Chris Rob might be an unknown name in the music business but you’ve certainly heard his music before. He has produced for the likes of Leon Ware, John Legend, Deborah Cox, Lauryn Hill and Macy Gray. His heavyweight talent and his cool personality come through his new EP “Mental Notes” released this year through Soul Soldier Entertainment. As a friend of mine in the industry I am pleased to introduce Chris Rob to readers of Flavour Mag.
Hello Chris, how are you today?
Feeling blessed man! Couldn’t be better.
Congratulations on your great new EP “Mental Notes”. What inspired you for the title?
Excellent question. The last few years of my life, particularly since I moved to New York from Chicago, has been a straight up spiritual awakening for me in so many ways. I made a lot of self-discoveries while travelling and recording, and I wound up taking all that energy to the stage and studio. I found that people were so much more engaged into the new music I was doing, and I found myself in some crazy stimulating conversations everywhere I went. To sum it up, I started shaping my mind to reach my visions and goals and stop living in fear and worry, and started focus on constantly being greater. Thus the title “Mental Notes”.
Which contemporary soul artists have inspired you throughout the years?
Man, definitely D’Angelo, Bilal, and Erykah. The Roots, Pharell, Maya Azucena, Kendra Ross, Jill Scott, Meshell N’degeocello. Basically people following their heart, creating their own niche of music and pushing it forward.
You told me that Marvin Gaye inspires you vocally and musically. Why?
Any serious musical artist, especially doing soul should say that. He was the greatest ever. His voice was flawless and direct from his heart, his energy pure, his writing 100 percent honest, his talents and musical range was endless. Marvin did it all; he started out doing soulful rock and roll, experimented in jazz on the Trouble Man Soundtrack and the Vulnerable album, got into the funk on Here My Dear, Got to Give it Up, etc. He touched on classical with Ave Maria and The Lord’s Prayer. He even dipped into hip-hop on Ego Trippin Out! And he played several instruments as well. Dude was an enigma in this game, that’s why his music bangs to this day and he is still a household name.
Name your top 6 favorite records?
This could take hours! But I’ll ride with, Marvin Gaye – Here My Dear, Prince – Sign O The Times, D. Angelo – Voodoo, John Coltrane – A Love Supreme, A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders, and Meshell N’degeocello – Cookie: The Antropological Mixtape.
What genres would you say define your new EP? And what helped you hone your musical decisions and direction?
This project is a fusion of 70’s style blaxplotation funk and soul ala Curtis Mayfield/Roy Ayers, bohemian hip hop, blended with a touch of jazz and a little rock. I was particularly inspired by the Superfly soundtrack, how grimy and funky Curtis kept it, but was kicking the truth with powerful messages in the middle of all of that. The synthy thing that everybody is doing now is cool, but I wanted to flip it a little bit, go a different direction, and I feel that the music on Mental Notes is missing from the radio, but just as in tune to today.
As I listen to your EP “Mental Notes” on my ipod touch lots of musical tastes come to mind. Funk. Soul. R&B. Even old school hip-hop. Check Out That Body is such a groove…tell me the creation of each song and how they came to fruition?
Glad you feel it. Let’s start with “Not Guilty”. Basically an interlude, we rock it extended in the live show sometimes and the whole room loses their mind! It’s called “Not Guilty” because it was inspired by haters who try to persecute you for being you and not following to their agenda. “Sex. Money. & Drugs” came to me in a hotel room while touring. It’s basically about not living in excess, finding a little moderation in your partying… I’ve seen a lot of cats over do it. “Waiting 4 You” was inspired by a romance I was in, basically telling her that I would be faithful to our love….I woke up with that one in my head, I get some of my best work that way. “Check Out Dat Body” came about because I wanted to make a jazzy soulful song that DJ’s could play in the strip club. Something that really mellowed you out, but it’s appropriate for in-home stripping as well. I have a longer version coming out of that song, but I let the band jam out on that in the show. “Take Time” came about after I had shut my computer and TV off one day, something inside told me to do it. I had worked out the music with DJ Spinna in his lab just weeks before and was slow trying to write the lyrics, but that day I spent in silence inspired the words I ended up writing. It’s very important that we breakaway from all the demands of 2010 and get in quiet time for ourselves and with our family and friends. “Everyday” is about people who hold onto their emotional baggage and bring it to every relationship. I dated someone like that, and it’s not fun paying for someone else’s sins so I broke out! Anthony Nicholson had the track laid out and I came through Chicago and wrote the lyrics and laid it down that night. And last, “3AM Sailing” was a late night joint I did, inspire by the late great Jay Dilla. The beat reminds me of being on a boat, so I called it what it was.
How do you write your music and lyrics? And then. What helps you search for a melody?
I can choose to sit down and work on something, but really it all has to come to me. I don’t really search for any of my creative process, I try to keep my portable lab close by, or something to write down what I am hearing, or go build with someone very creative as well.
You’ve had high praise from the likes of Meshell Ndegeocello, and have worked with Lauryn Hill to name a few. What does it feel like to get up close and personal with these artists?
To be honest, its destiny fulfilled. I studied and studied my craft like these artists did, so naturally, we would eventually rub elbows. But it is always a pleasure to meet someone who inspired you at some point to be greater, and for that person to recognize you, and give you props, it feels like u connected with the same spirit that touched them, and in turn now touches your own music.
What do you think of Soul Discoveries? And do you have a message for your fans and Soul Discoveries readers?
Soul Discoveries is hot! It’s creating a platform for artists like myself who don’t have a record deal, to reach more people, particularly in the UK, so thank you for the support. To all the readers I would say, life is short, so live your dreams! Work hard, play hard, meditate and pray for solutions to your concerns, but never stop striving for the visions you see in your head of yourself. “In time you’ll find all that you have been searching for.” Peace.