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BLUES CRITIC'S

Southern Soul Blog

INTERVIEWS

Southern Soul, Rhythm & Blues News And Reviews

(C) 2018. All written material found on this website is the property of Blues Critic and may only be used with permission and full accreditation (either "Blues Critic" or "Dylann DeAnna of Blues Critic") and link to this website.

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 Bigg Robb Unmasked!

BC = Blues Critic

ROBB = Bigg Robb

BC = Now you started your radio career at the age of 12?!?

ROBB: I started off with a guy named Tom Knox on this thing called Radio Workshop (WAIF 88.3) and that was 1980 . I was playing nothing but old school and when I first started my voice was like this: "Hey how you doin'? This is Sugar Daddy from Cincinnati" (Robb does a voice that's a cross between Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson) 'cuz I was a little kid. But as I got a little older and cockier I didn't know why I had to play this old stuff. And then came Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang, you know so I went off and started my own radio show.

BC = Before you became "Bigg Robb" your handle was "Sugar Daddy from Cincinnati"? Is that when you met Roger?

 Bootsy Collins  Roger Troutman

ROBB: Yeah that was in the 80s. To make my radio show more interesting I went around and interviewed people and one of those was Roger Troutman. Now before we talk about Roger I want to say the biggest influence at first was Bootsy Collins. He came to the radio station and did an interview with me at 6 in the morning and people swarmed to the radio station for this interview with Bootsy. And Bootsy came looking like you've always seen him look. Star glasses, spikes, the clothes and, dude, I was stunned! That was the moment. The defining point and I knew I wanted to be an entertainer. Whatever Bootsy does that's what I wanted to do. Be an entertainer! Then I saw Roger and once I saw Roger perform I was, like, "It's a wrap! I'm going to be up in this music thang!".

BC = Is that when you became "Bigg Robb"?

ROBB: Not yet. All the while on the radio I was Sugar Daddy from Cincinnati. The radio thang lasted from 1980 to 1987. After that I became "Robbamania" from '88 to '91 or '92 or something like that. Then I became Bigg Robb because it seemed it was too hard for people to say "Robbamania". They would say, "Hey Big guy. Big boy. Fat Robb. Ah, chubby man". So I was like alright it was easier for the people to just be Bigg Robb. Around the same time I started performing with the Zapp Band.

BC = How did that come about? How did you join the group?

ROBB: Well, you know, ever since I knew those guys I was always hanging around them. Both Roger and Bootsy recorded at a studio in Cincinnati and I found this secret spot and I was always hanging around with them. I'd do whatever, skip school, whatever it took to be around them and the music thang. After about 6 months Roger opened up his own studio in Dayton and my cousin would bring me up to Dayton so we could hang around there and we just became friends. Once I was eighteen and old enough to go on the road Roger invited me on the road with im. I was in a group called Microwave and Booty produced us but that wasn't going nowhere. Shirley Murdock had a big hit record called "As We Lay" and all the original Zapp guys went on the road to support her. So that left Roger to have to rebuild his band. I basically became Roger's personal assistant. Like his valet. That's how I really got my lessons in the studio- just being around him.

BC = When did you first record with Roger?

ROBB: First time was on "Zapp V" on a song called "I Play The Talkbox" and keep in mind back them I'm still a Hip Hop guy and all I'm thinking about was rapping. So I rapped on that record. I was with Roger from 1987 all the way to his death in 1999.

 

BC = Speaking of Hip Hop your first record, "Cheddar Cheddar" was a rap record, right? It almost seems that's been written out of your catalogue. When did it come out?

ROBB: That was '97. It was the first full thing I ever did. It's a rap record as you say so it's not something I go around and advertise in the Southern Soul market 'cuz it's a Rap record. Around the same time I did some Ice Cube remixes, Some Rebbie Jackson remixes a bunch of things. You know people do request "Cheddar" every now and then.

BC = You also remixed that Mel Waiters song "Hole In The Wall".

ROBB: Yeah, what happened was after Roger passed away we were blessed to continue on as the Zapp Band. We were doing a show in Greenwood, Mississippi and that's the first time I met Mel Waiters. I was in the dressing and wondering who was it on the stage killing 'em like that? He was the star of the show! And they said, "That's Mel Waiters" and I had never heard of him. After the show I introduced myself and he knew who I was from my work with Zapp and so I did the "Hole In The Wall" remixes and we tried to follow it up on his next album with Johnny 'Guitar' Watson's "Real Mutha For Ya"

 

BC = So when it came time for your first non-Rap record you showed the Zapp influence and brought the Funk on "Grown Folks Muzik".

ROBB: Well even back on "Cheddar Cheddar" you can hear me trying to bring the Funk. I mean it's got mini moves and handclaps. It's got voicebox on it and stuff. I'm a Funk disciple at heart you know.

BC = What was your first hit under the name "Bigg Robb"?

ROBB: The first hit to be honest is "The Bigg Woman Song". That brought on the "Bigg Woman CD" which is basically a bunch of remixes of that song.

   

BC = Up next was the Da Problem Solvas album. But, basically, this is another Bigg Robb cd.

ROBB: Right I created the group 'cuz me and Sure 2 B are making the music but I'm no singer and Sure 2 B doesn't want to sing so were like, "Alright let's go find a singer". Bigg Woo was in a little band in Toledo and they was opening up for us so we had the guys come over and audition. Bigg Woo was the most talented so me and Sure 2 B decided to write some songs and put him upfront and that's how Da Problem Solvas came about. But I kind of messed up. When I put it out I should've made it Bigg Robb & Da Problem Solvas but I was trying to have total separation. You know like Zapp & Roger. It's all Roger. Parliment and Funkadelic. it's just George Clinton but it's different vehicles.

BC = Then of course Hurricane Katrina hit and you were inspired to write a song, "Everything's Gonna Be Alight"

ROBB: Yeah we had a show in Baton Rouge six or seven days after the hurricane and we checked into the hotel and we saw all these people displaced.  The punchline of Big Robb is I wanted to be a ministry behind the music. So even when we write a song like the "Macaroni & Cheese" song the punchline of that song is "Dear Lord please forgive us" and I'm just hoping someone would hear that song and find a positive outlook rather than come in like T.D. Jakes and "Man, God is gonna burn you..!" and all those things. Instead I'm saying, "Just think about what your doing dude. That might not be the smartest thing. You know. "She Thought I Was Home..." same thing. You know I'm saying in that song I felt stupid for doing this. I'm not glorifying what's in songs like that I'm just trying to be the big brother. I'm just trying to reach them where they at instead of making a record like "Baby pull off your clothes and let's go to the motel" and just leave it there. We know people gonna go to the motel. People are going to cheat but I'm also trying to give them a positive solution to get out of what it is they do.

BC = There seemed to be an uncharacteristically long period for you between the "Southern Soul Cares" thing and "8 Tracks & 45s"

ROBB: Well we did the Special record around the same time as the Christmas record in between there. I was going to put together a group called the Brydes Of Bigg Robb but one of the girls who brought Special to me didn't want to sing no more but she wanted me to help her friend so we tried to duplicate the success we had with Da Problem Solvas with Special in the lead.

BC = Now "8 Tracks & 45s" has a retro thing going for it. But your biggest success has come in the so-called Southern Soul market. Do you find some DJs who think your music is too R & B?

ROBB: Not really the brickwall I keep running into musically is in R & B. It's a young folks market no matter what. It's about A-Kon. It's about Chris Brown. That's what the kids are listening to. So here comes Bigg Robb and it's hard to categorize Bigg Robb. I mean on the album cover he's got a big afro standing next to a record player. But what I was trying achieve as an artist was that everybody over 35 that walked into the record store would relate to the afro and say "I remember that!". Then they'd also see the record player and the title of the record and they would relate. But you know "8 Tracks" is engineered for Bigg Robb/Zapp fans. Bigg Robb fans are different from Sir Charles fans. There are a couple things on there designed for Southern Soul like "Keep On Swinging" and "I'm Ready To Party". I played the original of thatsong for Mel Waiters and he told me I should take all the Zapp effects off to make it more commercial for this market. And I'd like to say something about "8 Tracks & 45s". It's the most unheard of album out there. Never before have you had a Southern Soul/R & B artist collaborate with Rock & Roll legend  Sugarfoot of the Ohio Players, Shirley Murdock, Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band. I'm trying to take Southern Soul to the next level. That's why I'm happy to see the Simeo and Charles Wilson album covers. When I see stuff like that- keep in mind that six years ago when Bigg Robb first hit the scene folks were standing up with Polaroid pictures for their album covers. I'm not being arrogant but production has come up and people are being more daring since Bigg Robb came on the scene. You know when me and Sure 2 B sit down in the booth we aren't comparing ourselves to Ms Jody or these other artists we're trying to figure out how our record's gonna sound next to the mainstream records. You know like Quincy Jones. Bootsy. I want to be Teddy Riley. Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis you know what I mean. It needs to go to the next level if we're ever going to sell records. But if we are going to survive with this music we got to get the young people involved.

BC = Now the project, "Blues Soul & Old School" how'd that come about?

ROBB: What happened was God gave m the vision to do "Blues Soul & Old School" . The vision was it started out with a guy from Michigan named Napoleon who's been beepin' around for years looking for a record deal. I wanted to do something with him. Then Boogie urged me to listen to Pat Cooley and she asked me to write a song for her. And one day it came to me. Then I called Wade over at Gonzales and asked him what was the hottest record and he told me Carl Marshall's "Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry". I called Carl and wanted to put the song on the compilation but instead we did a remix on it. Actually we redid the whole track. So the album was coming together. I called Sir Charles and asked him to be on the remix with Da Problem Solvas after another singer totally flaked out. And we also have a track coming out on Sir Charles' next record called "Can You Shake It Mama" which is gonna be off the chain! To be honest the original idea for Da Problem Solvas was going to be Sir Charles, me and Sure 2 B but he was already signed up.

BC = You mentioned Jerry 'Boogie" Mason. He's been a big supporter of your music. Is there anyone cooler than Boogie?

ROBB: Only Bigg Robb (laughs). Yeah Boogie's my man. He's been with me for years and he's always been there. He's the kind of guy I'd call up at 3 in the morning and say "I can't go no further". And he's say "Don't give up! We got 'em surrounded on all sides. We about to breakthrough". Also let me say this without Boogie bringing Pat Cooley, Dre T to the table the record might now even be here yet.

Bigg Robb jamming with Boogie courtesy of CC Sweet

BC = On the inside tray card of the CD you have an advertisement for your next project, "Jeri Curls & Roller Skates". What can you tell us about that?

ROBB: "Jeri Curls" is gonna be interesting. I want to have something for everybody from 12-bar blues for fun like one of those "Mannish Boy" or "Hoochie Coochie Man"-type songs. I also want to go back and get some early-80s sounding rap sh** too like Newcleus or whatever. It's got to be classic Bigg Robb whatever that means (laughs). I'm just thrilled people are asking me questions about my art now. I can remember asking these same questions to others who made records. While I was asking them I never thought one day someone would be asking me so I'm really just kinda tripped on that to be totally honest with you. No matter how many interviews I do or how many times people ask me... You know "Jeri Curls" will be a party record. I want to be known as "Mr. Grown Folks" You know the guy who when you put the needle on the record or put the disc in and press play it makes you feel good.

 click on photos  

BIGG ROBB DISCOGRAPHY HERE


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(C) 2018. All written material found on this website is the property of Blues Critic and may only be used with permission and full accreditation (either "Blues Critic" or "Dylann DeAnna of Blues Critic") and link to this website.

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