Black Rob, Rapper Known for His Hit Single ‘Whoa!,’ Dies at 52


Robert Ross, the rapper called Black Rob, whose hoarse, all-seen voice made hits of the millennium like “Whoa!” and “Can I Live” for Bad Boy Records, died in Atlanta on Saturday. He was 52 years old.

His death at Grady Memorial Hospital was attributed to cardiac arrest, said Mark Curry, a friend and one-time bad boy artist. He said Mr Ross has had numerous health problems in recent years, including diabetes, lupus, kidney failure and multiple strokes.

He had been on dialysis and was discharged from Piedmont Atlanta Hospital this month, Curry said. In a video posted online and circulated in the hip-hop world, Mr. Ross described his ailments and recent struggles with homelessness.

“He didn’t have a home, but he always had us,” said Mr. Curry, who called Mr. Ross “a true poet”. He added, “He is known for storytelling and his music described his life. You can feel it. “

Last week, Mr. Curry, along with producer Mike Zombie, began promoting a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Mr. Ross – “to help him find a home, medical care and stability in these troubled times to pay, “it is said in the description of the campaign. The fundraiser raised about half of its $ 50,000 goal.

Harlem born Mr. Ross started rapping around the age of 11, influenced by local artists like Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh, who he was credited with for helping him develop his storytelling skills. He internalized his musically rising neighborhood and quoted their “pick-me-up sound”.

“It’s like, ‘Oh, it has a little taste, I could dance to it,” said Mr Ross in a 2013 interview. “You’re going to talk about a little bit of money, a little bit of drugs. We were the most noticeable.”

Even as a young man he sounded motivated and weathered. He was best known for the hard single “Whoa!” From 2000, which reached number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100, and a number of electrical guest verses on songs by Mase. 112 and total.

After the murder of his labelmate Bad Boy, the Notorious BIG, in March 1997, Mr. Ross became another fast-burning star under the impression of the rising hip in the late 1990s. Hop mogul Sean Combs, better known as Diddy.

His debut album, appropriately named “Life Story”, was released by Bad Boy in 2000 when he was 31 years old. He had already spent more than a decade in and out of juvenile detention, jail, and jail, and the music reflected that.

“It’s hell,” said Mr. Ross of his past. “Once they get their teeth on you, they keep biting until they feel, ‘Let’s throw away the key on this cat.'”

Containing intricate street stories of robberies, shootings, and the family struggles that could lead to such things, “Life Story” peaked at number 3 on the Billboard albums chart and eventually went platinum.

Five years later, “The Black Rob Report,” the rapper’s second album, couldn’t achieve the same level of success, partly because Mr. Ross was back in prison and didn’t come forward for the 2004 theft conviction. His career never recovered.

“Bad Boy pronounced me dead,” said Ross when he was released from prison in 2010. Two consecutive independent releases on different labels have failed.

He is survived by his mother, Cynthia; four siblings; nine children; and five grandchildren.

Many people on social media have offered condolences to Mr. Ross, including Diddy, entrepreneur Daymond John and rappers Missy Elliott, LL Cool J, GZA and Styles P.

On Twitter, LL Cool J described Mr. Ross as a storyteller, gentleman, and MC

Ms. Elliott lamented that Mr. Ross’s death exactly followed that of another New York rapper, Earl Simmons, known as DMX, who died this month.

“It’s hard to find the right words when someone dies,” Ms. Elliott said on Twitter. “I pray for healing for both families.”



Robert Dunfee