Harlem icon Bobby Robinson passed away a few days ago. His career in the music business was astounding; he was a consummate independent record man in a world of conglomeration.
I came to his hip-hop imprint, Enjoy, late in the game; in my “younger” days, I just assumed that anything released pre-Run DMC was old school schlock and then someone played me “Spoonin Rap” and my mind was blown. Sugarhill, obviously, had the bigger rep and sales but while the Sugarhill sound in hip-hop’s formative years was loud, brash and fonky, the best singles I heard from Enjoy were the opposite: lean, sparse and funky. The secret was that Bobby had drummer Errol “Pumpkin” Bedward as his in-house producer, then still in this teens(!!!). Bedward and his band, Pumpkin and His Friends, produced the best of the early Enjoy singles including “Love Rap” b/w “New Rap Language,” one of the most potent A/B-sides I know from that era.
For Robinson’s part, his success seemed to be a combination of hiring the right talent and also being in the right place at the right time. Sylvia Robinson (no relation) had opened the floodgates with “Rapper’s Delight” and Bobby was able to get Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to record with them as well as Spoonie Gee and the Treacherous Three. As I learned in The Big Payback, once Bobby’s records began selling and Sylvia was unable to entice those artists over to her label, she simply stepped to Bobby, waved a check at him and procured them that way (say nothing else about Sylvia but she didn’t f— around).
In any case, Enjoy still ranks as one of the most consistent of any of the old school labels in terms of quality, a testimony to the talent that Robinson collected there for a brief, shining time, and Bobby’s own relentless pursuit of that next hit.
Please check ego trip’s breakdown of the top 10 Enjoy Records.
(You didn’t know ego trip had a website now? Get familiar).
Also peep out this classic comp (reviewed in Classic Material!): The Best of Enjoy Records