R&B young legend, platinum voice/songwriter Frederick Lee Drakeford led the New Jersey quartet Today through several Top Five R&B hits (Him or Me; Girl I Got My Eyes on You; Why You Get Funky on Me (House Party Soundtrack); I Got That Feeling; I Wanna Come Back Home) during the late '80s and early 90's. After the group split in the early '90s, Drakeford began a successful solo career recording as Big Bub. His debut album, Comin' at Cha, earned Top 40 entries for the singles "I Don't Mind" and "Tellin' Me Stories".
Drakeford has many credits to his name with some of the industries Grammy winning artist (Luther Vandross, Johnny Gill, Mary J. Blige, Boy George, Sean Combs, Faith Evans, Raekwon, Heavy D, Bobby Brown, just to name a few). He worked as a record label exec for Motown Records, then later signed to the NU Classic Soul label Kedar Entertainment, also the home of Erykah Badu. His sophomore album Timeless also did well on the R&B charts, with the classic remake of the Commodores "Zoom". His third release The TakeOver appeared in 2000. As an actor, he made his big movie screen debut, played the role of Roscoe in the 1993 thriller comedy "Who's The Man".
Continuing to work behind the scenes producing platinum hits, and lending his voice for background vocals, it was time for his next project...TUG OF WAR chartered the magnificent return of R&B Legend Big Bub in this exclusive 2 CD release. Big Bub wrote, produced, arranged, and oversaw each and every part of that project.
Now Big Bub is working on his Fifth studio album entitled "Trilogy", he just completed a chart topping collab with hip-hop west coast legend Snoop Dogg, and more collabs are on the way...his musical peers were just waiting for that green light. He can't stop and won't stop....his passion and mastery of his artistry puts him in a lane ranked "legends" that only few can stand in. When your sound is being compared to the likes of Luther Vandross, you know you are the TRUTH!
The late 1980s into the early 1990s ushered in a new sound that has made its mark in musical history: “New Jack Swing.” That era wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of super producer Teddy Riley’s first groups, the New Jersey quartet known as Today. The group had chart-topping hits such as “Why You Getting Funky on Me,” “Him or Me,” and “Girl I Got My Eyes On You,” to name a few. The front man of the group was none other than Big Bub.
Big Bub is not only a crooner that pulls his soulfulness from his gospel roots, but he is also a multi-platinum songwriter, producer and astute businessman. After a brief hiatus, he’s back in the studio working on new projects to be released later this year.
Soultrain.com caught up with Big Bub in between studio sessions to discuss his new music and his advice to up and coming artists.
Soul Train: What happened to the group Today?
Big Bub: Motown didn’t want to push Today anymore, and they were asking me to join Boyz II Men, and they were originally a 5 member group. I had loyalty to my boys, and plus they are from Philly–nothing against Philly–but I’m from Jersey and I can’t be on a song singing Motown Philly (laughs); it just didn’t match or look good. But, the executives were putting all of their money on that group and I just couldn’t see myself doing that to my group mates in Today. I decided to go solo.
Soul Train: Do you have any regrets about the path you chose after looking at the success of Boyz II Men?
Big Bub: No, I don’t. I think Boyz II Men are very talented and I have a great relationship with them. It was a business move and I understood that. I had to stay loyal to my boys. If you’re not going to push us as a group, then I might as well do the solo thing.
Soul Train: So after you left to pursue the solo route, you returned to Motown in a different capacity. Why is that? How did that happen?
Big Bub: I became an executive. When you are a hit maker writing hits that’s what happens (laughs). Seriously, good work ethic, and I work well with artists, you know with me being an artist. I’m passionate about other artists. I was going to sell an album–the Timeless album that came out later on–but Andre Harrell was like, “No, listen, I need you to work at Motown”. I never forget that he wrote on this notepad these figures, and I said man let’s get it! (laughs) I worked there from 1995-1999.
Soul Train: Will Today ever reunite and give us more great music?
Big Bub: We are actually working on a gospel album, so stay tuned for that.
Soul Train: What made you go from R&B to gospel? Now you’re back in the R&B realm of things, so how did that transition work?
Big Bub: I always had to do a gospel album. It’s just like with any artist that comes from that gospel family, it’s always going to be a part of you. Just like any other artist wants to do a country or pop album, I just always wanted to do a gospel album. I always like to explore, so I did a remake of “Sailing” by Christopher Cross.
Soul Train: Now you are also in the studio working with Raekwon. What is this project that you are working on and when it will be released?
Big Bub: We are working on a mix tape together and it will be released this summer.
Soul Train: How did you get into songwriting?
Big Bub: I wrote the majority of the first album for Today, and Teddy Riley produced it. Songwriting has just always been in me. I always had that vision; and I never use pen and paper. It’s a gift. If I hear the music then I can go and flow.
Soul Train: If you had to choose, which do you prefer doing: Singing, songwriting, producing, or being an executive?
Big Bub: All of them! I love the studio. I’m a studio junkie. I would wear the same thing over and over every day and buy stuff to change in to because I don’t like to lose my vibe when I’m in the studio. I mean being around Teddy Riley seeing how he built a machine, I love it. I can’t stand now when I’m working with artists and they want to shut down the studio. When I was recording with Teddy Riley, we had the microphone hanging over the shower rod in the projects on 129th Street in New York. That’s where a lot of hot albums came from in Harlem. That’s where Keith Sweat’s first album comes from, Al B. Sure!’s album, the Guy album, Today’s album. Eventually we moved to a bigger studio to do some touching up and recording there, but those hits came from the projects in Harlem.
Soul Train: What have you been doing since you released your last solo album?
Big Bub: Over the years I have been writing for different artists–Blackstreet, Mary J. Blige, Fine Young Cannibals, Boy George, the Jacksons, Johnny Gill, Luther Vandross, Busta Rhymes, Redhead Kingpin, and Tom Jones, the list goes on and on. Wow, I’ve worked with a lot of people when I sit down and think about it (laughs)! I have worked with a lot of producers like Diddy, Heavy D, Kwamé, Musiq SoulChild, and Raekwon to name a few.
Soul Train: What is your favorite song that you have written for another artist?
Big Bub: There are so many. Good question. My favorite would have to be the records on Mary J. Blige’s My Life album. Women were really going through some stuff and could relate to that album. I think that being around Mary and getting to know each other, those records really uplifted some sisters at that time, and it was needed. That is Mary’s biggest album to this day.
Soul Train: What about your favorite Big Bub song?
Big Bub: I love “Telling Me Stories.” It’s all about healing people that are on drugs. I like “Settle Down,” “24/7 of Good Loving.” There are a lot of good records.
Soul Train: How about your favorite Today song?
Big Bub: “Why You Getting Funky on Me,” “Him or Me,” “Girl I Got My Eyes on You.” I’ll never forget five months out of high school being at Madison Square Gardens sold out, me and my boys. It was amazing going from a have-not to a have-got. It’s kind of scary.
Soul Train: Since you’re working on a new album, how do you think it will fare in today’s music industry?
Big Bub: It’s different now; it’s a different time and sound. I’m sticking with my sound because that’s what my fan base wants. I’m sticking with my guns and of course you are going to have newcomers checking you out. This generation now is really crying out for good music.
Soul Train: What is missing from R&B music today?
Big Bub: Me! (laughs)
Soul Train: Well, hurry up and release that new music!
Soul Train: What is your favorite Soul Train memory?
Big Bub: The first time we stepped up in Soul Train, we were like, wow this joint is small!
They have been fooling us for years! (laughs) Soul Train wasn’t what I expected, it was small, but their camera game was crazy. Once I saw Don Cornelius, then it hit us that we were really on Soul Train. Don came in and introduced himself to us in the green room; he told us that he loved our music.
Soul Train: What is your advice for aspiring artists?
Big Bub: Make sure you handle your business, master your craft. I don’t care how talented you are, opportunity is the key. If you want to be a celebrity, look like one, you can’t be walking around looking like you aren’t about anything and calling yourself an artist. There are no hand outs in this business, that’s why I only deal with artists that are ready to listen. Just make sure you do your homework and master your craft.
Soul Train: What would you say is the key to your staying power?
Big Bub: God. I have a passion for what I do. I was born to do this. If you have a passion for something then that’s the key to your staying power. Once a hit maker, always a hit maker, that’s how I look at it.
There are some folks born with the creative gene. It’s as if the cosmos connected them to the wellspring of music and it flows through them like an endless stream. There is no doubt that Big Bub is endowed with an infinite river of talent whether via writing, arranging, producing, or singing.
Formerly with the Gents, Big Bub was discovered by Motown’s Andre Harrell, who signed him to the music giant. Presently promoting his new CD “Tug of War,” Bub talked about Side “A” and “B.” “The R&B side is entitled “Living in the Flesh,” the gospel side is called “Died of the Flesh.” My CD mirrors the spiritual tug of war with the secular world and the gospel world that is going on within me right now” explained Big Bub.
Raised by an evangelist mother who could also sing, Big Bub started singing in Church at 5. His father and brother were also musically inclined. At age 17, in 1988, he began performing with the group Today. Today had 2, #1 hits, which sold nearly 2 million records. “I started my career 5 months after I graduated high school. I was already playing Madison Square Garden at 17. I was overwhelmed. Everything was a blur because the success came so fast for us. We actually changed the whole music era in the late1980s. We did the first Keith Sweat album, Al B. Sure‘s album and then I wrote “My Prerogative” for Bobbie Brown and “Gotta Believe” for Mary J. Blige and the list goes on. It was amazing!” remarked the prolific songwriter/arranger and composer.
Big Bub went solo recording with Sylvia Roane for East West Records and also appearing in a Dr. Dre film entitled “Who’s the Man.”
At 24, Big Bub became Vice President of Motown for 4 years. “I was with Motown as an artist initially, left them, and then returned as VP. I started writing for Mary J. Blige, Blackstreet, Boy George, The Jacksons, Horace Brown, Johnny Gil, et al. Almost everyone I wrote for had a hit. I even wrote for Tom Jones. That white man has soul! It’s been a long road, occasionally a hard road but a fun road for sure” commented Bub.
Big Bub has a unique way of writing lyrics. He simply shows up at the recording studio and writes the music while recording. “The words just come to me. I occasionally have writers block but 75 to 80% of the time lyrics and melodies just pop into my head. I hear the melody in my head, have the producer play it and it’s a go” stated Big Bub concerning his creativity. “I love and have a passion for music. In fact, I am planning on touring with my CD TUG OF WAR soon” claimed the singer.
“I took a rest for a time. Folks haven’t seen me for awhile so they want to me to perform. I’m a performer too although I have been writing a lot. People say I have been cheating them of my vocal skills since I had been writing for various artists and sitting behind a corporate desk. I have been told its time for my own album” said BB who responded with TUG OF WAR.
Big Bub created more than 56 records as the VP of A&R at Motown and traveled often. “I was away from my family a lot. I am married with children. I try to be with them as much as possible but my job often takes me away. I met my wife at Chaz & Wilson in Virginia Beach. I just saw her and she was nice and quiet and so we became friends. In fact, we were friends for a year before we became romantic. Folks said find a girl who could sing but I said whatever God had in store for me would be the woman I marry, even if she worked at Winkie Dinkie Dogs,” laughed Big Bub. “I lived in Greenwich, Ct for years but now I live in South Carolina with my wife and kids.
“I am still writing for different artists. I write for the artists on my music label, Drake Web. Now that I have artists on my label, I have to give them some of that hotness, too. I have an artist named Valerie Wit who is an R&B artist and another singer Philip Bryant who is gospel. Another of my gospel artists, Izzy, is doing well on Billboard. He is presently No. 22. I am also looking for a country group and a Rock group. I want to keep my label diverse and universal,” says Big Bub who writes music for every musical genre and even the occasional jingle.
“I can hear music in my head. When you are creative like that, you are in a zone. I sometimes take the music to bed with me. I will be in bed and my wife will ask ‘Boy, what record are you doing?’ I’m practically creating music in my sleep” laughed the inexhaustible talent.
“Sometimes, my fans get overly enthusiastic. I remember once at Great Adventure in New Jersey, people ran up to me and nearly stampeded me. It got kind of scary. Sometimes, folks look up to artists as if they are Gods and I don’t play that. It got crazy and I decided it was time to take a respite. I was about to sign a major million dollar contract but I walked away from it. People couldn’t understand that. I heard God so ever clear. I felt him in my heart for real. He was in my ear, heart, and mind. He was ever present and it just blew me away. So, I took time off and spent some time with God. My new CD is the result. I think folks will love the blend of R&B and gospel. It works!”
New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ
Seminar and Panel Discussion - Atlanta, GA
Tastemaker Listening/Day Party at GA Mansion
Gaylord Palms - Orlando, FL
Hampton, VA at the Hampton Colisuem
Flashback Fest II w/ Teddy Riley & Friends
Blackstreet w/ Dave Hollister
Kool Moe Dee
Wreckx N Effects
Big Bub from Today
Al B. Sure
Celebrity Bash - all Black Affair w/ Live performance from Big Bub.
World Famous Hip-Hop Family Day - With Kid N Play ft. Positive K, Big Bub and Lil' Ru
The Spring Bling Think Pink Gala - Yacht Event - Cancer Fundraiser.
Big Bub will be performing his classic remake "Zoom"
The AMP @ Craigs Ranch
Teddy Riley and Friends
Columbus Convention and Trade Center
Raheem Devaughn and Bug Bub
STARRING Teddy Riley and Friends
Citizens Business Park Arena