Joshua Ostroff, AOL
The '80s hip-hop legend no longer performs with his one-time partner DJ E-Z Rock, but Rob Base was part of a stellar old-school hip-hop bill that included a surprisingly fantastic Sugarhill Gang, expectedly fierce Naughty by Nature and a well-fed Young MC. It was also on the eve of a new anthology compilation by Profile Records, the legendary rap label whose very first release was Rob Base's stone-cold classic 'It Takes Two.'
So in the labyrinthine backrooms-turned-greenrooms of the R.O.M., Rob Base and his dynamite singer-slash-hypeman Kyle Rifkin sit down for an interview to reminisce about parties in the park, their undying hits and how Base himself and DJ E-Z Rock changed hip-hop forever.
Your music was considered poppy at the time, but R&B choruses are all over rap now. How do you view your place in hip-hop history?
Rob Base: Well, I know definitely I was one of the first artists to do the hip-hop and R&B thing. When we did it, I just wanted to do something different. I didn't want to do the same thing that the other groups were doing at the time. So we just did it that way and I really didn't care what people said. There were a few groups that were saying, "Oh, you're selling out. You're this, you're that." And I look at them now and they can't even get one show -- so hey, what the heck, I'm happy.
Pop rappers like MC Hammer sold a lot of records back then, but got no respect. Whereas 'It Takes Two' and 'Joy and Pain,' those are pretty raw for pop songs. It's almost surprising they got on the radio.
RB: Me myself, I was a street rapper in the beginning. I used to do more of the hardcore thing. But then when I started doing records, the label that I was dealing with [Profile Records], they really didn't want the hardcore stuff so we just tried to smooth it out. The people from the streets, they know where I come from and they know what I do, so that's how I keep the love right there.
Was it hard to change your direction for the label?
RB: Not really, because there really weren't that much hardcore rap records out at the time anyway. Most people just looked at it as a different style of hip-hop.
Kyle Rifkin: When he came out with that stuff, there was nothing that people wanted you to be like. They just wanted you to be something. Anyone that said he was not doing the right thing, the justice of it is that it didn't make sense then, but it makes sense now. Twenty years later, that song plays and is in stores as if it just came out.
The world is so different now with the game -- now, you tell people what's hot, you tell people to go left and go right. Back then you just did it, and people followed because there was nothing else for them to follow. So they just felt like it was so genuine, they respected it.
It must be fascinating to have watched hip-hop become so big.
RB: It's great. Coming from doing parties in the park, rocking parties with Biz Markie and Doug E. Fresh and those guys -- before the records. None of us even really had records at the time, and to see what hip-hop came to today is unbelievable.
'It Takes Two' has outlived most of the music of its era. What's so special about that song?
RB: I can't even tell you, to be honest. All I know is it's a club banger. You throw it on in a party, everybody dances. That's all I can say.