Filed under: Harlem Nights,Interviews,The 90's Files,Uptown Kicking It,Video Clips
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
When I caught Black Rob on a patchy phone line this evening, he was in the studio recording new material for Life Story 2, and as a result was only able to spare ten minutes. Nevertheless, I was able to fill in a couple of the blanks in regards to his history in the rap game and future plans.
Robbie: How old were you when you started rhyming?
Black Rob: About eleven? Twelve? Around that time. What inspired me was what was going on around me – the music! When I heard that, I wanted to be in.
Did you have a group back then or were you always a soloist?
I was in a rap group when I was like 22, 23. We was called Schizophrenics. It was me, my man Alto and my man Godzilla.
Did you make any demos?
Nah, we didn’t do nothin’. We made music together, we rhymed together, and when it was time to go, people didn’t really recognize them. They only recognized me, because I always had that flavor, I always had that look like I was ‘sposed to be there. People overlooked them, but it ain’t matter because they all had lives before rap. My man’s a doctor, and my other man’s the head of security for a top firm out in Los Angeles, so everybody made out good.
What was your first MC name?
Back then they used to call me Bacardi Rob.
Tragedy mentioned that you guys were in jail together in the 80’s?
For sure. Elmira, 1987-1989. No doubt. We used to kick rhymes in the armory. I just wanted to see what he knew, ‘cos he was already signed and making records, man. So I approached him like, “Yo, come check this out!”. Had his ear for a minute. He knows what time it is, even back then I was ready to go! I parlayed all through the 90’s to 2000. Trag know, he up there with me. It’s all good.
What was the story with “The Smoothness”, which you recorded with The Automator?
That was for an album back in the 90’s. I don’t recall the name of the album, but that was one of the tracks that Dan had brought forth to me. I did a couple of records for Dan The Automator, probably at least six or seven if I’m not mistaken. Dan’s a good friend of mine, I just want to say congratulations on all that success from that time. I still keep in touch with him to this day.
My favorite unreleased song of yours would have to be “Questions and Answers” with Charlemagne. What can you tell me about that track?
Oh man, that was during the Bad Boy era. I think he was dealing with Puffy and them at the time. The record was an afterthought until he brought the beat to me. I saw what kind of beat it was and that’s when I really tried to get down to it. But as a lot of stuff at Bad Boy, it just fell apart. He disappeared, I was in jail – I don’t know what it was, but the record just slid under the rug after that, man. But it’s always a classic in my tape deck when I wanna listen to it on the low. The beat is bananas! It’s something that I feel today, for sure.
Is there really a version of “Fire In The Hole” with Busta?
Yeah, there’s a version of “Fire In The Hole” with Busta Rhymes that never came out. Shit, we might just throw it out there on the mixtape. Why Busta wanna act all funny? Zulu, gruff-ass nigga!
What can we expect from Life Story 2?
You can expect classic material, man. When you hear it you’re gonna have to flashback to part 1, like, “Oh my god! He hasn’t lost a step”. It’s so fluid now. You’re gonna hear the streets, you’re gonna hear that Grown Man swag. That’s basically what I’m bringin’ to the table now, I am grown now. When I did Life Story 1 I was still a kid, understand? Now ten, seventeen years later, I know I can still produce and put that hit forth. It’s nothing! We got a mixtape coming out now, it’s called Genuine Article. We’re putting that out March 9 – that’s the anniversary of Biggie’s life. I also want the people to know I’ve got my own label deal with Universal. The name of my label is Box And One – remember that. That’s a defense that you play in basketball when you want to lock-down certain players or certain people in the game so they don’t never score again, the coach gonna tell you, “Play the Box and One”. It shuts everything down. No Duck Down, no Bad Boy – this is just Black Rob, baby.
What is about Harlem MC’s that makes them stand-out?
What makes the Harlem thing stand-out is because it has that pick-me-up kinda sound. It’s like, “Oh, it’s gotta a little flavor. I could dance to this”. You’re gonna talk about a little bit of money, a little bit of drugs. Harlem got that formula that’s been going on forever. It don’t even matter what rapper coming out of Harlem, he’s gonna talk about something flashy. We were the flashiest. Harlem’s definitely known for the flashiest motherfuckers, for sure. I was sayin’ that on wax, years ago. Niggas know. Right now, everyone wants to be flashy, so you’ve gotta know someone’s resume to just put ‘em right there in Harlem. Everybody’s trying to sound the same anyway. It’s funny, man.
Black Rob – “The Smoothness”
Black Rob – “Questions & Answers”
Black Rob – “Live From The East Side”
Black Rob – “Woah!” [Easy Mo Bee Remix]
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