In the next episode of TV One’s celebrated “Unsung” series hip-hop fans are given an in-depth look at the career of The Fat Boys. The trio from Brooklyn were comprised of Mark “Prince Markie Dee” Morales, Damon “Kool Rock Ski” Wimbley and the late Darren “Buff Love” Robinson, The Human Beat Box. Originally known as The Disco 3 The Fat Boys were one of the first rap groups to take the street art form mainstream.
Founding member Prince Markie Dee spoke with TheUrbandaily about the legacy of the Fat Boys, reinventing himself as a record producer and the death of his brother and group member Buffy.
“Biggie was the Coogi wearing, Rolex wearing, futuristic Fat Boy of the 90s.” - Prince Markie Dee
TheUrbanDaily: I watched an advance episode of your “Unsung” documentary. How did you feel when TVONE approached you about doing this show?
M: You watched the rough cut? The final is going to be a little different.
TUD: How so?
M: You’ll have to see it yourself to take it in, but to put it this way, there’s a little bit more drama in the final cut.
TUD: I did notice that there was some drama bubbling towards the end of the episode.
M: It’s kind of like this: they put together their version of it and I looked at it and I said “No this is not what happened, this is what really happened and it has to be told the right way.” Of course, TV One and Frank [Williams], the producer, put it together and said “alright tell me how it is Mark, I need to relay this story correctly.” We added a couple things to it that I forgot because we’re talking about things that happened 20 years ago. And I was talking to Kool Rock and he is mentioning things that made me remember other things, this could have been a 5-part episode if you really boil down to it.
TUD: I saw Krush Groove in the theater in ’85. How did it feel to go from being a rap star to a movie star in such a short amount of time?
M: At that point, rap had only been around for 7-10 years. Everybody was looking at it like it was a fad. That [film] was concrete proof that rap was going to be around for a really long time. We’re making movies now. We’re going on tours and selling out 30,000-seat arenas. This isn’t something we’re doing on the corner anymore, this can change people’s lives. That movie was the turning point that made us all realize, from us to Run, to LL Cool J, “You know what? This is bigger than just us.” This is Hip Hop. Krush Groove was the turning point. It was such an amazing thing to do, being around so many talented individuals. From RUN-DMC to Kurtis Blow, to LL Cool J to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There are just so many people in that movie. We were all so happy to be involved in Hip Hop at that time. It was something new, something refreshing, and we loved it. It was amazing.
TUD: One of the people in the show said there would be no Notorious B.I.G. if there were no Fat Boys. How do you feel about that?
M:I concur. The Fat Boys made it cool to be your self, not to be fat, but to be yourself. A lot of people think it’s easy to lose weight, it’s not. People that are not obese they look at people who are and say “Just lose weight.” So just be who you are, you could still look fly, you could still get the girls. And Biggie was just an extension of that. He was the Coogi wearing, Rolex wearing, futuristic Fat Boy of the 90s.
TUD: Looking at the various “Big” rappers throughout the years, Heavy D, Chubb Rock, Fat Joe, Big Pun, how did it feel seeing them emulating you guys and what you have done in a lot of ways?
M: To put it this way, when Floyd Mayweather was fighting Ricky Hatton, I had the pleasure of flying on Rick Ross’ G4. I do radio in Miami so I asked him for an interview for my blog. So we’re 30,000 miles in the air, there’s champagne and girls everywhere. I asked this guy what made you want to do Hip Hop? The first thing out of his mouth was a Spider Man song I had written from our first album and he recited it line for line. And I’m sitting there for twenty minutes as he talked about how the Fat Boys influenced him, and he could be obese or fat and it did not matter. And it was because of us that he was able to do that. For him to say that to me, it makes me appreciate what we did because for a long time I was like “damn we’re not getting nominated for no Vh1 Hip Hop Honors.” Every time they mention RUN-DMC, they never mention us. Anytime they mention any other rap group or Old School, they never mention us. The only time they mention us is when they are talking about comedy or clowns. The reality of it is that we started out as rappers. We started to get into comedy because there was an escape for it. But we were rappers. And for this guy to recite one of my first rhymes I ever wrote about spider man, it made me go “damn, this is ill” and we really influenced him for him to memorize a rhyme from 23 years ago.
TUD: In the episode Kool Rock that said that the original “Jail House Rap” was more “gangster.” Was your verse also different?
M: At the time everybody was making those reality records cause Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five put out The Message. So everybody started making records about the negative that we were enduring in or own ghettos. So the big reality in Brooklyn was that if you are going to do a crime you were going to jail and jail was the worst experience in your life. And we wrote In Jail before we even had a record; that was one of the rhymes we had done. So we were in the studio with Kurtis Blow and our manager came up and said ,“you guys need to make this more funny, you need to stop being so serious about it.” I was like that could be a good idea so we changed it around and it came out being real funny. We were talking about going to jail for busting in the pizzeria cause I was hungry. It was a cool thing. Kool Rock was right, the original “In Jail” was more serious about doing a crime and going to jail for it. If you listen to the extended version there’s a more serious verse, that was one of the original verses.
M Sure. I explained it in detail in the Unsung documentary. These were things that we didn’t want to do. “Wipeout” was something we wanted to. It was different, it was fresh. Blending with other Rock groups and pop bands, doing some of their records, Run-DMC with Aerosmith, The Fat Boys with the Beach boys. After that, I felt like we needed to get back to what we did originally but our manager thought otherwise: If this worked once, it’ll work again. I know deep down inside, our core audience was like “what are you guys doing?” It was getting to the point where it was just ridiculous. Our managers were like you do this or else you’re black balled in this industry. We had no knowledge back then. No one was around to show us how the industry went. We had to learn it on our own. Our parents didn’t know. Our parents were from the same neighborhood we were from so if the manager said “If we say the word , your records will never play on the radio again” we believe them.
TUD: You guys exposed one of the conflicts in the music industry, the manager/label owner.
M: That was the craziest thing ever. And after a while in the business it came to light. “You can’t be over this, you’re not looking out for my best interest. All you’re looking out for is your own interests.” It was really crazy man.
TUD: Your partner Buffy the Human Beat Box died in 1997. What do you remember about that day?
M: I was home. I just finished talking to him about a few hours prior. At the time, I was doing my thing as a producer. He was about 5’4, 750 pounds. And I was like “Buff, all you need to do is lose a hundred pounds, and you’ll be a candidate for this gastric bypass surgery. You do that, and you can live a normal life again, we could make another album. We could get back in the lime light. I got more connections now. I could do records for us. I got my own label. Come on, let’s do it.” Before the conversation, he was so down and out, after, he was looking forward to starting to lose that weight and getting back in the studio again and get things popping. A couple of hours later my mom called me and said “Ella just called me (Buff’s mother), Buff fell and he is not breathing.” I jumped in the car with my friend Corey Rooney and when we got back there he had passed out already. It was hard for me cause when I got there his brother was over him, kneeling. He was gone already, the cops were there and we were waiting for the coroner to come, just looking at each other not saying anything. The coroner came and they were trying to carry him. There were only two guys and he couldn’t fit in a body bag and then we had to help. I had to physically lift my friend and put him in the back of a steel van with no comforters or nothing, just throw him in the back of a van and watch them pull off into the morning sun. It was crazy, it messed me up really bad because Buff was the one when I was going to through bad things. He would come to my door and be like “Mark you hold this stack, don’t worry about it, things are going to be better.” “ Yo Mark, you got nothing to eat, I’m on the way to your house right now. I got two buckets of KFC and I’m bringing you some money.” “Yo Mark, if you need anything come check me out.” Buff was the guy that was there for me always. He had the biggest heart in the world, he was a sweet guy and I miss him to death. That’s my brother.
TUD: Kool Rock Ski has lost a significant amount of weight but there is a misconception that he got fit after Buff died. Can you clear that up for us?
M.Kool Rock lost weight before Buff’s passing. Kool Rock started losing weight when he saw himself in Disorderlies. I remember the day, we went to the premiere and he said “I look disgusting.” We were on tour in Europe and I would go to his room and he would be eating salads and doing sit-ups every night. So he started before Buff passed. I guess people saw him and assumed it was because of that.
TUD: Did his death effect your health decisions at all?
M:As of recently, four years ago, I was 450 pounds. Then I started dieting and now I’m at 279. But I was never the big guy in the group. Even when Buff passed, I wasn’t that big. I was under 300 pounds. It did not affect me that way. It’s just that it made me realize we have to get healthier. Cause Buff died on accident. His heart did not just give out on him, he fell. Buff was so big that he couldn’t lie down. His weight would close his windpipe and he couldn’t breathe. He had to sleep sitting up. His heart went into overdrive and he suffered a massive heart attack because he fell. If he wouldn’t have fallen, he would be alive right now.
TUD: A lot of folks still don’t know how successful you’ve become as a record producer. How did you make that transition from rapping to production.
“Typical Reasons” (Swing My Way)
M: This is what happened. I got kicked out of the group and when I got kicked out I was asked to come back. I was in the group for a week or two and an attorney friend of mine said “Yo Mark, the only reason they asked you to be back in the group is because Warner Bros. was ready to do a second movie,” cause we signed a three picture deal. So they went to my old manager and said we are not going to do this movie unless we have all three original members, not just two guys, do what you have to do or we are not going to do this movie. And that’s when they came to me and said “we’re going to give you a second chance on a trial basis to come back into the group.” So when I found that out, I was like “you know what ,Fuck him!” I would rather roll the dice on me and doing the beats and winning that way and just trying to build my own shit up and trying to do my own records, my own movies, and my own thing. Cause I know that I can do it so I left the group. And when I left the group they didn’t do the movie, they put out another album. By chance, I ran into Father MC in the mall, I was like “yo I do beats” and he wanted me to rhyme on a record with him and I was like “that’s cool but I do beats too.” So he went to my crib that night and I played him “Treat ‘Em Like They Wanna Be Treated” and we ended up doing that record and a bunch of other records for him. And then went on to working with Mary, working with Mariah, J.Lo, so on and so on.
Father MC “Treat ‘Em Like” produced by Prince Markie Dee
TUD: So when did you pick up the drum machine? Did you learn it from Kurtis Blow?
M:Anything I’ve ever produced, I credit that to Kurtis Blow. The first day we were in the studio I watched him do beats. I watched him direct the musicians, what bass lines to put down, direct the pianist, what chords to play. And I learned watching him. I learned asking him questions. “What does this do on the board?” “What does that do?” “What did you do that for?” I think that was what made it easier for me to switch over into “producer mode.” So I was like “I got some money let me go buy this equipment.” I met my partner Corey Rooney. “Let’s do our thing to together, let’s make these beats and try and shop them.” I think when I hit that part it was easier to make that transition because I knew everything by watching Kurtis. I remember picking up the drum machine and banging on it for our last album that we did together. And that was the first record I ever produced , it was called “Lounging” on the last Fat Boys album. After that, we just kept doing beats and shopping them around. It was through the relationships with the Fat Boys that I was able to sit down with Andre Harell to knock on his door and he opened the door for me. If I didn’t run into Father in the mall it might’ve led to a different route.
Watch the Fat Boys “Unsung” tonight @ 10PM on TV One and check out these legends at Originalfatboys.com.