-in-chief of the hip-hop bible, The Source. Spellman co-owns a small record label and manages singer Fantastic Negrito. This movie will be the first true collaboration between the two writers, although Spellman recommended Rodriguez for the Fox series ahead of its second season.
Former Fox Music chief Robert Kraft and Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow; Beyond the Lights) are set to produce the picture.