October 23, 2015

Remixed For Your Pleasure: Black Rob - "Whoa!"

Black Rob has always been one of Puff Daddy's saddest acquisitions.  Not because he's a terrible rapper or anything: far from it.  In fact, his Bad Boy Records debut, Life Story, is actually one of the label's finest and most consistent works, at least according to this thing I wrote way back in 2009.  But Puffy signed him simply for the instant street cred having a dude like Black Robert on your label offers: he never had any real clue what to do with the motherfucker.  Mainstream audiences wouldn't flock to his matter-of-fact gruff tones and street tales, and underground heads couldn't wrap their, um, heads around the fact that he signed with Puff and not with, say, his friend Dan "The Automator" Nakamura's then-label, 75 Ark.  But Puffy isn't a quitter, at least until he quits, so he tried to market his product with a radio-friendly single called "Whoa!".

(By the way, when in the fuck did people start spelling "whoa" as "woah"?  Is it a generational thing?  Because whenever I encounter the second spelling, I always read the word in my mind as "woe-a".  Anyway, sorry, I'm getting off track.)

"Whoa!" was Black Rob's only hit single, and even with its repetitive nature (the titular word is chanted at the end of nearly every bar, and not always to describe something surprising happening to the narrator, as our host helpfully explains during the intro what exactly is "whoa"), it still manages to sound good today.  Aside from the gimmick, Rob does his best to weave together remnants of his life into a cohesive rap song, and most importantly, he actually sounds good doing so.  As such, this is one of Bad Boy's hits that I can't ever really be mad at.  The instrumental, provided by DIggin' In The Crates member Buckwild, certainly helps in this regard: he loops a string sample atop some stomping drums that open the track up to a club setting, even though it can also be enjoyed while driving alone in your car.  Besides, it's catchy as shit.  To this day, I still occasionally pepper my conversations with "like whoa" at the end of my sentences, all to the dismay of my wife, who has to keep telling me to live in the now.

I've included the official video for posterity's sake, if only because it features some of the goofiest dancing I've seen, and, shockingly, I'm not referring to Puffy's.

Naturally, the popularity of "Whoa!" led to a remix, or else I wouldn't be writing about it as a part of this series.  Never one to pass up an obvious marketing opportunity, Puff Daddy stacks the deck by inviting some fairly big names to spit over the same Buckwild instrumental (albeit with some new sonic interference) as our host, and by "big", I mean he gainfully employed the late Notorious B.I.G.'s Junior M.A.F.I.A. lackey Lil Cease to spit a verse, because I assume Biggie left Cease-A-Leo in Sean Combs's care in his last will and testament.  To be fair, the remix also features Flipmode Squad's Rah Digga (an inspired choice) and Da Brat (yep, there are two wholly unrelated female rappers on this motherfucker, which actually makes Puffy seem to be fairly progressive, right?), along with Rob's fellow Bad Boy coworker-slash-convicted murdered-slash-former Gang Starr Foundation member G-Dep.  The name that most of you two would probably give the most shit about, though, is Beanie Sigel, who makes an appearance during a time when he was busy trying to establish his own solo identity among his mates at Roc-A-Fella Records.

As expected, every guest adopts Black Robert's gimmick. with varying degrees of success: Cease, by far, turns in the worst cameo, spitting some reprehensible (to the senses, not to society or anything) bars about boning and then, inexplicably, killing, hopefully not the person he was just fucking.  Da Brat had already worn out her welcome in hip hop at this point, but she isn't awful, and G-Dep sounds about as good as you could imagine if you remember anything about the dude from before this post.  Aside from Rob, who had damn well better sound good on his own motherfucking song, Rah Digga and Sigel handle Buckwild's beat the best, which probably doesn't surprise anyone in the least.

What did surprise me is how Puffy, a man who can't leave well enough alone, actually commissioned a second official remix for "Whoa!".  He titled it the "All-Star Remix", even though it doesn't feature any actual stars, and it appears on the same twelve-inch single as the other "Whoa!" redo, at least according to Discogs.  I couldn't find the "All-Star Remix" version anywhere online.  Not that it matters, though: Puffy had also combined the two remixes, which I just realized is the version I was most familiar with anyway.

After some explanabragging from Puffy himself, who wasn't going to miss the chance to appear on someone else's song even though he had nothing to do with its production, the final three guests of the evening (the "All-Stars", if you will) come out to play.  This remix to "Whoa!" is notable for featuring the debut verses of two well-known-ish names: North Carolina resident Petey Pablo, dropping bars well before he ever took off his t-shirt and waved it around like a loon helicopter, and resident Biggie impersonator Shyne, who Puff had just signed because, well, come the fuck on.  Neither man turns in a decent-sounding verse, but for historical purposes, you'll want to listen to this version if you ever cared about either of those motherfuckers.  

Producer Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie, who also had nothing to do with the production side of this remix, takes to the microphone in his persona as The Madd Rapper to close things out on this overlong affair. At least he brings a sense of humor to the table: even though his bars are annoying to listen to thanks to his higher pitch, he gets how silly this entire affair is, unlike Shyne and Pablo, who deliver too-serious bars that nobody will give a shit about.  As much as I like the beat, there is such thing as too much of a good thing.  Well, at least Craig Mack isn't on this one.

GO WITH THE O.G. OR THE REMIX?  There are some entertaining aspects to the remix, I guess, but I would go with the original all day.  Nostalgia is a motherfucker, but "Whoa!" was supposed to be a showcase for Black Rob, and he could have done much worse than to be saddled with such a catchy-ass instrumental.


Black Rob - Life Story (review)


  1. Life Story is a legitimately good album. I mean there are a lot of clunkers, but there are 7 or 8 pretty solid songs on there.

    I was never a huge fan of Whoa just because of how repetitive it was, but the beat is damn nice

  2. Where's the docu2 at