Movie spotlight: 'I Want My Name Back'

JAY BOLLER | Updated 8/17/2012

Sugarhill Gang in "I Want My Name Back"

When Sylvia Robinson died last fall, her New York Times obit lauded the "mother of hip-hop" for making the Sugarhill Gang the first commercially successful rap act during the late '70s. That remembrance, and many like it, glossed over the fact that Robinson's Sugar Hill Records (co-owned/operated by her husband, Joe) swindled the "Rapper's Delight" hitmakers out of almost everything -- including their names. "I Want My Name Back" follows original Sugarhill Gang members Master Gee and Wonder Mike as they fight the Robinsons' son, Joe Jr., over royalties, identities (he copyrighted the band's name and their stage names) and their hip-hop legacies. The story is engrossing, with Gee's and Mike's contemporary touring version of SHG at odds with the Robinson-endorsed version with Big Bank Hank, the third original member. But the documentary feels long at 93 minutes and its production value -- limited to shaky interviews, stock footage and PowerPoint transitions -- is nothing special. Director Roger Paradiso leans heavily on interviews with Gee, Mike and their lawyers; it's the right agenda, but it feels like sour grapes, not fly-on-the-wall storytelling. In all, an above-average music doc that won't rivet non-hip-hop lovers.