Who was 24-Carat Black?

Hosts Joe Watson and Toby Brazwell take a hard look at legendary tracks of the past and present, connecting the dots on the music they sample and the songs that inspired them. Join us for Season 3, where Riffs takes a deep dive into the tragic world of 24-Carat Black, the band everyone has heard, but nobody has heard of.

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Episode 4: Where Do We Go From Here?

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Welcome back to the final installment of Riffs on Riffs' 4-part miniseries about the band 24-Carat Black. On this episode: The legacy of 24CB and its landmark record Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth, and how the members recovered in the wake of the group's disbanding.

Riffs on Riffs is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Hosted by Joe Watson and Toby Brazwell. Our Audio Engineer is Eric Koltnow and our Producer and Sound Designer is Noah Foutz. Executive Producers Gerardo Orlando and David Allen Moss.

To help the former members of 24CB and get some new Riffs merch, check out our bonfire store!

Check out the new tracks made by Princess Hearn and Niambi Steele, and to help support us make new music with them, consider donating to our Kickstarter!

Thanks for another great season. Huzzah!

24CB Episode 4 Script

J: Hello and welcome back to Riffs on Riffs. I’m Joe Watson, and I’m here with my co-host, Toby Brazwell. What’s up, Toby?

T: Considering that this is our last episode of this special season of Riffs on Riffs, I’m gonna take a song from Drake and say I’m In Feelings at the moment.

J: I feel you. I often think the Views from the recording booth during Riffs sessions are the Best I Ever Had.

T: Can’t help but agree, And before we Lose You and part ways and ask that you all Take Care, we feel that it’s God’s Plan to discuss some things that might be thought of as Headlines in this episode.

J: Let’s catch everyone up on the past three episodes. We’ve been telling the untold story of the hugely influential yet unknown band 24CB. This group was born out of the genius of Stax Record Producer Dale Warren, and we were blessed to be able to speak to some of the band members as well as author Zach Sconfeld to get a first hand perspective on the life and times of 24CB

T: In the last episode we spoke with vocalists Princess Hearn and Niambe Steel on their life and experiences following the disbandment of 24CB. Now we turn our attention to sax player Jerome Derrickson, who in many ways has a different appreciation for both the foundation that 24CB provided him and the legacy it has left behind.

J: Jerome has an impressive legacy of his own, and some singular insights into another tragic artist’s life. I asked him directly about the band’s impact, let’s hear what he had to say.

Joe

So what is your, how do you feel about sort of this legacy of all these current artists taking your music and re-interpreting it?

Jerome

Well, of course I'm impressed. And secondly, well, let me go back to that. I'm very impressed. And I would, I would have never thought that I would have been part of something that, that, that it became. So like a historical fact or something of that nature. I never thought I would be part of anything like that. And then even now, you know, I'm not running around pat myself on the back or anything like that from being a part of that in the past. I'm happy that I was, I was in there and I made my family proud. I made a legacy for myself and those that I'm involved with to actually look back on and, and command that respect when I walked in a room with musicians and people that know who I am. So that's, that's pretty much it, you know, it's, it's not, it's, there's no hard feelings. No, not at all. Not at all. No, no hard feelings from, from, from none of my experiences, because it was all a learning experience. Not now if it probably would have been some hard feelings, if I didn't land on my feet to where I can continue on with my career and my life, like I'm doing now, you know,

J: Tobe, I can't help but think that this is a stark contrast to the thoughts of Princess and Niambe. Jerome isn’t bitter, he’s grateful. That’s really something considering that Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, and scores of others have songs that sample 24CB — and the band members have never seen a single penny from any of that. But as he says, his 24CB experience was a springboard for future success. It’s easier to be grateful for that.

T: I agree, and after doing some thinking I came up with an analogy that made it all make sense to me.

J: Oh I can’t wait to hear this.

T: Well I want you to think about the first girl that broke your heart. Now think about if Halle Berry or Scarlet Johnanson walked into your life within the next year. It’s a little hard being that upset about the old wrongs when you have some really good experiences ahead of you.

J: So you’re saying that my Gal Gadot experience is not out of the question?

T: Well I’m pretty sure she’s married, but you might be able to get your Kate Beckinsale moment…

J: I like where you are going with this. This is an analogy I can get behind. And despite not achieving acclaim, 24CB helped send Jerome on a path to future musical success, including being a founding member of the group Zapp with Roger Troutman.

T: I wish you could've seen my mouth drop when I found out that Jerome was a part of Zapp. Dude, I was basically speechless.

J: Yessir! I’m also assuming that Zapp and Roger songs like “I Want to be Your Man”, and “Computer Love” all made it onto the Brazwell Slow Jams mix tape.

T: You damn skippy!

J: You did not just say that.

T: What?

J: “You damn skippy”?! What are you, 87? You going to start talking about the good old days of Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell? Hold on, let me get you a Werthers.

T: You whippersnappers have no respect for your elders… wait, you’re older than me …

J: Six months my friend. To the day. But apparently you take this “old soul” idea to a whole new level. But I digress, please tell us more about Zapp.

T: As many longtime Riffs listeners will remember, Zapp was a funk band that came out of Dayton, Ohio in the late 70’s and consisted of the Troutman brothers: Roger, Larry, Lester and Terry along with Bobby Glover, Gregory Jackson, Sherman Fleetwood, Eddie Barber, Jannetta Boyce and Jerome Derrickson.

J: The group’s pioneering sound, and specifically Roger’s use of the talkbox, led to Zapp’s commercial success as their second album, Zapp II, went certified gold in 1982. Much like 24CB, their music had a huge impact on future hip hop producers, specifically in the G Funk era.

T: And as you mentioned, this G Funk influence takes us all the way back to our first episode of Riffs on Riffs when we discussed Dre and Tupac’s song “California Love”. Bonus points if you remember the well known artist who’s song they sampled for that track. If you do, You Can Leave Your Hat On.

J: Well done sir. Unfortunately, at the end of that episode we talked briefly about Roger’s tragic death. It’s an incredibly sad story that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. As a key member of Zapp, Jerome has a unique insight into those events and he was gracious enough to fill in some of the background, including some never before told details about that fateful day. Let’s hear what he had to say:

Toby

… So obviously you said you broke away from, from zap about a year and a half before Roger had, was killed and, and passed away at whatnot. You know, the fact that it, the murder being committed by his brother who was also in the group zap. I mean, there had to be, I mean, it had to be some tense times and there's a lot of confusion as to, you know, how this could even happen, you know, when and how, how to kind of even move on or even know how to feel about, about the whole incident. I don't want to bring up a painful subject if you, if you're not comfortable answering it, you certainly don't have to.

Jerome

No. Well, zap zap was a family, a family group. It had four brothers, four Zach Buster leery. It was, it was five brothers. Okay. And one brother stayed at home and kind of ran the business, the businesses that the group created at home construction company, real estate agency, landscape company that, that older brother stayed home and took care of that while the other four brothers were on the road with the band. All right. The oldest brother, which was Larry, that's the one who killed Roger. He more or less what happened? The fact that Trump, his family was about 12 or 13 children, siblings. Their father was an alcoholic, pretty heavy alcoholic. And he's passed now, you know, risk risk. And the older, the older brother, Larry kind of became the father figure to the group. So to the family, I'm sorry. Okay. So Larry, more or less two-thirds of the three brothers until then mostly you stay off drugs and alcohol.

Jerome


I'll do everything in my power to make the group what it is. So, and he did that. He negotiated deals and got the group to becomes that and got record deals and so on and so on. Okay. As, as the group get bigger and bigger, Dr. Dre, after I have to California love was done with Tupac, with zap, Dr. Dre and approach Roger about bringing the group and moving to LA instead of just coming to LA and recording, actually move the group to LA Larry, the oldest brother, they killed Roger. He felt like he was losing control. And so he went that particular morning. He went and picked Roger up and said, Hey, I want to talk to you because Roger was making plans to move the group to LA. And they started talking in an argument, broke out. And, and it was basically because of that, because Roger wanted to take the group to LA and work with Dr.Dre and Tupac and all of that. And they got in an argument in back of the studio and Larry pulled a gun. Roger jumped out the car, Larry shot through the door, through the passenger glass door and hit Roger in the back and then actually get out of the car, came around, Roger’s laying on the ground. And then he shot him again in the chest with a 44 Magnum. And he jumped in the car and pulled off, went around the corner when he got around a quarter of the stuff done in his mouth, his head off. And he was just neat, just anger. You know, it just overtook him. And what I just told you is from a I witness because our studio, there was an alleyway in the back of our studio. So there were our office buildings in our studio then I'll decide it was residential. So there was an old lady that used to watch the back of the building us all the time. And when the car pulled up, she actually was standing on the porch and she watched all of this happen take place. And the hospital from the studio was maybe four blocks. So when the ambulance came, get Roger and took him to the hospital, he was alive until they pulled into the driveway at the hospital. He almost made it, you know, need that, that in the ambulance, right in the parking lot of the hospital. And then, like I said, later, he went around the corner.

Toby


You know, the, I haven't heard that. I have not heard that story. And I did do research on that. I haven't heard that type of detail from anyone, you know, because you, you can't really, you can't really find it does that. And I'm saying, I've looked because, you know, when it happened, I was like, you know, that's crazy that part now. Right, right. Oh, that's something. And I interrupted you there. Jerome, did you have something else to say about that?

Jerome


No. I was just going to say that it was at the time that that happened. I was actually in the Dayton airport on my way over to the studio. I had just flew me in from Atlanta and I was getting to hit it over to the studio. And as I was coming through the airport, you know, it's a news flash. It hit the, hit off TVs in the airport. And I went up to the rental car town to get my car. And the girl said, aren't you a member of Zapp? And I said, yeah. And she said, well, Roger was just killed. And I said, what are you talking about? And then I turned around and I saw on the TV screen and in the airport. And they were, they were talking about this heavy. Yeah. It was, it was pretty safe.

T: What a story man. Simply heartbreaking. Roger is gone but certainly not forgotten — he left his imprint on the musical landscape and his contributions will be enjoyed for generations to come.

J: Agreed. Zapp had success in their heyday and a sort of “second life” as other artists began to sample them. On the other hand, 24CB never found success as a band, but the case could be made that they are one of the most successfully sampled groups of all time. That list of songs that sampled 24CB is a long one. Tobe, you want to get us started?

T: Absolutely, but I have to say the hardest part is figuring out where to start! Let’s kick it off with Eric B and the MC that some call the GOD MC -— Rakim. Their 3rd studio album, “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em” was released in June of 1990.

J: The 2nd single from that album was a song called “In the Ghetto” which samples 24CB’s song “Ghetto: Misfortunes’ Wealth”. “In the Ghetto” charted at #10 on the Hot Rap Songs chart. I know that Rakim is a revered MC, but not the only one on this list. Keep it going for me…

T: We can move to Houston’s own Scarface , who has been ranked by The Source magazine #16 in the list of top 50 MCs. to put it mildly, he’s pretty damn good. He also sampled “Ghetto: Misfortunes’ Wealth” In a song called The Geto.

J: That track also features Ice Cube, another MC you might have heard of. Is there anyone else that sampled the Ghetto: MIsfortune’s Wealth track that we should mention?

T: How about the 12x Grammy-nominated Busta Rhymes? His name has been mentioned several times on this pod but I feel like we haven’t given him his flowers yet. To me he’s like the Kevin Bacon of hip hop due to the fact that he has performed with almost every big name in the industry over his career.

J: Care to get specific about some of those big names?

T: Sure! I’m talking Missy Elliot, Q tip, Mary J Blige, Jay Z , Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Pussy Cat Dolls, Common, Jamie Foxx, TI, Jada Kiss, Scarface, Tpac, Rick Ross and much, much more.

J: That’s a ridiculous list of talent and I can absolutely see how you can play the Kevin Bacon game with Busta’s discography. Busta’s 2020 album, “Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God” features a song called “Deep Thought” that sampled 24CB Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth.

T: And we are just getting started with 24CB samples. In Zach Schonfield’s book he talks about how a young artist by the name of Ishamel Butler found the 24CB album in his father’s collection and then sampled it. You may be more familiar with Butler's MC name, Butterfly, and the group he founded, DIgable Planets.

J: Digable Planets. Pioneers in jazz rap, Grammy award winners. If only I was Cool Like Dat.

T: First of all, you are. Second, thank you for that segue. Ishmael sampled Tyrone Steele’s funky drum intro from the 24CB song “Food Stamps” and used it for the track you just referenced, Rebirth of Slick (Cool LIke Dat) off of Digable Planet’s debut album Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space).

J: Wow, that single dropped way back in 1992. So besides the fact that we remember when it came out because we are old, let’s point out the fact that 24CB had songs sampled almost 30 years apart! Rebirth of Slick was certified Gold and reached #15 on the Billboard hot 100. So now that we’ve hopped in the Delorean and headed back to the 90s, let’s keep the magic of that era going. What do you have next?

T: Remember a guy named Shawn Carter that went by the MC name Jay-Z? Turns out he also sampled 24 Carat Black on his 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt. Check out the closing track Can I Live (PT 2) featuring Memphis Bleek and you’ll hear a sample of 24CB’s track “Mother’s Day”.

J: Jay-Z, lemme see, I’m gonna do a quick Google search right now… oh, here we go. Hey, look, he’s got a separate Wikipedia page just for all the awards he’s won! He must be a big deal.

T: You know, some might say he lived a Hard Knock Life, but at the end of the day, he wrote The Blueprint. The Magna Carta. The Holy Grail.

J: Hmm … Also says something about Beyoncé? Feel like that’s somebody else I should be aware of…

T: Ok, all kidding aside, we’ve named some big names already. BIG NAMES. Artists who have made an indelible mark on the musical landscape.

J: We have, and yet I feel like you still have more for me.

T: Yep. There’s rapper Pusha T’s song Infrared which sampled 24 Carat Blacks song “I Want to Make Up”. Infared was part of Pusha’s album Daytona that was nominated for best rap album in 2018. Oh, and that album was produced by Kanye West. Kanye was one of the first to use 24CB’s second album, Gone: The Promises of Yesterday instead of the original Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth record.

J: But wait, there’s more! Kendrick Lamar liked 24 CB so much he sampled the song Poverty’s Paradise twice for his 2017 album DAMN for the songs FEAR and The Heart pt 4, the latter of which was the promotional single for the album. Oh, and btw, that album was certified platinum.

T: Okay, I see you working! Is there more?

J: Is there more? I feel like we can keep this party going nonstop til the break of dawn. I mean, Nas, RZA, heck, 24CB makes an appearance on the Nutty Professor soundtrack, courtesy of Monica. Then we have El-P, and Jill Scott and Common and …

T: Alright, I get it. So in summary, 24CB is the band you’ve never heard of but have definitely heard. They have literally been sampled by some of the most elite hip hop artists of our time. And not just one generation. We’re talking about from 1990 with Rakim all the way to Busta Rhymes in 2020. That’s amazing and definitely one of the main reasons we wanted to make 24 CB the focus of this series.

J: And this brings us to the question: With all the millions of dollars that have been earned by artists sampling 24CB, Princess and Jerome and Niambie must have earned some nice coin along the way, right? 24CB must be worth a fortune!

T: You would think. But in short… no. No. Not at all. Their entire haul would be something only Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang could be proud of.

J: So you’re saying it amounts to Peanuts?

T: Let’s just say that whenever a band member raises their hand and says, “where’s my money?”, the answer sounds like the teachers from those cartoons.

J: It’s a tale as old as time. Talented artists who never reap any financial rewards for their work. Sadly, we’ve covered it many times in our podcast history. The reasons are in part because of the way the recording industry is structured. Not to get into the minutia of royalties and payouts, but basically you get paid for writing the song — the music and the lyrics — and the record company gets paid from recording and publishing it.

T: Right, and in the case of 24CB, Dale Warren wrote all of the music and lyrics, and Stax had the publishing rights. The individual members of the band didn’t have any rights to their own performances. No rights means no money.

J: It’s true that members of the original 24CB lineup that created Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth have not been compensated for their work. And the amount that Tyrone Steel was paid for the use of his voice on that Pusha T track totalled a whopping $60.48.

T: Zach tells the story in his book of going over to Tyrone’s house and listening to that Infrared track with him. Tyrone’s response upon hearing the song? “It’s great! I just wish I was being compensated!” And all the other tracks that have sampled him and his work? He says, “I haven’t gotten anything. Nothing.”

J: Ladonna talks about how she and Larry discovered how much 24CB has been sampled:

Ladonna

Well, it was kind of funny how we found out about there was an app someone told us about called who sampled me. And I told Larry, I said, we have this app. I said I said, you want to look on there? So we did. We looked on there and we saw all the different artists who had sampled 24 Carries. And Larry was just blown away. And one of his comments was, Where's my money? So we were blown away because we had no idea that Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar and some of the other people who had sampled that song. And when you go and you look on, listen to that app. And I could hear Princess and Ernest singing, I could hear the music that they had in the background. And it just kind of blowed his mind that people were using the music. And he often wondered how or who gave them permission, how did they get there, the music and things like that. So it was kind of mind blowing and kind of puzzling to him as to how they did that. And still today, I even wonder when I see different artists that I know that have tampled the music.

Ladonna

And I look at it and think, how can you an artist who worked so hard for something and then someone else can come in and use the music and you don't give them any props at all? I don't know. I guess it's just part of the music business. It's not a fair business. It's not an easy business.

J: It’s a common refrain from the band members. Princess and Niambi and Jerome are honored to be sampled and have their legacy endure. But if money is the currency of respect, they are not getting anywhere near their due.

T: Somebody has to be getting paid. It’s no longer possible to sample a track without compensating the composer for publishing rights and the record company for the master recording. So where does the money trail lead?

J: We talked about how Stax records went under, and eventually their entire catalog was acquired by Concord Records in 2004. In his book, Zach talks about reaching out to them regarding 24CB royalties. Here was their response:

“We do own the album in question and do grant sample licenses charging proper licensing fees.” When pressed on how much money they earn from those 24CB samples, they simply reply, “We do not disclose this type of information.”

Toby: I can tell you that, in approaching Concord to license the music of Ghetto Misfortune’s Wealth for this podcast, they wanted to charge us north of $3000. Three grand to simply to play the music from the band that we are paying homage to in this podcast series. We aren’t sampling them, we simply want to allow the people to hear their work. So I can’t imagine what they must be pulling from big names like Kendrick and Jay-Z.

J: So that knocks one source of income off the list. Concord is getting paid, they aren’t sharing, and they aren’t going to tell you anything more about it. The whole the is maddening on so many levels. Consider that we are trying to bring attention to 24CB. We are telling our audience “hey, go check out this band, this legendary album.” We aren’t trying to make any money off of it. We simply want to give 24CB their due. And who would this benefit? Not the band members, but Concord through record sales! Talk about being short sighted. It’s hard not to think greed is at the heart of it all.

T: It gets even worse when you try to follow the publishing rights. When Dale Warren died in 1994, his estate received all the publishing rights. His estate is managed by his widow, and according to Georgia law she has sole rights to everything. And she won’t talk to anyone. There’s some speculation of millions of dollars belonging to the estate, but it’s impossible to get to anything resembling the truth.

J: I want to dive into this a bit more. We have obviously talked a ton on this podcast about sampling and artist compensation and the grey areas surrounding using someone else’s music as part of your own. We’ve also discussed how it’s become such a slippery slope and essentially reached the point of absurdity.

T: True. It seems like you couldn’t even write a song about love any more because someone is going to sue you and say, “I have been in love before, and I have also written a song in the key of G, so you owe me all of the rights to your track.”

J: Exactly! But I want to differentiate between that idea of “accidental” sampling and intentional use.

T: What do you mean by accidental? I find it hard to believe that someone else’s music could just accidentally show up on your track. It’s the musical equivalent of “someone hacked my account”.

J: I’m talking more about those George Harrision and The Chiffons moments.

T: I may not be the biggest Beatles historian, but I’m pretty certain George Harrison was never in the Chiffons.

J: You are correct, but I can say this about George – He’s So Fine!

T: I see where you are going with this. You are referencing the lawsuit that George eventually lost regarding his song “My Sweet Lord”.

J: Exactly. One of the early landmark cases of music copyright and plagiarism, George’s song My Sweet Lord was found to have infringed on the Ronnie Mack penned song, He’s So Fine, recorded by The Chiffons. The crazy thing is, George had no intention of plagiarizing anyone, and was so affected by the whole ordeal that he didn’t record another album for three years. As he told Rolling Stone at the time, "It's difficult to just start writing again after you've been through that. Even now when I put the radio on, every tune I hear sounds like something else."

T: He’s not wrong. Every song does sound like something else. Now I see what you mean about accidental sampling. The judge presiding over the case, Richard Owen, put it this way in his summary: “Did Harrison deliberately use the music of "He's So Fine"? I do not believe he did so deliberately. Nevertheless, it is clear that "My Sweet Lord" is the very same song as "He's So Fine" with different words, and Harrison had access to "He's So Fine". This is, under the law, infringement of copyright, and is no less so even though subconsciously accomplished.” And that’s a big distinction, that word “subconscious”

J: Completely agree. This is why I think we’ve gotten so far out of control with the copyright infringement nonsense. I mean, Justin Bieber just had 11 songwriter credits for his Grammy nominated song “Peaches”. Eleven. I want to know what #11 contributed to the process.

T: I believe it was for the use of the word, “yeah”. Pretty important contribution, really makes the song.

J: I love what Damien Riehl is doing with the All the Music project, which hopefully will put an end to the whole copyright infringement issue in regards to melodies. For anyone interested, I highly recommend his TED talk “Copyrighting all the melodies to avoid accidental infringement”. It’s a brilliant idea and I project I can totally get behind.

T: Basically, what he and his colleague have done is gone ahead and copyrighted all the possible melodies that could possibly exist. And then, they’ve made them available rights free. Voila! No more copyright infringement.

J: This is another topic you and I could riff - pun intended- on for a while. But the one thing we do know is that the members of 24CB have not been compensated for their work, and we’d like to do some small thing to change that.

T: We can’t rewrite the past, but we can create a brighter future. And with the support of our fine listeners, maybe we can do a little something to give back financially to Princess and Niambi and Jerome.

J: All of them are still actively performing, and when we asked if they were interested in collaborating with us on new music, they all answered with a resounding “Yes!” And we had such a blast working with them that we would love to expand to an EP or maybe even a full album.

T: We have launched a Kickstarter campaign to support these efforts, with stretch goals that will generate even more new music. Please head over to RiffsonRiffs.com to find the link and learn more about the project.

J: We definitely appreciate all of your support! And with that Tobe, I think it’s time we bring down the curtain on this 4-part series covering 24CB. Any parting words of wisdom to share?

T: I think we can turn to Jerome for some words of gratitude:

Jerome

00:38:53

…And I think about it. I say, wow, you know, I've, I've made quite a few accomplishments and I've done quite a few things. And I'm very thankful, you know, I don't think if I have the opportunity to go back and do it any differently, I would do take the same names. You know, I've been blessed. I'm very fortunate.

J: Great stuff. We are also fortunate and grateful to you for joining us on this journey. We are hard at work on some more Riffs on Riffs and we’ll be back in your eardrums soon.

T: Thank you for listening. Huzzah.

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