Chris Rob is No Doubt on The Soul Seen

As the saying goes, timing is everything.  A plan was already set to revisit, as part of retrospective series, The Soul Seen, our past interview with the uber – talented, Chris Rob. So imagine our surprise when not only would we, by chance, run into him, but that he would grace us with a heads up to his brand new single, No Doubt.

Catching up with the crazy busy and ubiquitous, vocalist, multi -instrumentalist and producer is in itself quite a coup.  In addition to headlining his own high energy shows across the country he can be found touring and recording at a myriad of places literally around the world with a host of A-list artists including, Stevie Wonder, Talib Kweli, Common, and popular band headed up by his talented brother, comedic actor, Craig Robinson called the Nasty Delicious (more examples of who he has and continues to roll with on the regular are in our piece)  – But then we checked out that track and confirmed that chance meeting was indeed of divine order because it is a gem – No Doubt!  Check out the piece below and this joyfully swinging,  slice of true R&B goodness to get you all caught up!

The Soul Seen is a retrospective of past features that provide a snapshot in time in the careers, from fledgling to legendary, of these very talented artists. The projects featured are older now, but no less significant. The insights and perspectives they shared, speak to their success and as you will find, still resonate today.

From the original I SPY SOUL feature segment, Watch Closely 2003

Chris Rob Call him,What you like!

To merely say singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Chris Rob has steadily been making his presence known on the music scene, is putting it quite mildly. The talented Chicago native, who now calls the “big apple” home, has lent his dazzling chops to live performances and recordings as well as notched Music Director duty for anchrisrob3 impressive array of celebrated artists, hit-makers and emerging talent – Artists like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, Anthony Hamilton, Kanye West and currently with young chart-topping sensation, John Legend. They all must have recognized that beyond his virtuosic skills lies a chameleon-like ability to shift through a myriad of musical styles and sound always at home – always impressive – Be it soul, hip hop, or jazz – funked up or smoothed out. Attribute that to not only innate ability and solid training, but to a wealth of varied musical influences spanning the likes of James Brown, Prince, Miles Davis and Coltrane to Steve Miller, The Police and A Tribe Called Quest to name only a few. 

Needless to say, Rob weaves those same influences into a unique and funky, groove-filled sound of his own, displayed on his EP,  The Official Bootleg Of Chis Rob Vol. It’s a glimpse at a sound he himself is reluctant to tab, but has deemed, “electronic soul” – a officialbootname he believes speaks fittingly to the sound and the direction of the music. “Electronic Soul is a fusion of funky grooves over hip-hop beats incorporating elements of jazz and elements of classical. It’s a futuristic sound,”  explains Rob  “I’m still incorporating my influences, but I’m going a step further.  So it’s not like just revisited. It’s not retro. It’s not neo. It’s going in a new direction.”  This musical brew is brought to a boil especially during live sets that often feature a full-scale band complete with righteous horns and Rob wooing the audience with “JB” type flair and bouncing from impressive vocal flights to keyboard wizardry.  Here he is in his element and it’s obviously clear to see – for his performances are what have spawned opportunities to not only work with some of the industry’s best, but to also headline elite clubs like the Blue Note and SOB’s  in New York or to be tabbed to perform for famed entertainment attorney, Londell McMillan’s celebrated pre-Grammy soiree.   

Chris Rob has been charting a musical course since he was a child growing up in Chicago – no doubt catching the music bug from parents who were themselves accomplished musicians. Piano was the first love, but he ultimately found his way to become adept at other instruments as well such as guitar, bass and drums with accolades and acknowledgement of his talent coming early on – A talent that fittingly took on prodigy status. One amongst many shining honors received by Rob as a kid and perhaps a “crystal ball” gaze at his musical future was his receipt of the Sony Student Innovator Chris_Rob_31-400x394Award in 1992.  A scholarship brought the then sixteen year old to college for music in Chicago and upon completion then set his sights on building the impressive resume he now enjoys with more certain to follow.

But what he admits may have solidified the pursuit of music as a career, was a movie with a Prince-ly star. “I knew for sure I would do something with music after I saw Purple Rain”, recalls Rob. That was pretty much it for me! From then I was drawn to that imagery – to the spotlight.” Needless to say he’s been doing his thing in pursuit of the goal ever since.

“I like to really just make music”, says Rob. “The overall feeling I like to leave the audience with whether I’m doing a side thing or doing my own thing is that they’re left with an experience. I like to leave people talking. I like to leave them with the feeling that they’re glad they came out. Whether I’m doing jazz or if I’m doing funk – something rocked out or something soulful.”

As far as the defining labels go Chris Rob has a simple solution. “I guess I’ll let the listener’s decide. To me it’s just music.” 

Bert Caldwell

 

To purchase No Doubt click here at iTunes or at leading music outlets

To learn more about and follow Chris Rob go to chrisrobmusic.com

Advertisements

Video Interview: Sly5thAve

Multi-Instrumentalist, composer, arranger and producer, Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II or as many now call him, Sly5thAve is another of the young, highly trained musicians blasting genre boxes apart and winningly fusing an eclectic assortment of influences with jazz as a bedrock to the excitement of a legion of desirous listeners.  

The Texas born, New Yorker has racked up an impressive resumé of work with noted artists and musicians such as  Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Taylor Swift, Janelle Monae, James Carter,  Philip Lassiter, Maceo Parker, the whole Marsalis crew and oh yeah, Prince, to name just a few.

akumaBut in addition to his triumphant debut release, Akuma, inspired by a trip to Nigeria, the place of his family’s roots, that garnered high acclaimed and major looks, Sly5thAve has also become known for his lush, artfully cool orchestral takes on some popular tracks of the day. His interpretations of the Bruno Mars hit, “Uptown Funk”, Lil Wayne’s “Love Me” or Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” have been heralded by many of the “nets” hippest destinations and spun by tastemaker DJs because of his savvy approach that no doubt makes even jazz heads and the chamber music crowd smile.

slydreSly5thAve has now taken the concept full scale with his rendering of songs produced and associated with kingpin hip hop producer, Dr. Dre, first introduced live at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre with some of L.A.’s finest musicians which was attended by Dre himself.

We caught up with the affable, laid – back, incredibly talented artist to talk about the project, The Invisible Man: An Orchestral Tribute To Dr. Dre and more including his time touring with Prince, the impact of Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and what keeps his passion for creating music alive. Check the video above on the I SPY SOUL  YouTube Channel 

Photograph by Eric Coleman