OBITUARY: Darren Robinson

The current popularity of Public Enemy, Cypress Hill and the more militant and sensationalist end of the rap scene has rather overshadowed the work of the genre's more populist performers. But the Fat Boys were one of the first rap acts to cross over in a significant way to appearances on television, in movies and in the charts.

The trio's main asset seemed to be Darren Robinson, who was dubbed the "Human Beat Box" because of the percussive belches, grunts and clicks he could produce with his mouth.

Originally called the Disco 3, Darren Robinson, Mark "Prince Markie Dee" Morales and Damon "Kool Rockski" Wenley came to the attention of the manager Charlie Stetler. Given the size of all three performers (Robinson weighed in at an impressive 450lb) and the hotel and restaurant bills he kept getting landed with (the trio were once charged $350 for breakfast), Stetler suggested they changed their name to Fat Boys and go for an all-out gimmicky approach as the cuddly face of the emerging hip-hop culture. The publicist's ploy worked like a dream but also proved to be the eventual undoing of the group.

After winning a contest in Brooklyn, the Fat Boys started to work with the legendary rapper and producer Kurtis Blow who helped them fashion a commerical sound exploiting their image to the full (their first three albums called Fat Boys, The Fat Boys Are Back! and Big and Beautiful, were full of lyrical boasts concerning their gargantuan appetites).

In 1986, Run DMC crossed over to a much wider audience with a cover of Aerosmith's rock anthem "Rock This Way". On moving to Polydor the following year, the Fat Boys tried a similar tactic with a rap version of the Surfari's "Wipe Out". The record became a hit all over the world, reaching No 2 in the British charts and No 12 in America while the Crushin' album went gold in the United States).

The Fat Boys were on a roll and repeated the feat in 1988 with another attempt at bridging the generation gap: their update of Hank Ballard's "The Twist" (featuring the original hitmaker Chubby Checker) was another UK No 2 and an American Top 20 success.

Mainstream acceptance had brought in film and television offers and the Fat Boys, who'd already been featured in the Krush Groove documentary, now appeared in Miami Vice and in television commercials. After doing an update on Three Stooges' comic routines in Disorderlies, they also provided the theme song for one of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.

However, rap had moved on and the increasingly gimmicky output of the Fat Boys seemed out of step with a genre that had become polarised between the new-age, hippie sound of De La Soul and Arrested Development and the gangsta style of Snoop Doggy Dogg and Niggers With Attitude.

On and On (1989) saw the trio attempting to jump on the gangsta bandwagon and its failure accelerated their fall from grace. Prince Markie Dee went solo. Darren Robinson, the Human Beat Box, plunged into obscurity. While some artists rap about crime, Robinson always said he rapped to make people happy. He will be remembered for bringing a smile to the face of many self-conscious fatties.

Pierre Perrone

Darren Robinson, musician: born 10 June 1967; (one son); died New York 10 December 1995.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam