Craig Derry

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Craig Derry
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Born (1948-03-09) March 9, 1948 (age 76)
New Rochelle
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Alma materMinnesota State University
  • Musician
  • Vocalist
  • Percussionist
  • Vocal coach

Craig Lewis Derry (born March 9th, 1948) is an American musician, vocalist, percussionist and vocal coach. His career began as a member of The Sugarhill Gang band in 1979. He sang the R&B ballad Here I Am featured on their Sugarhill Gang (album), and played the distinctive bongo beat on their 1981 hit Apache (Jump on It)|Apache (Jump On It). He accompanied The Sugar Hill Gang on their world tour in 1980.[1]

As a musician, he has worked with artists like Michael Jackson[2], Etta James, Donny Hathaway, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, The Rolling Stones, and Solomon Burke. As a vocal coach, he has trained many artists across various genres including Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Sean Kingston, Iggy Azalea, Mary J. Blige, SWV, Missy Elliott, D'Angelo, and Maxwell (musician).

Today, Craig continues to work with celebrity clients and other musicians, training musicians in Los Angeles and New York who range from emerging to established. Prior to the 2020 coronavirus epidemic in the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, Craig held a vocal class that met daily in New York City.

Life and Career

Craig was born in New Rochelle, New York as the first of five children to Lewis and Rebecca Derry, who both were hospital workers and musicians. Growing up, Craig was an all-star athlete at New Rochelle High School, excelling in basketball, football, academics, and arts. He was voted "all-around athlete" in high school but did not receive the award due to racial discrimination.

Craig attended the Minnesota State University, Mankato on an athletic scholarship alongside his younger brother Lewis from 1967-1970. Together, they formed a band called Showtime I and II and performed across Minnesota. In 2008, Showtime I and II was inducted into the Minnesota Rock Country Hall of Fame.[3]

In the 70s, Craig and his brother became involved with The Sugarhill Gang. He went on to sign a contract with Sugar Hill Records (hip hop label) to join The Sugar Hill Gang band, providing vocals and instrumentation to hits like Rapper's Delight, Apache (Jump On It)[4], and lead vocals on Here I Am[5]. Due to the R&B ballad's placement as the first song on the album, it encouraged stations who otherwise refused to play rap and hip-hop to play tracks from The Sugar Hill Gang's debut album, catalyzing the success of Rapper's Delight, the first rap song to hit the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100[6]. In a rare occasion, he performed Here I Am live for his New York City vocal class in 2010.

After many years with The Sugarhill Gang, Craig went on to sing background vocals for artists like Michael Jackson, Etta James, and Mick Jagger. He is now a vocal coach and has trained several acclaimed artists. Craig specializes in training the diaphragm, promoting vocal health, vocal stamina and what he coined as "vocal aerobics." He is credited with helping artists who have suffered vocal injuries bring their voices back, and resurrected the voice of Maxwell in 2013 before a performance in New York City. Craig is widely known as a "legendary"[7] vocal coach within the industry. He has impacted several artists in the industry. In a 2019 interview with Angie Stone, she stated Craig was the reason she moved to New York. In 2014, Anthony Hamilton (musician) expressed his love and gratitude for Craig on Twitter.[8]

In 2019, Craig went on The Alchemy Podcast and discussed his journey as a musician and vocal coach, and his work with artists like Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger.

Notable Acts [9]
As a Vocal Coach As a Performer
Alicia Keys Darius Rucker The Sugar Hill Gang
Mary J. Blige Missy Elliott Michael Jackson
D'Angelo Teddy Riley and Blackstreet Donna Summer
Iggy Azalea Mario Etta James
Sean Kingston Al B. Sure! Yoko Ono
Regina Belle Amanda Seales Bruce Springsteen
Ashanti Mario Winans Wilson Pickett
Queen Latifah Mya Mick Jagger
SWV Jay Sean Jennifer Holliday
Fabolous Tamar Braxton Yoko Ono
Willow Smith 3LW Force MDs
Marc Anthony Heavy D Kool & The Gang
Maxwell Kelis Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Anthony Hamilton Buju Banton Ultra Naté
Mack Wilds Angie Stone Billy Lawrence
Omarion Yebba Will Downing
Diggy Simmons Abigail Breslin Laura Enea
Justine Skye Mashonda Nick Scotti
Kiesza Mapei Lonnie Gordon
Kevin Lyttle Lumidee Tyler Collins
Joe Toots and The Mighty Mytals Cathy Dennis
Bibi Bourelly Mica Paris Buju Banton
Deena Cortese Force MDs Tafuri
Maite Perroni K7/TKA The Flirts
Lil Mo Fousheé Sandeé
Arrow Benjamin Hollywood Anderson Samantha Fox
RIleyy Lanez Jimmy Cozier TKA
C+C Music Factory
Level III

Personal Life

Craig resides in New York with his wife, Hope Daley-Derry. Their children, Cahleb Derry, and Tsebiyah Derry, attended Harvard University and Sarah Lawrence College respectively. Cahleb works as an executive assistant in the entertainment industry and Tsebiyah is a vocalist, actress, and poet. Both reside in New York City. Craig is devout to his spirituality and reads the bible every single day. He was a vegetarian for over ten years.


  1. "Craig Derry on Hip Hop - YouTube". Retrieved 2020-12-18.
  2. "Craig Derry". Discogs. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
  3. "MInnesota Rock Country Hall of Fame Show Scheduled for May 2-3, 2008 at the Medina Entertainment Center, Medina, MN". PRWeb. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  4. "Craig Derry | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
  5. "Craig Derry on singing "Here I Am" with The SugarHill Gang - YouTube". Retrieved 2020-12-18.
  6. Editors, History com. "The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" becomes hip-hop's first Top 40 hit". HISTORY. Retrieved 2020-12-18. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  7. "Legendary Vocal Coach Craig Derry comes to LI". Living Local 24/7. 2019-03-13. Retrieved 2020-12-18.
  8. "Twitter".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. "Craig Derry | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2020-12-16.

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