The sad truth of Chill Rob G’s career is that someone else made more money from his biggest record than he ever did. That’s a fairly common story when you look back to the rise of rap music in the 1980’s. Rappers often signed away future earnings for an upfront cash advance, then found hidden clauses in their deals where expenses (such as promotion for an album or the cost of a music video) were taken out of their share of the royalties and not the record label’s much larger cut. In the case of Robert “Chill Rob G” Frazier though it’s even more blatant and direct than that.

If “The Power” sounds familiar to you it’s NOT because of Rob’s album “Ride the Rhythm.” Instead you are familiar with a remix by the German production crew called Snap! The name is fitting given that with a click of their fingers they took “The Power,” which was already an up-tempo dance friendly rap song with female vocals, and made it their own song by rearranging it and adding a few additional samples. Chill Rob G’s original version didn’t go viral, but Snap!’s version became so big that Wild Pitch Records gave them retroactive permission to use it in exchange for domestic distribution rights. Rob could have raised a fuss but was told “it would be good for your career” and decided to quietly go along with it. That made his ultimate betrayal even worse.

There’s always a bigger fish in the sea and soon enough Arista Records was the shark. Not satisfied to simply reverse license the song the way Wild Pitch had done, Arista and Snap! agreed to replace Chill Rob G’s vocals with new lyrics rapped by Darron “Turbo B” Butler. THIS is the version of “The Power” you’ve heard countless times over the years. This is the one that’s remembered. You know silly lines like “I’m the lyrical Jesse James” and “please stay off my back, or I will attack, and you don’t want that.” You don’t know the Afrocentric style of the OG version.

“I’ll take a page, write a phrase, then rephrase it
Treat it like a national flag and upraise it
So a nation of people can feel proud
About a brother who speaks out real loud”

Needless to say Chill Rob G didn’t get a dime from this new version without his vocals, and those promises that “The Power” would be good for his career went up in smoke. “Ride the Rhythm” was his first and only major label album, and even that was a modest success at best. It never cracked the Billboard Top 200, only reached No. 60 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and “The Power” was the fourth and final single released from it. Snap!’s version not only left Rob’s version in the dust, it created the unfortunate perception that HE was ripping THEM off. What about his other singles though?

“Dope Rhymes” is pretty typical of the album as a whole. Like the rest of the album (save for a couple of co-productions) this track was laced by the late 45 King, and provides a nice layer of licks and some crispy drums for his lyrical stylings. “I can do anything I want to/All I have to do is put my mind to/work and jerk and go berserk.” Rob might be overstating it by calling his rhymes “dope” but he’s at least a couple of levels above the amateurish bars of Turbo B. He falls comfortably into the late 1980’s to early 90’s era of New York rappers — above a Kool Moe Dee but well below a Rakim or Big Daddy Kane. The well chosen samples of Mark James elevate songs like the title track to a higher plateau.

There’s another unfortunate fact related to Chill Rob G’s album given he repeatedly shouts out Flavor Unit. Like fellow founding member Lakim Shabazz he became known for a version of his song he didn’t appear on that overshadowed his career (“The 900 Number”). In addition both found themselves usurped by the second generation of Flavor Unit Management emcees — Apache, Naughty By Nature, Freddie Foxxx — all garnering more fame and acclaim than the friends of 45 King. The personal problems of Mark James may in part be to blame for this, but you can’t deny his ear for samples when listening to tracks like “Let Me Show You.” Rob lives up to the “chill” part of his name with a measured delivery perfectly met by the King’s use of Kool & the Gang and James Brown.

A famous shadowy figure is fond of saying “Did they deserve better?” when looking back in retrospect at one hit wonders. “Ride the Rhythm” definitely deserved better, but not because Chill Rob G is a one hit wonder — it’s because he never got to ride the success OF being a one hit wonder. Snap! got the fame, Turbo B got the glory, and Rob got the shaft. Let’s be fair though and take note of the fact Rob might have been too “chill” for his own good. He’s a competent emcee, who came along in an era of exceptional emcees, many of whom had far more charisma on the mic. I took a passing jab at Kool Moe Dee earlier, but when he wasn’t obsessed with James Todd Smith, his forceful delivery made his more mediocre bars stand up and be noticed. Rob has the opposite problem — good lyrics delivered in a “I know I’m good so I don’t have to impress you” manner. It just wasn’t vigorous and regrettably he got walked all over by a music industry that didn’t see him as flavorful enough.

Chill Rob G :: Ride the Rhythm
7.5Overall Score