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Bobby Robinson (Enjoy Records), R.I.P.

Posted by Billyjam, January 10, 2011 03:17pm | Post a Comment

Bobby Robinson, the founder of one of the earliest record labels to release hip-hop music, Enjoy Records, died over the weekend at age 93. Robinson, who also ran the famous 125th Street Harlem, NY record store Bobby's Happy House from the late 1940's up until a few years ago, oversaw the Enjoy Records label out of the same upper Manhattan location from the early 60's through to the end of the 80's.

Through this pioneering label, where he initially released music by blues, soul, and R&B artists (he is credited with discovering Gladys Knight & The Pips), he moved into hip-hop by the end of the 70's. Hip-hop artists signed and released by Robinson include such formative-years figures as Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Funky Four + One More, The Treacherous Three, and Spoonie G (his nephew). In 1979 Enjoy Records released the 12" single by Funky Four + One More, “Rappin’ And Rockin’ The House,” and the classic “Superrappin’" 12" single by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five who soon after would get scooped up by Sugar Hill Records. And although Enjoy Records closed as a Enjoy Recordslabel in 1987, Robinson kept his famous central Harlem Bobby’s Happy House record store open until three years ago when he got evicted -- to much public outrage -- another victim of the economy.

As Dan Charnas, author of the recently published hip-hop history book, The Big Payback, wrote of Robinson and his famous record store: "Anyone who had been there in the past decade could tell you, [it] had a stream of visitors throughout the day, but nobody ever seemed to buy anything. The display cases were filled with rows of dusty, ancient CDs and cassette tapes. Folks were really coming to see Robinson: tourists from Europe on pilgrimage, neighbors and local characters stopping by between errands, old friends like Paul Winley checking on Bobby. Sometimes, like me, they’d wait for him. Bobby Robinson would usually saunter in mid-day — and what an entrance he would make. At 90, he was always clean, always sharp — usually in a bright-colored suit jacket that contrasted with his long, straight, shock-white hair. He walked slow, turned gradually, and sat tentatively. But when he looked at you, you almost felt zapped. A lot of life and light in those eyes."
 

Funky Four + One More "Rappin’ And Rockin’ The House" (Enjoy 1979)

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Enjoy Records (1), Bobby Robinson (1)