*Carlito Rodriguez and Malcolm Spellman, writers on the hit Fox series “Empire,” have been tapped to pen a biopic about late Sugar Hill Records co-founder Sylvia Robinson, an influential rap pioneer and producer known as the “Mother of Hip-Hop.”
Warner Bros. bought the untitled project just weeks after the box office success of “Straight Outta Compton,” which the studio famously had declined to make.
The Robinson film, pitched as more “American Hustle” than music biopic, will focus on the race to release the first rap record, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Robinson burst onto the scene in the late 1970s with Sugarhill Gang’s hit song, “Rapper’s Delight,” which was widely credited as the first hit to push hip-hop into the mainstream. A strong female in a largely male world, she was also a driving force behind other breakthrough hits including “The Message,” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
Paula Wagner, who worked closely with the Robinson estate to secure the rights, former Fox Music chief Robert Kraft and Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan, Beyond the Lights) are producing.
Rodriguez, once editor-in-chief of hip-hop bible The Source, co-owns a small record label with Spellman and manages singer Fantastic Negrito on the side. Though this will be their first true collaboration, it was Spellman who recommended Rodriguez for the “Empire” job ahead of the series’ second season; Rodriguez had been writing on HBO’s “The Leftovers” when “Empire” premiered.