The Fat Boys
The Fat Boys
Early in the not-so-long history of rap music, the Fat Boys made a splash with their self-deprecating humor, large size, and infectious rhythms and rhymes. With a combined weight totaling over 750 pounds, the Fat Boys lumbered onto the rap scene, performing a blend of comedy and music. The trio—Mark "Prince Markie Dee" Morales, Darren "Buff the Human Beat Box" Robinson, and Damon "Kool Rock-Ski" Wimbley—was one of the first rap acts to cross over into mainstream popularity. Although they eventually released one platinum and several gold albums and appeared in films, on television shows, and commercials, their fortunes declined as the 1980s drew to a close, and the trio disbanded in the early 1990s.
Robinson, Morales, and Wimbley grew up on the same block in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, where they began rapping together. As Wimbley later explained to Dennis Hunt in the Los Angeles Times, "We used to rap on street corners. We'd practice in basements. ... It was just one of the things we'd like to do together."
Originally known as Disco 3, the Fat Boys first gained national prominence when they won a national talent contest at Radio City Music Hall in 1983. The judges were especially impressed with Robinson's ability to generate sound effects, producing an astonishing variety, noted Pierre Perrone of the London, England, Independent, of "percussive belches, grunts and clicks ... with his mouth."
Their contest win attracted the notice Charlie Stetler, who became the group's manager. In addition to their talents, Stetler was also impressed with his new clients' sheer bulk. Robinson alone tipped the scales at 450 pounds, and the group ran up astonishing restaurant tabs while on the road; one breakfast reportedly cost $350. It was Stetler who suggested that the group change its name to the Fat Boys and use comedy as part of their act.
The Fat Boys also hired Kurtis Blow, an accomplished rap artist in his own right, to produce their first albums. The releases, which blended party tunes and humor set to hip-hop, reggae, and rock music, all played up the Fat Boys' heaviness in their titles. Fat Boys debuted in 1984, and went gold. The following year, the group was featured in a hip-hop documentary called Krush Groove, which brought them an even wider audience and a three-picture deal with Warner Brothers. The group's sophomore album, Fat Boys Are Back was also released in 1985; Big and Beautiful followed in 1986.
Meanwhile, rap music itself was becoming increasingly popular, helped by Run-D.M.C.'s 1986 cover of the Aerosmith rock hit "Walk This Way." Sensing an opportunity, the Fat Boys decided to make a splash with their own cover tunes. After moving to the Polydor label, they released their version of the Surfari's 1963 hit "Wipe Out," backed by the Beach Boys. The song, featured on Crushin', the Fat Boys' 1987 platinum album, climbed to number two on the British charts, and hit number 12 in the United States. Following on the success of this effort, the Fat Boys landed starring roles as themselves in the Three Stooges-inspired comedy film Disorderlies in the same year. Unfortunately, the film was a critical and box office flop. Writing in the Houston Chronicle, film critic Michael Spies called the film "a Three Stooges short pushed to a breaking point that makes the best of Larry, Curly and Moe look extremely tight." Apparently the Fat Boys were not destined to be movie stars.
The Fat Boys' next album, Coming Back Hard Again, was similar in style to Crushin' and it too featured a hit cover track, called "The Twist (Yo' Twist)." Chubby Checker, who had helped make the original Twist a national craze in 1960, backed the Fat Boys' cover and once again helped propel the song to the top of the charts. Like "Wipe Out," "The Twist (Yo' Twist)" grabbed the number two spot the British charts, and landed in the American top 20. Now bona fide stars, the Fat Boys racked up appearances on TV shows, including Miami Vice, and in commercials. They also wrote "Are You Ready for Freddy" for Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, and filmed the song's video with Robert Englund.
By the end of the 1980s, however, the Fat Boys' novelty act was losing its edge. They tried unsuccessfully to remake their image in 1989 with a rap opera ("rappera") called On and On, after which Morales left the group in 1990 to pursue a solo career. He released his first album in 1992 as Prince Markie Dee and the Soul Convention, scoring a hit single with "Trippin' Out." He also produced and wrote for such high-profile recording artists such as Mary J. Blige, Christopher Williams, and El DeBarge. Robinson and Wimbley fared less well on their own, releasing Mack Daddy in 1991 to a lukewarm reception before calling it quits. The pair went on to host MTV's Yo MTV Rap and to produce and perform with other rappers. In 1991 Robinson was also tried for sexual abuse of a minor, and his conviction on that charge generated too much negative publicity to overcome. Plans for a Fat Boy reunion album were underway in December of 1995 when Robinson died suddenly at his home in Queens, New York. Only 28 years old, he suffered a fatal heart attack brought on by obesity after a bout of influenza.
For the Record . . .
Members include rappers Mark Morales (born in 1969); Darren Robinson (born on June 19, 1967; died in New York on December 10, 1995); Damon Wimbley (born in 1967).
Group formed in New York City as Disco 3, early 1980s; won national talent contest at Radio City Music Hall in New York, landed manager and record deal, 1983; released first album, Fat Boys, 1984; featured in documentary film, Krush Groove, 1985; released Fat Boys Are Back, 1985; released Big and Beautiful, 1986; released Crushin', 1987; starred as themselves in the film Disorderlies, 1987; filmed TV cameos and commercials, 1980s; released Coming Back Hard Again, 1988; released Krush on You, 1988; On and On, 1989; Morales left group, 1990; remaining members released Mack Daddy, 1991.
Fat Boys, Sutra, 1984.
Fat Boys Are Back, WEA, 1985.
Big and Beautiful, Sutra, 1986.
Crushin', Polygram, 1987.
Best Part of the Fat Boys, Pair, 1987.
Coming Back Hard Again, Mercury, 1988.
Krush on You, Blatant, 1988
On and On, Polygram, 1989.
Mack Daddy, Emperor, 1991
Greatest Hits, Unidisc, 1991.
All Meat No Filler: The Best of the Fat Boys, Rhino, 1997.
Houston Chronicle, August 17, 1987, p. 1.
Independent (London, England), December 12, 1995, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times, October 2, 1987, p. 10.
Times Union (Albany, NY), December 12, 1995, p. B4 C1.
"The Fat Boys," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 27, 2004).
"The Fat Boys," Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/bio.asp?oid=6399&cf=6399 (January 27, 2004).
"The Fat Boys," VH1, http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/fat_boys/bio.jhtml (January 27, 2004).
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