Sugarhill Gang Rapper Big Bank Hank Dies at 57

11/11/2014 7:35 AM PST

Sugarhill Gang's Big Bank Hank Dies -- Dead at 57 from Cancer

Big Bank Hank -- the Sugarhill Gang rapper best known as "the grandmaster with 3 MCs that shock the house for the young ladies" -- died early Tuesday morning ... TMZ has learned.

Hank -- born Henry Jackson -- had been suffering from cancer. We're told he passed away in the greater NYC area around 2 AM. Hank was one third of the famous Sugarhill Gang ... which had the first mainstream rap hit "Rappers Delight" in 1979.

His group mates Wonder Mike and Master Gee told TMZ ... "So sad to hear of our brother's passing. Rest in peace Big Bank." 

Hank was 57 years old.