Black Rob’s story is all too familiar in hip-hop: an MC works his way up to the top- in this case two records with Bad Boy- experiences great financial success, then makes a misstep that ends with incarceration and a forced sabbatical. Fans have proven willing to embrace these artists upon their return, however, and Black Rob is hoping for a similar reception. This time, though, he’s out from the Bad Boy umbrella, releasing Game Tested, Streets Approved on Buckshot’s Duck Down Music. Prefix talked with Black Rob as he entered the final publicity push for the record. Rather than spouting a rehearsed piece crafted by a publicist, Black Rob was candid about his craft, the sometimes short memory of the music business, and what’s riding on this album.
What are your feelings now that this is ready to come out?
Most of all, I’m excited. It’s been a long time coming. I just want people to know that my roll is still sharp and I can put the work in. That’s important to me.
Was there ever a time when you thought you might never have the chance?
Of course man- when I finished working out the situation with the incarceration and all, and I finally got out I thought it was over. I had a feeling like a drug user who wants to just go on one final binge and end it. But even when I first went in, I had people who were there to hold me down. They came to me and let me know that things were being handled in my absence, that Facebook was going, MySpace was going. I was up there doing records over the phone. The same rhymes I was doing then are the ones you’re hearing now on this record. Without that support, I wouldn’t be in the position that I am now.
How did you make the decision to switch to Duck Down Records?
I hooked up with them through a friend of mine, the producer Coptic. He worked at Bad Boy for a long time, and we had relationship that started all the way back then. He knows who I am and the people at Duck Down, and he brought them my stuff. They were excited and wanted to put out this record. Duck Down believed in what I had to say, and wanted to work with me, so here I am.
Did the deal happen before or after you made some demos?
We just brought up a whole bunch of shit. I showed it to them, and told them this was what I had been doing since I got out. They was like “Wow. Let’s do this. Let’s get this thing off the ground.” I sometimes feel like I was a little bit ahead of my time, because I listen to the music I was making four years ago and it sounds like it should be out right now. Everything I’m talking about in there is what I’m talking about right now.
How did you start to write material for the album?
This wasn’t even an album. I’m going to put it to you like that. This right here was a mix tape situation. I was supposed to do a series of mix tapes, and then it ended up moving away from that and becoming an album, which is fine. I’m okay with that. This shit is good money right here.
Tell me a little bit about “Welcome Back,” which is the lead track on the record. Why did you decide to go with that one?
I didn’t decide to go with anything. That was my manager. He decided that it was a hot record. I really wanted to change it up. I wanted to do something, but it was just too late. We had to get the album ready and put it out. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t even have that record on the motherfucking joint.
What are your thoughts behind that?
I think it’s a hot record, but it’s just not one for an album. I don’t know how anybody else feels, but that’s my thought. It’s more something you just throw out to the DJ and have him play. Now every other record on there is supposed to be on there.
What about “Can’t Make in NY”? That seems to be a standout.
That was one of those tracks where I see a lot of dudes moving away from the city and going other places to get their music thing poppin’, and it never works for them. Plus, that song goes directly at you know who. I ain’t going to say the name. You feel me?
I got you.
At one point dudes felt like I wasn’t a man. Have you ever seen Scarface?
I’ve seen the movie Scarface.
Okay. Remember when Tony had the situation where they go out and fuck with the shit, and Frank was like “Yo. Where’s my shit?” And Tony tells him that he’s gonna hit the streets and get that money back for him. He tells him that no matter what happened, he’s still with him. He has his back. He’s out on the street and it’s a million here and a million there, and then it’s all good. That’s the way I felt when I made that record, because dudes was doubtin’. I felt that way about Bad Boy. They were my family, and I was going to go out and make that money for them. Again. But that’s not how it worked out.
What’s next for Black Rob?
I just want to make music and get rich again. I feel like I owe a lot of people a lot of shit. Like Pookie. There are people that were there for me during my career and then during my darkest hours. I want them to see that what they did didn’t go unnoticed. I’m not one of these guys who gets back on his feet and then says “Fuck ‘em.” Black Rob wants to take care of a lot of people with this album. Other than that, you can’t really say.