All their mother wanted was to keep them off the streets. The Scroggins sisters came of age in a South Bronx eviscerated by Robert Moses’ Cross Bronx Expressway– a neighborhood carved up by projects and abandoned by government. Their mother bought them instruments in the hope that her girls might devote themselves to music and stay out of trouble. And they did. Her deal with them stipulated they had to give her a performance every week, and the band the teenaged sisters formed (with occasional minor assistance from a few neighborhood guys) became ESG. The “E” and “S” stand for emerald and sapphire, the birthstones of Valerie and Renee Scroggins. The “G” is for gold, which is what they wanted their records to be certified.
The gold records never came, but something even more unexpected did: The band developed a sound unlike any other and quite by accident became a major influence on hip-hop, dance music, and dance-punk, fitting right in with New York City’s arty downtown scene and the UK’s vibrant post-punk explosion. Their 1981 debut EP, recorded by Martin Hannett after the band was discovered at a talent show by 99 Records founder Ed Bahlman, is among the most sampled records around– “UFO” alone as been reused several dozen times, by Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, N.W.A., Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, Liars, DJ Qbert, DJ Shadow, Girl Talk, and Nine Inch Nails.