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[rock the dub Interview]: Bobbie Fine

Life's funny in certain ways. I was born and raised in Trenton, NJ, and while I knew we had a dope Hip-Hop scene, I had neither the age nor the funds to really explore it. I ended up finding out about how rich my hometown (and surrounding area) was with talent, especially at a job I had a few years back. I became tight with a cat who knew YZ, Young Star and all those heads, a cat who put me onto #9 and a slew of other sick MCs who got overlooked. One of the heads he put me onto was Bobbie Fine, and I actually wanted to interview him years back, but for one reason or another it never happened. With the tragic death of Trenton Hip-Hop legend, Tony D, I made good on that wish to interview B-Fine, and now provide you with this look into Trenton Hip-Hop past, and where Bobby Fine is going...

khal: First off, can you state your name and affiliations for the heads who might not be aware of who you are?

Bobbie Fine: These days, I go by Bobbie Fine (aka B-Fine for my crate diggers and 90’s Hip-Hop heads), but it’s all the same. YZ gave me the name B-Fine in like ‘84 or ‘85. I was like “isn’t dude from Full Force named B-Fine?” and he was like “I don’t know, but he ain’t you, the ladies love you”. So there it is LOL.

khal: Thanks. Now, you’ve been involved in the Hip-Hop scene since the age of 15. I imagine you grew up listening to the music, but when did you first realize that you could write and spit with your peers?

Bobbie Fine: Before we did YZ’s first album (Sons of the Father), I was the emcee dude in my area of Jersey. Me and Z’s brother Young Star, we’re the ESD Posse from grammar school. We used to battle any and everyone we could. I was the more vocal, big mouth of us & Star was the cat that would punch you in the mouth after the battle if there was a problem. I’d really been writing rhymes and freestyling since 4th or 5th grade, when I first heard “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow. So I always knew I was an emcee.

khal: Speaking of peers, who would you say were your peers in the game?

Bobbie Fine: Central Jersey was dope in the 80’s, especially Trenton. There was a cat named MC Force who I really looked up to, and Almighty was a beast to me back then. Of course, YZ, and when he was in Too Def with G-Rock, PRT, Blvd Mosse, MOB, Tony D (RIP) and Too Kool Posse were all cats that I admire. Even some heads around my way like Saladeen (my OG big homie from AC), Lester Brown, Mark Swain and even my younger brother Chill aka #9 (RIP) and his crew at the time are all that made me love Hp-Hp and want to be a part of it.

khal: You rolled with the central New Jersey crew heavy when you were first getting put on. What do you think about that geographical area made Trenton and the surrounding area different than the scenes in Philly or NY? Do you think you’d be a different MC if you grew up somewhere else?

Bobbie Fine: What made Central Jersey so dope was that you’ve got both Philly & New York’s energy, with just the right amount of originality back then. We respected Philly & NY and loved their sounds, but only borrowed just enough to sprinkle onto our own sound and style. I’d be a completely different emcee, recording artist producer & performer if I grew up anywhere else. True school of hard knocks stomping gounds.

khal: I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak to you about the recent passing of Tony D. He’s known as a legend in the Trenton Hip-Hop scene, and his status is certified. I’ve seen you speak on him as both your producer and your mentor. How did you first meet Tony?

Bobbie Fine: YZ was originally a dancer. He and G-Rock used to go to NY and dance at the club, and they were sick with it. His brother and I were the rap cats, so when Z and Tony met and started conceptualizing him recording music, Z used to always talk him up, so I couldn’t wait to meet him. One day, he finally took us over to meet Tone, and I remember walking down this long hallway, to where his bedroom was in his Mom’s house out in Ewing, and there was a long brown table with his drum machine on it. I remember he played me this beat and I spit something, and he was like “we gotta get him in the studio, too”. I was amped and I couldn’t believe someone doing music for real finally validated what I’d already known. He gave me a couple of beats to write to, and the first song we recorded was called “I’m The Principal”. It was one of those songs that was just Hip-Hop, raw. I wish I had a copy of it, but the sound is imprinted in my brain. I was like 14, young and dumb, and from that moment Tony made me realize that I could actually do something with myself as an artist.

khal: I know your crew, Blaque Spurm, worked with Tony, and you put some work in on the Crusaders For Real Hip-Hop project. How much work did you put in with Tony D? Do you have any tracks that never saw the light of day, or beat tapes of his that never got used?

Bobbie Fine: Well, during and after YZ’s first album, I put in work as Z’s hype man, wrote and co-wrote a couple of joints, so I was heavily involved in the album, which tightened my bond with Tone. When he and Z started falling out, I was in the middle of it on stand by, waiting for my day to come. Tone and I started to record joints for my 1st group conception, The Funk Family, which we were first approached by Dante Ross when he was at Elektra, but we ended up at a new label distributed by Interscope called Poetic Groove. We recorded an entire album and released 2 singles (“Think B4 U Step” b/w “Disperse” and “Anyway”, produced by the Baka Boyz) towards the end of our stay on PG. I was featured on most of the projects Tone put together back then, and we were as thick as thieves. I didn’t make a move without talking to him, and he was involved in my deal with Blaque Spurm and American Recordings via a mutual homie, Dan Charnas, who was an A&R at the time. I made some alliances in Houston from my days of touring with YZ, so the BS album was half Tone and half some new production friends of mine. I was hesitant at first, bringing in different producers, and thought Tone would think I didn’t want his sound anymore, but he loved the direction I was going in and welcomed it. We recorded the album and dropped a couple of singles, but ultimately were unhappy with the way Rick Rubin was dealing with his Hip-Hop acts at the time, so we got a release. Tone and I have so much material and I’m grateful that I got so many chances to work with him and be creative. He taught me more than I would have ever learned on my own, and made me, in so many ways, the person I am today.

khal: When was the last time you saw Tony? When did you last speak with him?

Bobbie Fine: Tone lost a lot of weight after getting out of prison, so the last time I saw him was before he went in. We’ll talk every couple months, just to check in and see how each others families are and if we still have love for the music. We talked last year about releasing all of the old tunes online and even putting out some singles. He hit me up on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and said he would hit on the weekend. Last week I had a show here in Houston, and performed this joint called “My 1st Love” which is a dedication to Hip-Hop over a Tony D beat. The next day, Tone was heavy on my heart, but I didn’t call him. My homie Dre, who was close with Tone, called me that evening and when I heard his voice, I knew it was about Tone.

khal: What are some of the tools or gems that you learned from Tony?

Bobbie Fine: The biggest lesson I’ve learned from Tone is not to compromise yourself or your music for anything or anyone. Tone did what he did because he didn’t care what anyone else thought about him as an artist. Watching him over the years tap the drum pads and make so many dope instrumentals made me want to start making beats of my own. When he told me I was a dope producer is when I started calling myself one. Before that I was just a beat maker.

khal: OK, so getting back to you, you spent a lot of time dropping cameos on a host of projects, from the Fu-Schnickens to the State of Emergency project. What would you say was your favorite guest feature and why?

Bobbie Fine: My very first cameo was on a remix with YZ called “In The Party”; this was also my introduction as the next cat from the camp to pop, so that was big. The fact that Z wanted me on the joint and that it was, I believe, a B-side on one of his singles was a really big deal.

khal: In your travels, you took a liking to Houston, Texas, and ended up staying out there. What was it about Houston that drew you to the city?

Bobbie Fine: It’s a city, but it’s really a big ass suburb and I like that. I love the gritty NY and the hectic LA, but HTX is just laid back and has a calm about that I needed, coming from Jersey. Artists like Royal Flush (aka Uckfe Ouye), Bun and UGK, Ghetto Boyz, Devin and the Odd Squad and so many other really talented underground cats let me know immediately that Hip-Hop was definitely alive in the South.

khal: Not knocking Houston MCs at all, but there are obvious differences to the way their MCs rhyme and how it’s done in the East. Did you ever find it difficult to get respect in the Hip-Hop circles down there?

Bobbie Fine: Absolutely not. I’ve always maintained a really good balance of being able to run with the coming down, grippin’ grain rapper folk as well as the backpack Hip-Hop heads in the city. I respect both hustles, and I am versatile, so I can hang with the best of both worlds.

khal: What’s going on with you today - do you have any albums on the way? What’s Ambidextrous Music all about?

Bobbie Fine: We produce music for networks. That’s our bread and butter. Fox Sports Net is our biggest client, but this year we plan on stepping up our game and pursuing some other major networks. We release projects every couple of years, just for the love of staying creative and letting folk know we’re still relevant. I’m working on a project with a partner of mine from Portland named KP (formerly of the group Pros & Cons). We have a group called Good Biz, and we’re putting the finishing touches on the album this month. I have another solo album up my sleeve that I want to release after the GB smoke clears, so we’re still at it. Future plans are a studio in Portland that’s being built right now, and possibly some touring this summer with the release of the GB album. We’re also starting a management company, so you’ll be hearing some new artists we’re working with really soon. Oh and we just did a deal with YZ to release all of the old material online. The release date is April 28th, so you’ll be able to log on to any music site and get The Funk Family, Blaque Spurm, my solo albums, #9 album and a bunch more.

khal: Do you tour regularly?

Bobbie Fine: I gig every once and a while, nothing consistent, but my dream is to go on a world tour before I hang it up. Working on that.

khal: Do you keep in contact with heads like YZ and the rest of your fam from the golden era?

Bobbie Fine: Z’s my brother from another mother. I talk to him all the time and still play a small part in what he’s doing. We give each other advice, and he’s a mentor of mine. I run into just about everyone online, and I keep in touch with a lot of the cats that I still look up to and admire.

khal: What would you like Bobbie Fine’s legacy to be?

Bobbie Fine: That I made good music, stayed true to myself and didn’t take the bait. I can make money anywhere, but I can’t change what I put out there for ears to listen to, so at the end of the day my kids respect that man I am and I can look in the mirror and know I didn’t just rap.

khal: Do you have any final thoughts or shoutouts to kick before we wrap this up?

Bobbie Fine: Without my big brother Pum, I couldn’t have lasted this long, so thank you for being my support system. To my wife, thanks for understanding that I was in love with Hip-Hop first, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love you and the kids, and to Tony Depula & Borne “#9” Humbert, keep smiling down on me and continue to show me the way through this journey in music. Both of you have contributed to who I am and what I represent. RIP. Oh and haters… choke on a fat one. LOL! Audi!!!
For more information on Bobbie Fine and his current works, hit the following sites:

Normal Bias also has a Tony D Tribute post up that Bobbie Fine did, with 2 fresh tracks.

EDIT Noz posted this interview on Cocaine Blunts, and included links to more B-Fine albums (namely the Blaque Spurm output). Props to him!

1 comment:

Drasar Monumental said...

Very thorough interview...Thanks you just made my day with this....Peace