Friday, February 29, 2008

Werner Interviews Romeo JD of the Boogie Boys! (Part 1)

Earlier this week (that's right, this isn't "Necro'd" - it's a brand new interview), I had the chance to speak to a real old school legend who reached out to me. Romeo JD, of the Boogie Boys. And we had a really long, in-depth discussion - we got to cover everything, from the forming of the group, to the production equipment they used, to his production work for Melle Mel and others under his new name, Joey Mekkah. He's also working on a solo album as Bliss the Illest with his production company, Black Solaris Entertainment... but I'll let him tell it:

Well, let me start be asking you: how did you get into the Boogie Boys?

Well, Boogie Knight and I used to rap together on our block, where we lived in the projects, across the street from each other. I met him because I was sitting in one of the little bodegas on our block, and this lady came in and was like, "wow, you remind me of my son, the way you're sitting there thinking. I want to give you his number and I want you to give him a call, because you look like somebody he'd get along with." So, I called the number, we ended up speaking a couple of times, and we actually lost contact. And then about six, seven months later, I ended up going to school in Brooklyn and there were a couple of guys that were in a clique from Uptown. So we all used to ride the train together from Brooklyn back to Manhattan. And we became cool, and I'm talking to this guy and we started talking about hip-hop and blah blah blah and he asked me what project I came from and he was like, "you're the dude I talked to like six months ago! My moms gave me your number!" We actually met again. Through some ironic situation we wound up going to the same school and becoming friends anyway.

I actually had my own crew at that time and he had his own crew. Then he started coming over and asking if I wanted to do some stuff with him. He actually got his deal with Capitol, but he had done some records before he got down with them. The Boogie Boys' first record was "Rappin' Ain't No Thing," and that was with his old partner Keith, who also went to school with us. So, in the context of that situation, before they got signed to Capitol, I actually did a few shows with them as their DJ. We were kind of the only group doing shows at that time where everybody in the show could rap and DJ, so it was kinda special. So I did a couple shows with them at that time, but I wasn't on that first record that they did.

But, then, when he got the deal with Capitol Records, he was still in the Air Force at that time, so he brought me in to the studio to sing the hook on one of those records. And when I went in there to sing the hook, the producer was like, "yo, can you rap also?" And I was like, "well yeah, that's actually my forte." So I did a little rappin'…

Do you remember which record that was that he brought you in on?

Yeah, that was "Runnin' From Your Love." And I sung that hook and then Boogie and I started talking, and he brought in Lil' Rahiem, and it kinda flew from there. We wound up getting signed all to the same production company and we wound up on the album, and yeah… that's actually how I came in to the group situation.

But, like I said, Boogie was still in the Air Force during the time they released the album, and Capitol Records wasn't really aware of that. But they were like: you have to hit the road, the records are heatin' up. And we had to like keep the front up until he could get out without Capitol finding out that he wasn't able to tour. And so that's what we did. So doing the shows was ok, we were able to say, "Boogie Knight's not with us but he'll be back next time we come to your town."

But then we had to shoot the video for "You Ain't Fresh," and that's where the ugliness kinda came in. You know, I've seen an interview where people were saying, "they did the video and he was lip-syncing," like I wasn't really on the record. And I'm like, wow… that's pretty ugly. But we did what we thought we had to do, because the last thing I wanted was for him to come back out of the service, come home, and the deal was gone, he didn't have a deal anymore. Back then, we felt we were doing the right thing; but in hindsight, 20/20 vision, you know…

But you guys stuck together and kept doing records after that…

Yeah, yeah. After he got his release from the service, we began work on the second album. He was home, we were all together, in the videos and the magazines and everything, so he did get his recognition. But the problem, I guess, was that none of the records we did subsequently were as big as "Fly Girl." So he didn't get to see that impact that we had… although we had one record on the Survival of the Freshest that got a little buzz. So he did get to go on the road and see some pretty big situations… we toured with Cameo for a little while. But in the back of his mind he always had a little thing about the very first video.

So after that, he decided he didn't really want Lil' Rahiem in the group anymore. So the last album we did wound up just being he and I, Romeo Knight. And that was the last thing we recorded together, because there was still little relationship issues and he wound up just leaving the situation. I stayed with the production company, but I knew I wasn't going to try to record as Boogie Boys anymore. So then I got a solo deal, but that album never got to come out because they cleaned house there, and the A&R people that actually signed me got fired. So that project got dropped and that was like the end of that deal.

But during that time I also started a Latin Freestyle group called Sweet Sensation. I wrote their first hit, "Hooked On You;" and that blew up. Then I wound up doing like 70% of the album. And I was making money doing the Latin hip-hop thing for a minute. And also with that production company was a guy named Tony Terry - his biggest record was, "When I'm With You," this R&B ballad - had a couple of songs on his album. And the long and the short of it is that, after being with this production company for ten years, I found out they were robbing me for all of the publishing, 100% of the publishing. So yeah, they got me. I never really calculated it all, but somewhere in the area of a million dollars they robbed me. So, needless to say, my spirit was broken after that; because you work with these people for ten years, you think that they're your family, you know?

So, coming from the streets, I was battling the decision to handle it like street-wise, like go in the studio with guns like, "yo, you owe me money," or just let it go. And I wasn't gonna screw up my whole future doing something stupid, so I just ended up coming out of music. It was a crashing period for a couple of years, but then I decided to get back into it and do some production… Because I actually did all of the production for the songs that I wrote on the Sweet Sensation album. All of the production was me, but I got noproduction credit at all. Let alone the money. You know, even if I hadn't gotten paid, if I had gotten the production credit, that could've generated more work for me. "Hooked On You" was a pretty big record.

They're back together, as a matter of fact, working on a new album right now. They contacted me, but I'm not gonna be interested until we get the financial issues resolved from twenty years ago. You know? It's nothing with the group, I love the group to death. I love them, I'd do anything for the group. But they're fucking with the same management, so I really can't have anything to do with it.

And during that time, were you involved at all with the projects…? Like Boogie Knight had a solo album…

No, he just did his own thing. I think he might've done something not even in the United States… I think it was in Germany, because he actually wound up going back into the military; he reenlisted. He did do some music and he wound up doing an album there, but no. To answer the question, I wasn't involved in any of that.

Ok, because there was like a couple singles, and then the album. And the album is just credited to Boogie Knight, but a couple of the singles say The Boogie Boys.

Yeah, yeah… I don't know. I don't know what his situation was over there, if he was confused if he wanted to present it as The Boogie Boys or just him. But I saw a picture once of an album he put out with a whole group of people, like four or five different people… there was like a chick in the group, almost like it was a band or something.

No idea who any of those people are?

Nah, that was totally separate from my situation.

He does shout you guys out in the liner notes, though.


Yeah, on the album.

Wow… that's deep. I didn't even know about that. Wow. Around that time we didn't talk a whole lot. But we did talk after that; we were able to resolve our differences. In the end, we were friends.

We actually tried to do music and get together, after all the drama, all three of us - me, him and Lil' Rahiem. We did a couple tracks, but the blood was still… little emotional issues kept coming up. And it just wasn't worth it. Because my mindset is that I'm only doing music and hip-hop now because I enjoy it. If we get paid, we get paid. If we get some hits, we get some hits. But all the drama and the bickering over twenty year ago shit, I don't need to have around me. I was like, "let's just stay at peace with each other and stay cool. Obviously the music thing right now is not working, and let's try again in a couple years." But other than that, let's just be able to get together and enjoy each other's company. And at the end, that's what ended up happening. We weren't able to do any music together.

And are you still in touch with Lil' Rahiem?

Oh yeah, definitely. I hung out with Lil' Rahiem last week.

So, do you think there's any chance of you two working together anymore? Or is it still too caught up in the old drama?

Ummm… I don't know, man. I actually got a call from a guy from France who found me on the internet, I guess, and asked if I was interested in doing a show. And you know, I was like… you can't do a show as the Boogie Boys without Boogie Knight, because he's not here. But in retrospect, I was thinking maybe if I brought Lil' Rahiem on the road with me and do "Fly Girl" with he and I doing Boogie Knight's verses and have like, I don't know, a big screen shot of Boogie Knight and kinda pay homage to him. I'm thinking about that, but I haven't even talked to Rahiem about it yet. But the promoter was saying he was booking a show with Melle Mel and Sugarhill Gang, and just a whole old school tour type of thing, and I told him, you know, let me sleep on it…

Rahiem would probably be down, he's doing a lot of singing now. He's doing a gospel thing. So I'm trying to see about working with him, but not doing a gospel album, but doing a hip-hop album. But I'm not really looking to be in a group right now, like my hip-hop career right now is a solo thing.

To be continued immediately...

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