The Fat Boys: The Boys Are Back

posted April 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM CDT | 22 comments

Twenty-five years ago three Brooklyn teenagers became beloved ambassadors alongside Run-DMC, Whodini, and a small pool of other acts spreading Hip Hop beyond its then limited regional borders to become a worldwide phenomenon. Twenty years ago however, those same, then college age, Brooklynites known as The Fat Boys had already worn out their welcome in the culture they helped introduce to millions, decried as an overdone gimmick.

Discovered in 1983 after winning a talent show arranged by the trios future opportunistic career guide (not unlike the fictional competition in the classic Hip Hop flick Krush Groove the Boys are shown besting in), and subsequently assigned the conspicuous moniker Fat Boys by said shrewd manager after allegedly witnessing his then somewhat stout group of former football players run up a $350 room service breakfast bill, lead emcee Prince Markie Dee, supporting spitter Kool Rock-Ski (now known simply as Kool Rock), and pioneering percussive sound creator Buff (a.k.a. The Human Beat Box) were fun-loving kids, self-deprecatingly rhyming about their girth and supposed love affair with food. And that arguably unsophisticated approach to song making surprisingly worked for The Fat Boys first two live-music driven discs (their 1984 self-titled debut, and 85 follow-up The Fat Boys Are Back). But by the late 80s, and a management imposed directive to move away from their initial street-approved sound and record Hip Hop cover versions of baby boomer era Pop-Rock confections from The Beach Boys and Chubby Checker, the Boys from BK had officially crossed over, selling more records than they had previously but sacrificing any credibility they once had to attain momentary pop success with 1987s Crushin and 1988s Coming Back Hard Again.

Now, 20 years removed from The Fat Boys last full-length offering as a trio, 1989s return-to-their-roots but commercially unsuccessful On And On album, surviving group members Prince Markie Dee and Kool Rock are attempting a comeback of sorts, with planning underway to release a new Fat Boys project to a generation of Hip Hop fans whose familiarity with the group is likely limited to late night cable viewings of the Boys comical foray into film, 1987s Disorderlies.

Recently, HipHopDX spoke with Kool Rock to learn more about his and Marks plans to introduce themselves to the millennial Hip Hop community. A fitness fanatic for well over a decade now, Rock is currently working to develop his own line of protein shakes, and is slated to appear in the second volume of fellow former chubby rapper turned workout enthusiast Lil Ceases HardBody Fitness DVD. And in addition to mentoring new artists (including his 16-year-old nephew, Lil Streetz), Rock has been sporadically recording his own solo material in recent years (after taking time off from the rap game while mourning Buffs passing from cardiac arrest in December 1995), having just unveiled an EP of new material, Party Time. But clearly, Kool Rocks current focus is getting his group back into the game. And in his incredibly revealing discussion with DX, Rock breaks down how the Fat Boys rose, fell, and plan to rise again.

HipHopDX: What was the Fat Boys
[click for more info] impact on Hip Hop? Why are we still interested in FB 20 years after yall's last album together?
Kool Rock:
We were one of the first successful Rap groupsas far as crossing over to a whole different audience without planning to cross over. Its just that Hip Hop was expanding, and the cross over audience kinda just took us under their wing. Cause we was full of fun. We was full of life. Everything around us was just a huge party And the marketing strategy [for us] was pretty good. So I guess to this day people are still trying to emulate that marketing strategy we had back then. I think when it came down to us doing Hip Hop back in the 80s, we were the first ones to have a marketing strategy. Chuck D told me one time at a celebrity softball game a lot of the stuff that [Public Enemy] [click to read] did, that they were doing at the time [to market themselves], they got from us.

DX: I dont ask the following to be cruel, but simply to inform our younger readers: Why is it inaccurate to label the Fat Boys a comical novelty act?
Kool Rock
: Its inaccurate because we didnt set out to be that. Our manager, he had more of a Ringling Brothers kind of [vision for us] in his brain. So he put us more into a situation where he wanted to keep us away from the norm [of what was going on in Hip Hop], and wanted us to be more zany and funny. And, as we got older we wanted to try to get out [of] that image. But you know when it comes down to an image in music or entertainment period, people once they see you as that its hard to get out of that. They typecast you in a heartbeat. So we was trying to make that stand of saying were not all about the eating aspect. Our first album, that Kurtis Blow did, was all about the [more traditional] R&B and Hip Hop [sound]. We got away from that, and thats what made us become a cross over act. Once we lost that sound that Kurtis Blow gave us, we started getting different, [more commercial] sounds from other people.

DX: Unfortunately, or fortunately however you choose to look at it the commercial masses remember you guys more for Wipeout
[click to watch] than for Can You Feel It [click to watch].
Kool Rock:
Right, [or] Jailhouse Rap [click to watch], Stick Em [click to read] and all those [less commercial] songs. Its a double-edged sword, man. You damned if you do and damned if you dont, because [our cross over success] was good [in terms of] giving Hip Hop to the masses, but at the same time we got away from our core audience. Which we werent too happy about becausewe were getting no more airplay from black radio [at that point]. Only people that was picking it up was white radio stations. We still had our hardcore fans though And they loved Wipeout, but they couldnt get with The Twist [click to watch]. It was big over in Europe. And it sold gold over here. But, we werent comfortable with doing that stuff. It was kinda force fed [to us]. You know how record companies are, once something is big and they see that theres a fire somewhere [for it], they gonna go put more gasoline on the fire They saw how big Wipeout was they seen it went platinum [and so they said], Okay, lets [cover] Chubby Checker next.

DX: I understand they actually wanted you guys to keep going with the covers and remake a Little Richard song?
Kool Rock:
Yeah, a freakin Little Richard song, and

DX: What, Tutti Frutti [Laughs]?
Kool Rock:
I dont know what damn song it was [Laughs]. All I know was we put our foot down [and] we was like, Enough is enough with this BS.

DX: So this was all Charles Stettlers doing?
Kool Rock:
Oh yeah.

DX: Why is there always an evil white man behind every Hip Hop tragedy [Laughs]?
Kool Rock:
Exactly [Laughs]. And the funny thing about it was, he loved black music But this is the record company, [and] this is the music industry. And like I said, anywhere they see theres some kind of action going on they gonna attack that kind of action. Whether its a cross over hit, or whether its an all black hit, they dont care as long as they can make some money off of it.

DX: Thats him in Krush Groove aint itas the rival label owner?
Kool Rock:
Yeah, thats him [as] Terri Beiker. And let me just make a statement about Charlie: I dont have any animosity against him, because he was doing his job. He is a manager. And managers, thats what they do. Only [bad] thing about him was that he took control of a situation [and] wasnt giving no credit to us. Everything was, Follow my lead. And then when [he] started sensing some kind of backlash [to The Fat Boys, he was like], Okay, woah. So by the time we did the On And On album in 1989, our last album together as a group, we sat down and said, We gon do this album the way we wanna do it. Lets get back to our kind of music, our kind of audience. The record company didnt support it. Charlie didnt support it. [He was] like, Youre on your own. [But] whether it succeeded or failed, we were like, Okay, at least we [accomplished what] we sat out to do, what we came here to do. We left [the Rap game] the same way we came in.

DX: Yeah, I think its unfair to burden you guys with too much responsibility for what happened with the group. I mean, you were just kids at the time, correct? You were still in high school when the first album dropped, right?
Kool Rock:
Yeah exactly, we was in high school Me and Buff used to go to the same high school, and Mark went to a different [school]. We went to Thomas Jefferson; Mark went to Canarsie in Brooklyn. And the same people we saw everyday in school, once [the single] Fat Boys [click to watch] came out [in 1984] and we went back to school that Monday cause it played [on the radio] from Friday to Sunday, played that whole weekend these same people who wasnt paying attention to us, the cheerleaders and all them, now theyre surrounding us asking for autographs.

DX: Any Hip Hop luminaries in your school? You go to high school with Big Daddy Kane or anything like that?
Kool Rock:
The guys who were down with him in [his] first group, Magnum Force, we went to school with them. [Also] I was in the same class with [former heavyweight champion] Riddick Bowe. We were in the same history class, and same homeroom.

DX: And yall got fat to play football in high school, correct?
Kool Rock:
No, we got fat from being on tour. [Laughs] But the football thing, we would just run the streets all day. And a lot of our parents, and the mothers around there especially, would come outside and tell us not to play tackle football in the streets. We would play tackle football in the streets. Not no kind of two-hand touch. We would actually try to kill one another. And we figured that would just make us tougher for when wed go to high school to play football. So we were real active [before the music]. Im 167 [pounds] now, and I havent [weighed] 167 sincedamn, maybe 78. [Laughs]

DX: [Laughs] So how much of that exaggerated gorging in videos, like in Jailhouse Rap, and in the infamous Sbarro scene from Krush Groove
[click to watch], was really how yall was living, and how much was pressure to purposefully overdo it?
Kool Rock:
They overdid it. I mean, they had spit buckets right there, especially in Krush Groove And that food [had been] sitting around all day flies and shit flying around the place. [Wed] eat the food and spit it right out Yeah, a lot of that [gorging] stuff [was exaggerated]. Michael Schultz, who shot Car Wash and Cooley High, he did Krush Groove. And he did Disorderlies. [So] yeah, a lot of that stuff [he had us do for those movies] was exaggerated. The [gorging in] Jailhouse Rap was exaggerated as well.

DX: Were the powers that be forcing you guys to stay fat? Did you guys ever try to lose weight and they just wouldnt let you?
Kool Rock:
In 88, I went on a diet, and I started losing weight. And being that I was young, [still in my early twenties], it was coming off pretty quick. And I could remember [our] manager we was at a record signing in California pulled me to the side and asked me what was going on. So I thought he just wanted to do some small talk, and [so] I was like, Pretty much nothing. And he was like, Why are you losing weight? I said, Well because, Im finding it hard to function being overweight. So I wanna take a few pounds off. So he kinda left it at that. But then he started like picking and poking like, Kool Rock over here is trying to sabotage the group guys. Hes losing too much weight. And Im looking at it like, you try to do something good for yourself Im like, Why you going in so hard on me [for] just trying to do something to take care of my health? So that kind of bummed me out for a minute. But [the other guys in the group] supported it, especially Mark. He was like, I dont see nothing wrong with it.

DX: Speaking of, how unfair was it that Mark had to be a Fat Boy and he was really just kinda husky [Laughs]?
Kool Rock:
Oh, yeah [Laughs]. Yeah, that was crazy. A lot of people [used to say], Well he the skinniest of the three. The crazy thing about it was we didnt grow up overweight. The success and the money kinda made us overweight. [Laughs] [On] the tour buses, you dont have a good eating habit. And you try to live up to that [Fat Boys] name [as well]. So, we were like, Well, were called the Fat Boys. We cant be called the Fat Boys for nothing. So lets just have a 20-piece McNugget at two oclock in the morningPeople expect us to be fat, so lets just live up to the name.

DX: Switching gears here, you mentioned him earlier and so I wanted to ask, was Kurtis Blow a good guy or a bad guy in the Fat Boys saga? He produced some of yalls best songs (Fat Boys, Jailhouse Rap, Can You Feel It, The Fat Boys Are Back), but I also understand he pushed, along with Stettler, for you guys to embrace the Fat Boys concept and image.
Kool Rock: Kurtis Blow
wasfirst of all, he was a good guy. Kurtis wanted us to have a [distinct] sound. He gave us a sound. [But] him and Charlie had a fallout because Kurtis was getting a lot more credit [for our success] than Charlie. Everywhere wed go they was like, Well Kurtis did this, and Kurtis did that. Kurtis gave yall the sound. He gave yall the image. It was really Charlie who gave us the image, but Kurtis did give us the sound. He played a huge part in our success. And him and Charlie had a falling out over that. Because Kurtis wanted to do the third album, [but] Charlie wanted to get some other producers. And Kurtis to this day think it was us that said we didnt want him as a producer. I told him like 10 years ago we were at a party MTV was hosting [for] some kind of tribute to Hip Hop him not having anything to do with us as a producer anymore wasnt [a decision] on our part. I said, Charlie was feeding us a lot of [tainted] information about [you]. A lot of bad information. [And] we were young at the time. We didnt know any better.

DX: Some divide and conquer there.
Kool Rock:

DX: I guess in some strange way its a good thing that somebody pushed for you guys to take that name [Fat Boys]. Cause if you had remained the Disco 3, theres a strong possibility the nation, and subsequently the world, wouldve never heard of yall.
Kool Rock:
Yeah, thats true. And we got [our original] name from the Disco 4, thats the crazy part about [that].

DX: Yeah I heard you ganked the name [from another group]?
Kool Rock:
[Laughs] Yeah, we took it from the Disco 4. We were like, Well if theyre Disco 4, why cant we be Disco 3?

DX: Now, this is the must-ask question: How important was Buff to the Fat Boys? For a guy who didnt rhyme, it seemed like he did more with his mouth to shape the sound of the group than even Kurtis Blow, Larry Smith (Run-DMC, Whodini), or any of the producers did.
Kool Rock: Buff
was like the last piece to the puzzle, for the fact that he distinguished us from any other group that was out there, except Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick. But we were the first ones to put down the acapella version of the beatbox [on wax]. Buff was a huge part [of the group] because everywhere we went it was like, Can you guys rap for us? And before we would [even] start rapping they would be like, Woah hold up, we gotta get the beatbox in there. So he was a huge part. And he did it so well. It wasnt like he was just doing it and anybody could just do what he did. They tried it, [but] they couldnt do it the way he did it.

DX: And the quarter-century old question, who was first with the beatbox, Buff or Doug E. Fresh?
Kool Rock:
Well Doug E.s from Uptown, and were from Brooklyn [so I wouldnt know for sure]. And I knew Buff first. I never heard of Doug E. Fresh [at that point].

DX: Im sure youre bias, but you think Buff was better?
Kool Rock:
Oh yeah, by maybe 10 miles. It was like a Rolls Royce versus a damn Lamborghini.

DX: Did I read correct that Buffs motorcycle jacket from the Coming Back Hard Again cover, with the forks and the knives instead of the studs, [is] in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
Kool Rock:
Yeah, they put that in I forgot what year that wasI think it was 91.

DX: So do the Fat Boys as a group deserve to be in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame you think?
Kool Rock:
It would be a great honor. I mean, all of our albums went [gold or platinum]. And we had a huge impact on Hip Hop. I dont know if [that] would ever happen [though], cause shit, Vh1 didnt even honor us yet But I mean, Run-DMC, they definitely deserve it. Grandmaster Flash [click to read] definitely deserves it. But I dont think well ever get that kind of [recognition].

DX: Well I understand you guys arent quite ready to retire yet anyway. Theres gonna be a new Fat Boys album coming soon?
Kool Rock:
Yeah. What I got out now, the Party Time EP, is like a prelude to the Fat Boys album. Were trying to get people warmed up to the name again

DX: The Fat Boys, its not an insult to say yall had trouble competing with the deft lyricism that Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and others brought to Hip Hop in the late 80s. But with Soulja Boy and others unknowingly reintroducing that early Hip Hop ethos of putting sound and style before intricate rhyming, the Fat Boys are remarkably well-timed for a comeback.
Kool Rock:
I kinda sit back and watch what other people do. You dont try to emulate it, but you just try to say, Alright, let me keep up with the times and what everybody else is doing.

DX: Are you guys aiming to bring that fun element back to the game?
Kool Rock:
That party element. Not the kind of party element when you say Do The Stanky Leg and that type of stuff [Laughs], [but] the grown and sexy kind of party element.

DX: And I hate to put it so crudely, but you plan on replacing Buff? Or is this just gonna be a duo?
Kool Rock:
[Our manager] Louie wants to have a contest [to find a new third member]. I was thinking more of [going with this] guy named Kenny X. I dont know if you ever heard of him, but hes pretty good. A lot of people say hes better than Rahzel [click to read]. A lot of people say hes way better than Doug E. Fresh. Not putting Doug E. Fresh down, but you gotta check out Kenny X. Hes crazy. I wont say hes as good as Buff, but if Buff was here he would approve of Kenny X.

DX: I wanna end where we began and just have you breakdown what the Fat Boys legacy is. One platinum (Crushin) and three gold (Fat Boys, The Fat Boys Are Back, and Coming Back Hard Again) albums, your own movie (Disorderlies) long before rappers had movie deals, but The Fat Boys werent larger than life - no pun intended - like Run-DMC, or have the classic songs that Whodini had, so what made you guys such an endearing group in Hip Hop?
Kool Rock:
I think the fact that every parent saw in us just pure fun. Like, those guys are clean. Theyre not rapping about sexual [stuff]. Theyre not rapping about raising hell. [Laughs] Theyre just being who they are. They just being funny. And theyre young. A lot of kids gravitated to us cause they just seen these young faces. [And so] the legacy for us is just that a lot of people gravitated towards us because we brought that fun element into Hip Hop.

DX: Hey, no matter what any detractors might say, nobodys looking to interview the Skinny Boys 20 years later [Laughs].
Kool Rock:
Exactly, right [Laughs].

DX: The Human Jock Box fuck outta here.
Kool Rock:

DX: That was Chuck Chillout rippin yall off, wasnt it? [The Skinny Boys] were his little project.
Kool Rock:
I think so. Yeah, Chuck is a crazy S.O.B.

DX: Yeah, well, nobody wants to talk to his Skinny Boys.
Kool Rock:
[Laughs] Or The Fat Girls [Laughs].

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