The Full Force legend recalls recording James Brown's last great hit.

Full Force's Bowlegged Lou Speaks On Working With James Brown, New Star-Studded Album And Nicki Minaj

Looking back, James Brown's 1985 comeback single "Living In America" was an anomaly for one of popular music's most prolific and groundbreaking visionaries. The omnipresent lead track from the Rocky IV film, which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 4 and spent an impressive 11 weeks on the pop charts, was curiously unfunky, a song so sterile that longtime JB fans were left with a sinking feeling that they were listening to a schmaltzy Las Vegas Karaoke band. Enter Full Force. The Brooklyn unit, which had found success both as the production minds behind such acts as Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam ("I Wonder If I Take You Home," Head To Toe, "Lost In Emotion") and U.T.F.O. ("Roxanne") and as a full fledge hip-hop soul band ("Alice, I Want You Just For Me," "Temporary Love Thing," "Old Flames Never Die") was tapped to produce a more unfiltered, traditional James Brown workout.

Released in 1988, I'm Real was praised as a statement that represented the direct bridge from Brown's landmark funk and soul innovations to the Bronx-bred artform of hip-hop. Brown's last top 10 album produced a pair of charting singles (the title track "I'm Real" and "Static" found Soul Brother No. 1 taking back his sound which by the late '80s had become the go-to sample for the rap nation). With the underrated Full Force handling writing and production duties, James Brown was back where he belonged.

Decades later, Lou and Full Force—who have shown impressive range and staying power over the years, overseeing and participating on projects that include N'Sync, Rihanna, the Black Eyed Peas and Bob Dylan—are still rolling. VIBE caught up with Lou to discuss his memories of working with the legendary James Brown (the subject of the acclaimed biopic Get On Up); the making of Full Force's star-studded album With Love From Our Friends (due out Aug. 26); how the crew overcame the cancer diagnosis of group member Paul Anthony; and why hip-hop will always be their muse. —Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)

VIBE: Full Force had the honor of working with James Brown on the I'm Real album, which was considered a big comeback album for the Godfather of Soul. How shocked were you when you got the gig?
Bowlegged Lou: I remember it like yesterday. James Brown was on Scotti Brothers Records at the time, and when we did an interview with Billboard we spoke of our love for Mr. Brown. We worshiped him... are you kidding me? And then Johnny Musso from Scotti Brothers got in touch with us and said, "Hey man, we heard about your love for Mr. Brown. How would Full Force love to do a whole James Brown album?" I was blown away. I got that phone call and was like, "Yes, let's do it...we're ready!" Then I remember going back to my brothers and my cousins in Full Force and I told them we were going to produce James Brown. They were literally jumping on me [laughs]. We were so excited.

We're you at all intimidated about the prospect of working with such a larger-than-life music icon?
Well, I started hearing rumors as we began to prepare for the album like, "Yeah, James Brown is hard to work with in the studio...James Brown curses." I wanted to find out what we were getting ourselves into, so I called up the late Dan Hartman who produced "Living In America" for Mr. Brown. And I asked him,"Yo, Dan...we are getting ready to work with James Brown. What do we do?" And he says, "First of all, you better not call him James. Call him Mr. Brown. If you call him James he's going to be looking at you like you're crazy." So we called him Mr. Brown when he came to the studio. We have never been in awe of anybody. Full Force has worked with people like Patti LaBelle and B.B. King and Bob Dylan. But we have never been in awe of anybody. But with Mr. Brown? We were in awe.

Have you seen the James Brown biopic Get On Up yet?
Not yet. But you know, it's funny. I heard we weren't mentioned in the movie or anything like that. But the bottom line is when we were working with Mr. Brown that's when he was getting into a lot of trouble and shooting guns and all that stuff was going on behind the scenes. When we would bump into Eddie Murphy he would joke, "Yo, man... y'all fucked up James Brown, man. He's getting in trouble because of y'all!" But even after going to jail Mr. Brown would still come back to the studio to finish the album. That was the crazy thing. Rev. Al Sharpton used to come into the studio every now and then. Every time Rev. Al would come to the studio we would say to ourselves, "Oh's going to be a long break right now." Because we knew that Sharpton and Mr. Brown would be talking until Tuesday [laughs]. And we heard some great stories!

Two of the biggest songs off the album, the title cut "I'm Real" and "Static," propelled Brown's return to the Billboard charts. How did those tracks come together and what was it like being in the studio with James Brown?
With "I'm Real" Mr. Brown loved the lyrics. This was the time when everybody was taking and sampling off Mr. Brown's and nobody was paying him for anything. So he couldn't wait to do "I'm Real." He was excited about it. He would tell us, "Yeah, man...I just got to get my money. I love the rappers. But they just can't take my money like that." But with us we had no issue sampling Mr. Brown because this was his record. We did a song called "She Looks All Types of Good" and we were using the "Funky Drummer" beat, but it was all good because we were using it with Mr. Brown right there present. So we got his permission on everything there. That's why we gave Mr. Brown writing credit. We were singing a lot of his songs on I'm Real.

And then on "Static" he didn't know where it was going in the beginning. My brother Paul spearheaded that song, but when he heard the chorus, "Static, don't start none, won't be none," he loved it. He loved it so much that he would be in the recording booth dancing. I would have to look over to Baby Gee like, "We are producing James Brown... what the fuck?!!!" It was just so incredible. We would be in the studio with him and he would tell us that he loved us like his sons. We spent three months in the studio with him. When I saw "I'm Real" go to no. 2 on the R&B charts with the name James Brown and then underneath "Produced by Full Force," that blew me away. And then "Static" goes top 5 on the charts. We had Mr. Brown's last top 10 records.

Let's get into the new Full Force album Love From Our Friends. You have everyone from Raphael Saadiq and Faith Evans to Sheila E., Big Daddy Kane and former proteges Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam on this release. How did you go about recruiting the artists featured on this wide-ranging set?
Basically, I'm the one that made the phone calls to everybody. It just became a labor of love, which started out with Faith Evans and Tisha Campbell-Martin who were the first people on board. Tisha has always been such a dear friend of ours and Faith just wanted to do it for the love. We wanted to do this project in the way of Quincy Jones' Back On The Block album. I always had it in my head to do something like this using only true school artists. When artists have their features it's the usual contemporary artists but I feel sometimes that some people can have amnesia about a person like Tevin Campbell who still is alive and kicking or a Shanice, who I feel has always been one of the most underrated vocalist. Then we have Raphael Saadiq who I believe is a musical genius and Howard Hewett... these are all of our artists. I always wanted to make a big deal about them and a lot of them are doing it for the love of Full Force and the love of my brother, and his whole Cancer Champion Initiative to help other people.

You mentioned your brother Paul Anthony. How is he holding up and how has his illness affected Full Force as a group?
My brother Paul is doing God good right now. When he was first diagnosed with cancer it was a trip for us all. My brother is a picture of health. He was a bodybuilder and working out. It just shows you that cancer is not prejudice at all. I was there at the hospital when he was diagnosed and he didn't cry. He just got on his Blackberry and started looking up the terminology of Mantle Cell Lymphoma, which was a rare cancer and he took it head on. He's doing great...he's really positive. He has a song that he wrote in the hospital called "I Feel Good, I Look Good, I'm God Good," with Faith Evans and Sheila E. We just finished doing a video to that. It's going to be incredible.

Do you guys ever sit back and think, "Wow, we kick-started the recorded hip-hop diss craze with "Roxanne, Roxanne?"
It's crazy. I'll never forget Roxanne Shanté, who is also on our new album. Being the producers of UTFO's "Roxanne, Roxanne" we used to be enemies [laughs]. When her and Marley Marl came out with "Roxanne's Revenge" we were like, "What the hell is this?!!!" They were playing both songs all over the radio. It wasn't even the fact that she was dissing everybody in UTFO on record, but it was like, "That is our track that they are using!" They are using our fucking track...did they even get permission to use our track?! [Laughs] It was a whole big thing, but after a while we settled everything. We got a co-writing credit for "Roxanne's Revenge." Then you had all these answer records like "Roxanne's Father," The Parents of Roxanne" come out. There were over 25 answer records.

That had to be surreal, right?
It was crazy! So much so that Full Force said to ourselves, "Well, we better jump on our own bandwagon." That's when we came out with "The Real Roxanne." Me and brother wrote the lyrics for that and recruited the first girl whose name was Elease Jack...she was the Original Real Roxanne. And then we recruited Joanne Martinez who became the other Real Roxanne. But for Roxanne Shanté to be featured on one of the new records "Roxanne, Roxanne (The New Chapter)" and come full circle it's great. My son Lou$tar, who is on it, a lot of people don't realize that if you Google Nicki Minaj one of her first early rap groups was called the Hoodstars and my son and myself personally recruited Nicki in the very, very beginning. My son was four-years-old when we first did "Roxanne, Roxanne."

Now that's some heavy perspective...
Right... he knew the song back and forwards. Now he's on the record with UTFO and Roxanne Shanté , who killed it. My son is talking to this girl and the girl's mother. He's getting tips from his uncle Doctor Ice and Kangol Kid and when he goes to talk to this girl the mother is Roxanne Shanté! To be honest, we wouldn't have been involved with the first recorded diss track if it wasn't for Shante releasing "Roxanne's Revenge." She's the lighter fluid that ignites it. It's just a crazy nice soap opera. We really consider ourselves the original hip-hop vocal band. "Alice I Want You Just For Me" was the original New Jack Swing record. Teddy Riley used to look up to us and we really appreciated that. We didn't get the props we felt we deserved actually until the Unsung TV documentary came on last year. We would hear, "Yo, man...Full Force's body of work is crazy."

From the Web

More on Vibe

Prince Williams/Wireimage

Killer Mike Gives Emotional Speech Urging Peaceful Protests Amid Unrest In Atlanta

Killer Mike joined T.I., and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in delivering emotional pleas to discourage ATLiens from burning the city as protests broke out on Friday (May 29) in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless victims of police brutality.

“I don’t want to be here,” began Killer Mike. “I’m the son of an Atlanta city police officer, my cousin is a police officer…I got a lot of love and respect for police officers down to the original eight [Black] police officers in Atlanta that, even after becoming police, had to dress in a YMCA because white officers didn’t want to get dressed with ni**ers. And here we are, 80 years later and I watched a white officer assassinate a Black man and I know that tore your heart out. I know it’s crippling and I have nothing positive to say in this moment because I don’t want to be here.”

The Atlanta native went on to share background on his family’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, and other social justice issues. “I’m duty-bound to be here to simply say, 'It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with the enemy.’”

In what turned out to be another viral moment, Tip called Atlanta “Wakanda” while imploring demonstrators not to destroy the city. “Atlanta has been here for us, this city don’t deserve that. I understand that a lot of others do, but we can’t do this here, this is Wakanda. It’s sacred. It must be protected,” said the 39-year-old rapper.

Mayor Bottoms simply told protestors to simply “go home.”

“Above everything else, I am a mother to four Black children in America, one of whom is 18 years old,” she said. “When I saw the murder of George Floyd, I hurt like a mother would hurt. Yesterday, when I heard there was a rumor about violent protests in Atlanta, I did what a mother would do: I called my son and I said ‘where are you?’ I said ‘I cannot protect you and Black boys shouldn’t be out today.’ So you’re not going to out-concern me, and out care about where we are in America.

“I wear this each and every day and I pray over my children each and every day. What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos.”

WATCH: "If you love this city, go home!"

— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) May 30, 2020

At the request of Mayor Bottoms, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued a state of emergency in Fulton County, and deployed 500 troops from the state's national guard.

They will deploy immediately to assist @ga_dps, @GaDNRLE, @GA_Corrections & local law enforcement who are working tirelessly to subdue unlawful activity & restore peace. We will continue to make all state resources available to local leaders during this emergency situation. (2/2)

— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) May 30, 2020

See Killer Mike's full statement below as well as photos and video of the protests.

A powerful scene in Atlanta right now, this gives me chills.

— Everything Georgia (@GAFollowers) May 29, 2020

More shots from Atlanta tonight

— kieron (@kieroncg) May 30, 2020

The chief of police in Atlanta talking and listening to everyone that has something to say#ATLFORUS #AtlantaProtest

— Lilly - BLACK LIVES MATTER (@joonhopekook) May 29, 2020

It’s not just Minneapolis, we are now seeing protests in cities across the country over the death of George Floyd. This is in Atlanta as some smash the glass at our downtown CNN headquarters. #GeorgeFloyd

— Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenez) May 30, 2020

Police cars getting literally destroyed in Atlanta outside the CNN Center

— Fernando Alfonso III (@fernalfonso) May 29, 2020

Downtown Atlanta right now.... PEACEFUL PROTEST ! #BlackLivesMatter !

— KP 🦋. (@kailynnlee) May 29, 2020

Continue Reading

Breonna Taylor’s Family Vows To Continue Fight For Justice: “Please Keep Saying Her Name”

Breonna Taylor must not be forgotten. The family of the 26-year-old EMT who was shot and killed by Louisville police officers in March, released a statement encouraging peaceful protests and the continued fight for justice.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear read the statement from Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, on CNN on Friday (May 29).

“Breonna devoted her own life to saving other lives, to helping others, to making people smile, and to bringing people together,” the statement reads. “The last thing she’d want right now is any more violence. Changes are being made, but it’s not enough. We will not stop until there is truth, justice and accountability. Breonna’s legacy will not be forgotten. And it’s because of all of us saying her name and demanding justice. We are saying her name more each day. Thank you.

“Please keep saying her name. Please keep demanding justice and accountability, but let’s do it the right way without hurting each other. We can, and we will make some real change here. Now’s the time. Let’s make it happen.”

Seven people were shot during a protest for Taylor in Louisville on Thursday (May 28). The shooting victims were treated and are in stable condition, according to Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher. Fisher also reposted a video message from Taylor’s family urging peace amid the protests.

A message from Breonna Taylor’s family urging protestors to be peaceful, go home and keep fighting for truth.

— Mayor Greg Fischer (@louisvillemayor) May 29, 2020

On March 13, 2020, Louisville police officers kicked in Taylor’s door without warning and opened fire. Authorities claim that they were executing a “no-knock” search warrant stemming from an alleged drug investigation involving another man who did not live in Taylor’s home, and had already been arrested.

“Police just unloaded 25 to 30 rounds, I mean they’re shooting from the front door, they’re shooting from the window, they’re shooting from the patio,” attorney Benjamin Crump told Essence on Friday. “They’re so reckless, they shoot a bullet into the next door neighbor’s apartment where their five-year-old daughter is asleep in her room. “They didn’t even have to come in her [Taylor's] apartment. They already had the person they were searching for in custody.”

Taylor’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the LMPD accusing the department of excessive force and gross negligence. In wake of Taylor’s murder going public, LMPD has changed its policy and will now require no-knock warrants to have a police chief’s signature. The department also made it mandatory for LMPD officers to wear body cameras.

A 911 call made by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, after the shooting was made public on Thursday. “I don’t know what’s happening somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend,” Walker can be heard saying through tears. Police arrested Walker for shooting at cops whom he assumed were robbers. The charges were later dropped.

Listen to the emotional 911 call below.

Continue Reading
KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

Fired Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin Arrested For Murder Of George Floyd

Fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested for the murder of George Floyd on Friday (May 29), Hennepin County D.A. Mike Freeman confirmed at a press conference.

“Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder and with manslaughter. He has been charged with third-degree murder,” said Freeman.

“There could be more charges later. The investigation is ongoing. We felt it important to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator,” Freeman said when asked if the three additional fired MPD officers will be charged in Floyd’s murder. The third-degree murder charge suggests that Chauvin had no intent to kill Floyd. If convicted, the charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.

Chauvin's arrest follows three days of protests in an around Minneapolis. On Thursday (May 28), the MPD’s third precinct went up in flames.

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct has been set on fire

— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) May 29, 2020

“We have never charged a case in that time frame. We can only prove a case when we have substantial evidence,” added Freeman who maintained that the timing of the arrest was a result of a final piece of evidence, although he refused to go into detail. “We have now been able to put together the evidence that we needed. Folks, I’m not gonna’ talk specifically about this piece of evidence, or that piece of evidence. You will see.”

Freeman did however state the that evidence collected in the case includes citizen video, officer body cam footage, witness statements, and a “preliminary report” from the medical examiner.

Chauvin was the officer filmed jamming his knee into Floyd’s neck as he gasped for air and pleaded, “Please! Please! I can’t breathe!”

The fatal incident unfolded on Monday (May 25) afternoon. Police were called to Cup Food grocery store after Floyd allegedly tried to use a fraudulent $20 bill. MPD claimed that Floyd resisted arrest but a security camera recording shows him walking calmly in handcuffs while being escorted to a patrol car by an MPD officer.

Video footage release by store owner who stated George did not resist arrest as stated on the police report #GeorgeFloyd #BlackLivesMatters

— Que ™ (@RealQDaKidd) May 27, 2020

Additional footage, recorded by a teenage bystander, captured Floyd's last few minutes alive. Floyd, 46, was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Chauvin may have already known Floyd as they both worked security for the Minneapolis club, El Nueva Rodeo.

Continue Reading

Top Stories