A little over a week after mourning the passing of Earl Simmons, hip-hop got another shock as Robert Ross b/k/a Black Rob died on April 17th. When we spoke to Rob in 2015 it seemed like he was right on the cusp of a major comeback. He served four years of a seven year sentence for grand larceny and spent the years since his release in 2010 trying to relaunch his career. It wasn’t easy for Rob to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was found on the Buckwild produced “Whoa!” back in 2000, but that didn’t stop fans from hoping Rob had charted a post-Bad Boy Records path to success.
The lukewarm reception to his “Genuine Article” album would be the least of his worries. Rob suffered his first stroke in 2015, vowing to make serious changes to his lifestyle to improve his health, but in the intervening years between this Sway interview and his death, Rob would have at least three more. Each one was a bigger challenge to overcome than the last one, but Rob continued to fight until the very end.
For many in hip-hop the news that Black Rob was ailing only came when he was seen in a hospital bed offering his thoughts about Dark Man X, at a point when his friend was already on life support and it didn’t seem likely he would pull through. The tragedy of the situation is that Rob was soon to follow Earl to the great beyond, as the combined effects of his strokes led to the kidney failure that put Rob in dire straits himself.
In the wake of Black Rob’s passing on April 17th I’ve seen a disappointing amount of negativity toward those who want to mourn him. “Don’t act like you gave a fuck about Rob since he dropped WHOA.” How can you know what’s in someone’s heart like that? Perhaps we can generously assume it’s an unconscious form of lashing out for the pain people were feeling after the sudden back to back passing of two well known rap icons. While DMX’s star may have risen higher (and fallen as hard or harder) than Rob’s, the two were inextricably linked together on songs like “24 Hrs. to Live.”
Instead of judging those who want to express their sorrow or condolences for either artist and their families, let’s take a moment to all be a little kinder to each other. The last year of dealing with the pandemic has taken a toll on all of us physically, mentally and emotionally. Even as the light is starting to become visible at the end of the tunnel thanks to the increased proliferation of vaccinations, we’re all experiencing a form of PTSD due to repeated lockdowns, health scares, and friends or loved ones who passed away during a time when we couldn’t even grieve together. Rest In Power Rob. May you and X have more than 24 hours together in the afterlife.