For five decades, legendary 2x Grammy-winning band Kool and the Gang has been keeping the funk alive in their music. The group is one of the most prominent groups in R&B history, selling over 70 million records worldwide. They were also inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, received American Music Awards, and the list can go for hours.
Kool and the Gang made plenty of contributions to contemporary adult R&B, which is why the are considered “legends.” Listeners can still play some of their dance classics including “Hollywood Swingin’,” “Get Down On It,” “Summer Madness,” or “Celebrate” at BBQs, parties, and other special events. Kool and the Gang are also one of the most sampled groups in music: Over 850 songs have been sampled by this group. Artists who sampled their music includes Will Smith, Ma$e, A Tribe Called Quest, Lil’ Kim, Snoop Dogg, Sam Salter, Jermaine Dupri, and many more.
In 2017, Kool and the Gang are still touring across the country and recording new music as well. They released their new single “Sexy (Where You’d Get Yours)” in 2016, the group’s first song in over ten years. The single is a perfect indication for music lovers who still patronize funk.
Singersroom.com spoke with Robert “Kool” Bell from the Grammy award winning group about the new single, their forthcoming album, being one of the most sampled groups, the band’s bond, and much more.
Check it out below!
New Single “Sexy (Where You’d Get Yours)” – We haven’t had a single out in over ten years. My son is a producer and DJ; he has a group of guys from California who work for him. One of the guys sent him this track and his name is Alexandro. My cousin who manages acts got together with my son and Alexandro and they got together to write the melody and lyrics for the song. My youngest brother, Ronald Bell, who is one of the founding members of Kool and the Gang, selected the song also. My brother wrote and produced all of Kool and the Gang’s hits throughout the years (“Jungle Boogie,” “Hollywood Swingin'” and “Celebration”), and he was impressed with the record. We got together for this record and received some good responses. When they heard it, people were surprised it was a Kool and the Gang record! We made a record that fits today’s sound, yet stayed true to who we are as a group. It’s funky and sexy.
New Album in the Works – We’ve been together since 1964, so we’ve been around for over 50 years. The album is called Sexy: The Legacy Continues. We haven’t had a new album out in over 10 years. The new album will be coming out in 2017. We have new ideas and all of the Kool and the Gang members are writing and producing for the new record. We are going to be on the road for at least another five years, and now we have fresh music.
Other Projects Pending: We are working on a book and it should be coming out soon. The title of the book is called “Hollywood Swingin: The Kool and the Gang Story.” We just came back from Paris from shooting a French movie called Star 82. We did two television specials in Amsterdam. There is also an exhibition of us at the new Museum of African Art and Culture in Washington D.C., so we are pretty busy. For 2018, we are working on a musical called, “It’s A Celebration.”
Kool and the Gang’s Fantastic Four: The book is based on the four original members of the group. The four original members were Ronald, myself, Dennis Thomas, and George Brown. We started with eight members and four passed away over the years. We are the remaining four.
Naming the Group: Well, my brother and I grew up in Jersey City, the guys already had a name for the group, but I was trying to fit in with them. I always liked the name “Kool” and decided to spell my nickname with a K, not knowing the group was going to be called Kool and the Gang someday. We went through a series of name changes, but we finally changed it to Kool and the Gang. When we changed it to Kool and the Gang, my name was in the forefront. Right before that, it was Kool and the Flames. But then, you had James Brown and the Famous Flames, and we didn’t want to have any problems with the Godfather. So, we decided to call ourselves Kool and the Gang. Our group was a mixture of jazz, R&B, and funk, and that’s how it all got started.
Other Artists Sampling Your Music: We feel honored! People are listening to our music, and we have influenced a lot of artists. Different people from the R&B and hip-hop world recognized what we have done in music. You have Lil’ Kim, and then you have Will Smith. He took “Summer Madness” and came up with “Summertime.” It is his biggest record to date. Puff Daddy, now Diddy and Ma$E got together to do the record “Feels So Good,” and they sampled “Hollywood Swingin’.” We can go on, but we’re honored that people recognize our music. I think rap artists took different pieces from “Hollywood Swingin'” because they like the groovy sound and lead vocals. I think that’s how we became one of the most sampled bands. When you go to the other side of the coin, our music has been used in a lot of movie soundtracks. Our music has been featured in the first Rocky movie, Roll Bounce, Saturday Night Fever, Pulp Fiction, Be Cool. There are quite a few movie soundtracks where our music has featured in the films.
Maintaining the Bond in Kool and the Gang: First of all, the remaining four of the eight members are still together. We started as young teenagers, and our parents told us whatever you do, make sure you stick together as a group. So the core members were able to do that still. We solved our problems and worked it out in the end. There were also guys who were in and out of the band like J.T Taylor who was our lead vocalist in the 80’s. The core guys, which is us four, are still together. We are still doing what our parents told us to do years ago. Again, my brother Ronald is in the band, and then the other guys are my spiritual brothers.
Words of Encouragement to Younger Artists: Work hard, stick together, and try to accept other band members’ opinions. Leave your ego at the door. You are going to have people whispering in your ear, but you have to remember what’s important, which is the group. People are going to tell you, “You’re the star, or “you’re the one singing on the record, why do you need those other guys.” Also, try to understand the business and what it is all about as it relates to publishing, writing, royalties, contracts, accountants, and paying your taxes. ALWAYS pay your taxes. Don’t think you can get away with not paying your taxes. You might get away with it for a few years, but when Uncle Sam finds out, he can put you out of business. The last thing I want to say is to try to have YOUR own original sound so that you can differentiate yourself from other artists. There were artists in the 70’s like The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and you were able to say, “Oh, that sounds like so and so.” You knew who they were right away. But today, you don’t know who’s who on the radio, so I will tell young artists to be original.
Purchase “Sexy (Where You’d Get Yours)” on iTunes HERE.