On his 54th physicalday anniversary, June 8, Harlem hip hop legend Black Rob was honored with a street sign in his old East Harlem stomping grounds. The northwest corner of 115th Street and First Avenue now bears the co-naming “Robert ‘Black Rob’ Ross Way.” After enduring some severe health issues for many months, he transitioned on April 17, 2021.
Several hundred attended the street sign unveiling ceremony as some of his classic tracks blared out a speaker. Many childhood friends from the Thomas Jefferson and Robert Wagner Housing Projects reflected on the native East Harlemite who was initially known as “Robi O,” and “Bacardi Rob” while being featured on many underground mixtapes prior to signing to Puffy Combs’ Bad Boy Records in 1995.
“I remembered seeing Bacardi Rob back then wearing a Bad Boy jacket while he was in Jefferson,” recalled neighborhood associate, Big In. “He used to tell us stories about being in the studio and smokin’ blunts with Biggie Smalls, and it was great to see someone from our ‘hood get on.”
After Biggie Smalls’ March 9, 1997, murder in Los Angeles, Black Rob was one of the primary artists who carried Bad Boy’s success.
Memorable feature appearances on label mates’ Ma$e (“24 Hours To Live”), Faith Evans (“Never Knew Love Like This-remix”), 112 (“Come See Me-remix”), and Total (“What About Us-remix) recordings during the late-1990s introduced him to an audience for his 2000 debut album “Life Story,” which was RIAA-certified platinum. It featured his smash hit single “Woah!” produced by D.I.T.C.’s Buckwild which reached No. 43 on Billboard’s Top 100 in 2000, while becoming a hip hop anthem during the early 2000s. He’d continue releasing new music throughout the years, including albums “The Black Rob Report” (2005), “Game Tested, Street Approved” (2011), and “Genuine Article” (2015).
At the unveiling ceremony, DJ Chill Will played some of his classic tracks including his duet with Biggie Smalls “Jeans & Sneakers”; his singles “I Dare You,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “Ready,” “Can I Live,” and of course his classic hit “Woah!”
A few of his relatives were also present, including his mother, sister and children; as well as some local aspiring artists. Prior to the ceremony those in attendance sang “Happy Birthday” Stevie Wonder-style, and chanted “Black Rob,” “B.R.,” in call and response. As the street sign was unveiled, some in the crowd began chanting “It’s like Woah!” amongst the cheering and clapping.
Black Rob’s children posed for flicks with replica signs afterwards.
Then on the evening of Saturday, June 18, a dual tribute was conducted at Thomas Jefferson Park (112th St. and 1st Ave.) for Black Rob and fellow East Harlem-native DJ Kay Slay who passed exactly one year later, April 17, 2022.