Daddy B. Nice's #45 ranked Southern Soul Artist
"Good Lovin' Will Make U Cry (Remix)"
Composed by Carl Marshall, Robert "Bigg Robb" Smith, & Bart "Sure 2 B" Thomas
February 1, 2014: NEW ARTIST GUIDE ALERT!
Bigg Robb is now the #10-ranking Southern Soul artist on Daddy B. Nice's new 21st Century Top 100 Countdown.
See the chart, which encompasses a fifteen-year period in southern soul music.
Go to Daddy B. Nice's new 21st-Century Artist Guide to Bigg Robb.
See "Tidbits" below for the latest updates and commentary on Bigg Robb, including a spirited exchange between Robb and Daddy B.
To automatically link to Bigg Robb's charted radio singles, awards, CD's and other references, go to "Bigg Robb" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.
Daddy B. Nice's Original Critique
I came across Bigg Robb on the pre-YouTube Internet long before I heard his songs, which is not the way to fall in love with someone's music. I must have sampled some of the funk Robb was into pretty exclusively at the time (this was the early years of the new century), and dismissed it as of little relevance to the Southern Soul scene. And, having checked this potential Southern Soul guy out--somebody I maybe should have known about but didn't--I waved good-bye to the Internet Bigg Robb with the vague feeling I'd done my duty.
Bigg Robb was never played on the core Southern Soul stations of central Mississippi and bordering regions in those days. In fact, I think I first heard an actual Bigg Robb song (which one I can't remember) on a Mobile, Alabama radio station, and when I did it only confirmed my conviction of Bigg Robb's other-than-Southern-Soulness, because Mobile had always been a particularly Southern Soul-resistant market: they loved their funk.
Then, when Bigg Robb's remix of Mel Waiters' "Hole In The Wall" hit the scene, I was appalled. I called it a "chainsaw-funk-massacre" of the Southern Soul classic. It did not "work" for me. Everything original and charming about "Hole In The Wall," everything that made it a breakthrough for this emerging Southern Soul genre--the rock-and-roll directness, the jocular vocal, the easy-going, mid-tempo beat--was deleted and made to fit this generic, heard-a-thousands-times-before funk format. I couldn't believe Mel Waiters gave it his seal of approval. The true test I put the song to was this: Would "Hole In The Wall" have become a breakthrough hit in its funk version? The answer was a resounding "No!"
(In the interests of "equal time," Bigg Robb told your Daddy B. Nice that the maxi-single of his remix of Mel Waiter's "Hole In The Wall" has sold some 45,000 copies, an astounding number if true. For a lively dialogue between Bigg Robb and Daddy B. Nice on the subject of the "Hole In The Wall" remix, see the "Tidbits" section of this Artist Guide.)
Mel Waiters wasn't the only Southern Soul artist flirting with funk at the time. J. Blackfoot of all people was, too, and your Daddy B. Nice just put it down to the diversions and digressions all artists' careers inevitably take on their winding path to the future.
Time passed. I didn't hear much about Bigg Robb or his music, not even enough to know the Problem Solvas were his group. And, having never found good Southern Soul music down on the Gulf coast--Pensacola, Mobile, New Orleans, where Bigg Robb was gaining his first tentative foothold--Robb faded from my view at the very time he was marshalling his creative forces to conquer the world of Southern Soul.
Meanwhile, your Daddy B. Nice was trying to make Southern Soul music and musicians famous, and in my travels I kept hearing about a new Southern Soul deejay, "Chico," who I "just had to meet" and who just happened to have a small but growing Internet Southern Soul station based out of--you guessed it--Mobile, Alabama.
Chico was an early and big proponent of Bigg Robb. Indeed, even as Chico and I became friends and fellow drum majors for the Southern Soul parade, he (Chico) was playing music by Bigg Robb that I didn't realize was Bigg Robb's: songs like "Keep On Steppin,'" "I Miss You," "Honey Love" and "Man Next Door."
These songs were in the "tweener"-classics tradition of Dennis Edwards' "Don't Look Any Further," Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It," SWV's "Right Here (Human Nature)" and R. Kelly's "When A Woman's Fed Up" and "Step In The Name Of Love"--in other words, not ultra-purist Southern Soul but solid, mainline soul that every self-respecting Southern Soul fan loves just as much.
(Interestingly, T. K. Soul also had a really good funk-synth-soul song, "We Be Slidin'", out around this time that I never associated with T. K. Soul. It could have been a Bigg Robb song for all I knew. It was in the same hybrid funk/Southern Soul vein that Bigg Robb was mining.)
By this time Bigg Robb had taken his music and especially his producing to another level, enlisting lead singers and full-blown arrangements that explored wildly different musical territories. But, not being a lead singer and therefore not having a discernible vocal identity, Bigg Robb's work was anonymous unless the deejay explained the song title and artist.
The breakthrough came in 2007. 8 Tracks N 45's, Bigg Robb's most accomplished work to date, had appeared late in 2006. I can still remember ultra-traditional Southern Soul deejays like WMPR's Outlaw and Ragman introducing him for the first time that year. "He's headed to. . . . (such and such place). That guy's named B-I-G-G, R-O-B-B."
What had happened was one of the more remarkable transformations in contemporary Southern Soul history. A Cameo-Parliament-Funkadelic disciple from Ohio had experienced a Mississippi epiphany, absorbing the major Southern Soul R&B influences and travelling 180 degrees from that pivotal moment when Robb first encountered Mel Waiters and the underground Southern Soul scene. Here it's illustrative to go back in time:
"We were doing a show in Greenwood, Mississippi" (in the early years of the decade) Bigg Robb told Blues Critic in 2007) "and that's the first time I met Mel Waiters. I was in the dressing room 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.'"
That meeting with one of contemporary Southern Soul's undisputed masters, Mel Waiters, was one of those turnstile-type moments in an artist's career. Bigg Robb soon went to school on the King of Southern Soul, Johnnie Taylor, putting out a "Slide On"-themed CD in 2002.
Robb also found the funkiest song in the Johnnie Taylor repertoire--a song with a druggy ambience reminiscent of mid-period Sly Stone: "Good Love." And I give Robb great credit for being smart enough to recognize the song was his artistic "bridge" over the abyss to Southern Soul heaven.
The first time I heard "Big Man Love," kind of a "Good Love (Bigg Robb Remix)," I knew Bigg Robb had succeeded. All the best elements (and none of the worst) of funk were present: a bass line like a mule kick, a classic sample, a technically-perfect, synth-laced arrangement and production. And, on top of that--the magic ingredient, as it were--Bigg Robb's brilliant, over-the-top monologue on the virtues of big men versus skinny men.
Now I'm a tall skinny man. I have trouble finding clothes, too--just like those big men. But I have to admit that Bigg Robb's rant on "skinny guys" and praise of "big guys" is the funniest thing I've ever heard on the subject. He sums up:
"Now the ladies, they've found out that
A big man will pay your bills.
A big man will run his fingers through your hair and massage that new growth.
And a big man will make love to you all night long,
Even help you take care of the kids you made with one of those skinny guys."
And yet, "Big Man Love" wasn't even the best track on 8 Tracks N 45's. That distinction went to the song, "I Thought She Was At Home," a soulful (thanks especially to singer Big Woo) Bigg Robb extravaganza that in both musical artistry and verbal genius was impossible not to listen to.
The story ("same old story," chitlin' circuit R&B insiders might say) was that of a husband and wife being unfaithful to one another in the same motel, only it was no longer the "Holiday Inn," site of so many of these Southern Soul tales: Bigg Robb updated it to the "Hampton Inn," and it's surprising how just that little tweak, that little effect, within a myriad of others, lent a certain timely poignancy to the song.
While Robb had always rapped, it had never taken place within the quality of music and quality of execution evident in these brash new songs. If "Big Man Love" was the first indisputably Southern Soul-type song which perfectly captured Bigg Robb's genius for monologue, "I Thought She Was At Home's" street-wise confessional was an absolute tour de force.
With Big Woo wailing on the melody, Robb amped up the energy by rapping over the bass and drums, his leisurely, finely-detailed account of the pitfalls of betrayal as good in a new-generation way as the mesmerizing Bobby Rush at his best--
his narration as reassuringly confident and real as Mt. Rushmore-sized Latimore on the classic, "Let's Straighten It Out."
Then came "Good Lovin' Will Make U Cry," Robb's masterpiece, the centerpiece of his 2007 sampler: Blues, Soul & Old School. A scant five-plus years after meeting Mel Waiters, Robb had reached the pinnacle of Southern Soul music, artistically speaking. Instead of bending soul to fit funk, he was bending funk to make soul.
Now thoroughly conversant with the genre, Bigg Robb drew upon all of the rap and funk and soul production knowledge he'd accumulated in twenty-some years in the music businesss and poured it like an old-time alchemist into the Southern Soul vehicle. From its majestic, Ray Charles-in-his-country-phase prologue to its dramatic monologue section and its aria-like synthesizer verse and chorus, the song oozed confidence, musicality and brilliance.
Where Robb's remix of "Hole In The Wall" in the early days had depleted it, Robb's remix of Carl Marshall's "Good Lovin'" completely transformed it, dwarfing the Marshall original. It was the Southern Soul equivalent of Phil Spector constructing a "wall-of-sound" around an early Buddy Holly song (although that never happened).
In spite of its inherent soulfulness, Marshall's original version of "Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry" dragged a little, sounding a little limp at times. Robb changed all that, electrifying it with the energy of a thousand lightning storms.
And the Bob Dylan-like Marshall, although a great Southern Soul songwriter and arranger/producer, did not have the vocal chops to slam a song out of the park on vocal talent alone. Robb, while showcasing the Carl Marshall vocal that had made it all possible (and enhancing that vocal by surrounding it with a state-of-the-art arrangement and production techniques), enlarged on it beyond anything anyone had a right to expect.
The monologue that Robb begins after the traditional part (Marshall's part) of the song is over starts extremely casually (again, very much like Bobby Rush), but it sucks you in like quicksand.
Then the synthesizer-vocal takes over, and it is a flight to Southern Soul heaven. It is bliss--one of the finest moments in contemporary R&B.
And the fact that Bigg Robb did it his way should be inspiration to any musician in greater R&B who suspects Southern Soul music is just a marginal, back-water, insider's medium. On the contrary, Southern Soul music is just begging for the kind of adaptive originality Bigg Robb finally and consummately brought to it.
And the great thing about Robb's ascendance up the Southern Soul charts from Bigg Robb's personal standpoint--he is an artist, after all, who could easily go into hiphop again or adult/urban--is that it succeeded. He has wood-cut his name and identity into the Southern Soul tree.
--Daddy B. Nice
About Bigg Robb
Robert Smith (Bigg Robb) was born in 1967, the "summer of love," in the humid, sizzling, 12th of July heat of Cincinnati, Ohio. In the eighties Robert became a long-running Cincinnati deejay ("Sugar Daddy From Cincinnati," playing commercial R&B, rap and hiphop), a position from which he secured interviews with Bootsy Collins (of Funkadelic) and Roger Troutman (of Zapp). In an interview with Blues Critic's Dylann DeAnna in 2007, Bigg Robb described the importance of these two masters of eighties' funk on his life:
1. July 19, 2008. Bigg Robb, perhaps more than other artist in recent memory, has devoted himself to dance floor jams, and none more so than the "Slide" songs derived from Johnnie Taylor's "Slide On" mixes of the late nineties.
If You Liked. . . You'll Love
Honorary "B" Side
"I Thought She Was At Home w/ Da Problem Solvas"
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