Trusting your instincts will help you make the best decisions.
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rob Base.
Rob Base is a multi-platinum hip-hop artist from Harlem, New York, who rose to fame with the release of his iconic song, It Takes Two, which he collaborated with the DJ E-Z Rock in 1988. In the last 35 years, Base, has made his mark as a legend in the music industry and continues to stay active through touring and producing.
Thank you so much for joining us on this interview series. Can you share with us the backstory that led you to this career path?
I grew up in Harlem and watched groups making music and doing their thing. I wanted to be down with them, and that gave me the motivation to do what I do.
In the 80s, I did everything I could to be on the scene. From battle rapping, carrying crates of records or standing on 125th street in Harlem, handing out flyers to promote shows for a team of Promoters called Mike & Dave. We didn’t have social media back then, so that was our form of marketing… lol. Mike and Dave were the first to give me a chance. They booked me to do a show and just like that, I went from handing out flyers to being on them.
Me and DJ E-Z Rock ‘s first record with Mike & Dave was called “DJ Interview” which was able to get some radio play. We then met William Hamilton, who became our manager and signed us to his record label. With him, we made a song called “Make it hot.” “It Takes Two” was produced next, and the rest is history.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Hmm, there were many mistakes that I can speak about, but I would rather tell you about an “almost” mistake. When “It Takes Two” was finished, the notes that came back was that the “Woo Yeah” was too much and we should cut back on it. DJ E-Z Rock and I loved it! Our goal was to make something different, and we felt we nailed it. Management fought us hard on it, but we stood our ground and here we are today. 35 years later and the song is still relevant. Do I think it still would have had the same of effect if we would have made their changes? I guess we will never know. Lol.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
This business isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of hard work and sleepless nights. Talent will get you noticed, but passion can you bring you longevity, so make sure you love what you do and are not doing it just become famous. As I said earlier, I did everything to be a part of the music industry, even if I didn’t get paid for it. So be patient and work hard.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
My partner DJ E-Z Rock, may he Rest in Peace. We met in the 5th grade and became best friends. We were a part of a few groups but in the end, everyone quit and the two of us were left standing. When we worked together it was like magic. “It Takes Two” came together quickly. We went in the studio and was able to complete it in a day. I remember us thinking we made a song just for our hood, never knowing it would become “internationally known” and the monstruous hit it is today.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you’re working on right now?
Yeah, absolutely. I recently partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company on a new health initiative called It Takes 2. The campaign is a call-to-action for adults at risk for kidney disease to better understand that it takes two people — the patient and a doctor — to help detect kidney disease.
The initiative also encourages doctors to completely screen for kidney disease with two tests — eGFR, a blood test commonly included in kidney panels, and UACR, a urine test — to help identify kidney disease sooner.
We wanted to take things to the next level to get people’s attention. So, we remixed “It Takes Two,” and rerecorded a fresh track that’s tied to the mission of It Takes 2 to motivate people to not just listen but take some action. To bring it all together, we released a music video for the remix that people can share, which is a tribute to the original that I shot in the ‘80’s.
You can visit TestYourKidneys.com to check out the videos for “It Takes Two — The Remix” and get more information about the initiative. There’s also a version on the site for doctors at CKDtesting.com.
Can you share with us a story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
I’ve lost good friends, like DJ E-Z Rock, to complications from type 2 diabetes, and I had no idea there was a connection to kidney health. I think it’s something that people should be more aware of, which is why I wanted to be part of this initiative. It’s giving people the information they need to understand the risks for kidney disease and the motivation to talk about it with their doctor.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
DJ E-Z Rock, who like I said was my best friend and collaborator on “It Takes Two”, unfortunately passed away from complications of type 2 diabetes. I wanted to get the message out to people who may be at risk and encourage them to talk to their doctor — to work together to identify kidney disease early.
Are there three things or are there things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?
While working on this initiative, I learned that more than 35 million people have kidney disease, and 2/3 of cases are caused by type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Many people may not even have any symptoms of kidney disease yet, which is why it’s known as the “silent killer”.
People everywhere can help support this effort by spreading awareness — whether that’s sharing the videos, websites and resources, working with their doctors and advocating for themselves, or encouraging friends and family to know their risks and talk to their own doctors. Getting the word out and motivating people to take action could really help make a difference.
Why do you think music in particular has the power to create social change and create a positive impact on humanity?
Spreading awareness through music is so important because you get to reach people that you wouldn’t normally reach. Music is a very powerful thing, and I hope the remix will bring more awareness to the cause and give people information they need when it comes to their kidney health.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”?
- Everyone doesn’t deserve a seat at your table.
- Love the art, but make sure to learn the business.
- Some relationships have an expiration date, so don’t expect everyone to complete the journey with you.
- Protect your Intellectual Property.
- Trusting your instincts will help you make the best decisions.
You’re a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
You know, I’m really proud of It Takes 2. This song and the work we’re doing can help spread awareness to people at risk of kidney disease and their doctors.
This is especially important because unfortunately, Black and Latin Americans are disproportionately impacted by kidney disease and are more likely to have risk factors, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, when compared to white Americans. Education and access to the right resources can help close the gaps, and the hope is that It Takes 2 will help provide support for people who need it most. The dual messaging of this campaign — working with your doctor and using two tests to screen at-risk adults, can potentially help address these issues.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote? And can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
“It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.” My career has been amazing. I have spent the last 35 years doing what I love and I always want to stay humble and be appreciative of every person that loves me and my music.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
That’s hard to say because anyone who knows me knows I am true introvert and would rather be home in my mancave watching the Yankees with my family and my cat… lol
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!
Music Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Rob Base Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.