Black Rob, the rapper closely associated with Bad Boy Records and behind the hit single “Whoa!,” has died. He was 52.
He died of cardiac arrest on Saturday in Atlanta, his friend and former Bad Boy labelmate Mark Curry said on social media. Curry said the hip-hop star had been suffering from a series of health problems for a number of years including lupus, kidney failure, diabetes and multiple strokes.
“Rest in power King @therealblackrob!” Bad Boy founder Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs wrote on Instagram on Sunday under a picture of himself and Black Rob. “As I listen to your records today there’s one thing that they all have in common! You have made millions of people all over the world feel good and dance! You are one of a kind! GOD BLESS! Love. You will be truly missed!!!”
Born Robert Ross and raised in Spanish Harlem, New York City, Black Rob started rapping from a young age. He was a member of the unsigned group the Schizophrenics, rapping under the name Bacardi Rob. In the early 1990s, the husky-voiced performer had gained an underground reputation, and he became one of the first signings to New York’s Bad Boy Records, joining the upstart label as a solo artist in the mid-1990s. Bad Boy founder Diddy renamed him Black Rob and his early recording career featured a number of prominent guest spots on remix tracks for the label’s roster of artists, including 112, Faith Evans and Total. He also featured on Mase’s Harlem World album on the track “24 Hrs. to Live” a song that also featured DMX, who died earlier this month.
Black Rob’s importance to Bad Boy, particularly after the 1997 death of Biggie Smalls, was illustrated with him featuring on the cover of Diddy’s seminal album No Way Out, along with the label’s other primary artists. He also featured on the song “I Love You, Baby” from the album and had a mention in the song “Victory” with Biggie rapping, “Black Rob joined the mob, it ain’t no replacin’ him.”
He released his debut album, the autobiographical Life Story, in 2000, which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard charts and would go platinum. The record featured his biggest chart hit “Whoa!,” a track produced by Diggin’ in the Crates Crew member Buckwild. The catchy song, which featured each verse ending with the words “like whoa,” rose as high as No.43 on the Billboard Top 100.
In 2001, Black Rob, Curry and Diddy had a club hit with “Bad Boy for Life,” from the latter’s third album The Saga Continues… The Megahertz song hit No.33 on the Billboard singles chart. He also featured on the album track “Let’s Get It.”
His second album, The Black Rob Report, was released in 2005 and would be his last with Bad Boy. Although the album received some positive press it peaked at No.40 and was considered a disappointment. By the mid-2000s, Black Rob’s music career was overshadowed by the rapper’s legal problems. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2006, in connection with a hotel robbery from 2004, and served four years.
Released from prison in 2010, Black Rob’s final major-label release came the following year, with Game Tested, Streets Approved but the album failed to muster sales or critical acclaim. His last album, 2015’s Genuine Article, was released independently.