When it comes to distinctive voices in Hip Hop, none shone as bright in the golden era as the peanut butter and jam pairing of MCs Greg Nice and Smooth B — collectively known as Nice & Smooth. Rising to prominence following their 1989 self-titled debut, they cultivated this unexplainable chemistry, with Smooth B’s laid back (at times melodic) cadence juxtaposed against Greg’s echoey off-the-wall rhyme schemes.
What proved to be their winning formula was the way they built upon the concept of routines from the 80s, injecting humor and fun, but — throughout their catalog — interspersing not only explicit but arguably darker content.
After releasing four albums between 1989 and 1997, the duo faded from the limelight, though they remain active (as anyone following either Greg or Smooth B on Instagram will attest to). However, with the last two years seeing a host of acts making triumphant returns to the ring, Smooth B is following suit with a new release, “Before.”
Existing in an era that didn’t have social media, Smooth B stands as an archive of untapped Hip Hop history. It’s something that becomes apparent during the first verse of his new single, as he exclaims to listeners that he went through it: from being locked up to selling drugs and smoking a blunt with the late Tupac Shakur.
Smooth B recently took some time to sit with Weekly Rap Gods to chat about the new release, the legacy of Nice & Smooth, writing (and gathering groupies) for Bobby Brown, and more.
Let’s talk “Before”; what is the next move — is there a full project on the way?
“Before” is a special song for me. It’s the beginning of a reflective view into the life of Smooth B. It starts when I was young and had to beat the clock, which means I had to be home by my curfew. I was the first one with Pumas on the block … facts. I was locked up, I hit a nigga with a lock in a sock before, and yes, I did smoke a blunt (in fact, several blunts) with Tupac!
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I’ve released an EP of “Before,” which includes a Spanish version! A fact about me is that before Reggaeton developed, I rhymed a Spanish version of the Nice & Smooth classic “Hip Hop Junkies” back in 1991 — the “Spanish Fly Remix” — translated by my close friend, comrade and brother Ray” Ray Roll” Cortez, who passed away last year. So I did the “Before” Spanish Fly version as a tribute to him
What have you been working on these days?
I’ve been working on my forthcoming album, which is currently untitled. It will be a collage of creative Hip Hop genius, trust me on that one. I got a lot of flavors for you all.
What’s motivating your pen in 2020?
So many things have inspired my pen, but these days it’s the current events we’ve all been facing … this friggin’ pandemic! I’ve lost a few good friends during this, and some good friends have overcome and beat it. So lyrically, I have my work cut out for me, and I will meet the task!
You’ve weathered so many shifts in hip hop; can you speak on the legacy of Nice & Smooth?
Well, I feel that the Nice & Smooth legacy speaks for itself: four certified gold albums. I see it as two visionaries who came together to add on to and propel Hip Hop as we know it today. When we came into the game, “routines” were lost. We were an authentic modern throwback to the originators hailing from the boogie down Bronx. We kept the influence of The Furious Five, The Fantastic Romantic Five, The Cold Crush Brothers, and countless others spirits alive … and we never bit a routine! We created our routines inspired by them.
I was blessed to see all of these groups perform live in the parks, centers, and clubs in the Bronx growing up! Then God blessed us to be able to inspire and work with incredible artists and groups such as the Fugees, The Black Eyed Peas, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, Kanye West, Pharrell, Tupac, Biggie and more.
There was a time when the music industry didn’t want Rap or Hip Hip mixing with R&B, so I like to consider myself a pioneer, helping break some of those barriers back in 1985 when I started writing rhymes for Bobby Brown. At that time, MCA Records didn’t care for Rap nor Hip Hop — that was an R&B label until Andre Harrell came with Uptown Records … but that’s another story!
Wow, I didn’t realize you wrote for Bobby Brown! Can you talk a bit more about that experience?
My experience with Bobby was terrific! I traveled with him on tour as one of his background singers, but I wore many hats: his right-hand man, his valet, and the little nigga that ran and got all the females after the show and brought em’ backstage. Once he blew up, MCA (and the world) recognized not only his talent but his ability to sing and rap. The formula that Smooth B shared with him. That part!
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Many legacy groups are looking to alternative mediums such as books or documentaries to tell their stories. Just listening to the first verse of “Before,” it’s clear you have lots of stories to tell. Have you considered a book — or something similar?
I’ve been working on scripts and my autobiography. I’m also developing some great artists!
Since we’re on the topic, can you share a crazy story that the real Hip Hop heads would appreciate?
Now, here’s a crazy story for all of you. So now the stage is set; I meet Greg, and we decide to form Nice & Smooth. Fast forward to the sophomore release [Ain’t a Damn Thing Changed] in 1991 … the album is on fire. “Hip Hop Junkies” is an anthem. Now, previously through touring with Bobby, I had seen girls faint for him, and — to be honest — I secretly wished that shit could happen for me. As they say, “Be careful what you wish for.”
We were rocking on stage, and I’m singing “Cake & Eat It Too” to this girl in the crowd when all of a sudden, she faints. But, the crowd is buggin’ so much that other girls start damn near trampling her! So I stop the song, stop the show, let security know, and I try to urge the people to back up.
Ok, so everything works out! They get her out safely, and then we start the show back up with “No Delayin’“… super hype track! As I walk to the edge of the stage, a girl grabs my pants leg, then another one follows suit. Before you know it, these bitches are dragging me across the stage. My security is now buggin’ the fuck out! They get me halfway off the stage, my security pulling me one way, and the bitches another! They rip off my shirt; I have a white t-shirt underneath, and they tear that shit in half.
Fast forward two hours and two blunts later, I’m walking through my front door at home. My then fiancé (now wife of 30 years) greets me at the door like, “What the fuck, are you ok?” I start telling her the story while standing in the kitchen half a fuckin shirt on, when she bursts out laughing and says, “You a star now, nigga.” But, the craziest shit didn’t occur yet! When I turned around, on the back of my ripped up t-shirt was a perfect lipstick print of lips! I can’t make this up!
How did you first meet Greg?
I first met Greg in the Bronx through a mutual friend named Lance Romance. Lance was on the road with Bobby and me, and the whole time we were on the road, I thought he lived in Texas because he only talked about Texas! Then, on the last day of the tour, we flew into NYC together, and I found out he lived in the Bronx! A few days later, he called me up and said, “Yo Smooth, I have this dude I want you to meet, I think y’all would click musically.” Boy, was he right!
Do you think we’ll ever see another Nice & Smooth LP?
Wow, to be truthfully honest, I couldn’t say at this time. Some people would think that these things are simple: jump up and record — make time and do it! However, for myself, there’s chemistry, timing, and vibration necessary for me to do specific projects (especially with certain individuals). My brother and I have to be totally on the same page creatively to create something special, and I am very focused when it comes to projects. Right now, I’m concentrating on the Smooth B project and a few of my artists. So, perhaps in the future!
How do you ultimately want to be remembered in the pantheon of hip hop?
I want to be remembered as a nigga who actually gave a fuck!