A Guide For Rapiers

July 17, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

Preadolescent twins Kevin and Keith Cobb aspired to be rap music giants and perform on stage with rappers Run DMC as the dynamic duo Lives of Virgoes.

But "they didn't walk that way," emulating the title of one of Run DMC's smash hits.

"We really didn't get that much exposure," said Kevin B. Cobb, now 25 and a Mount Hebron High School history teacher. "My (older brother) tried to manage us, but he didn't know anyone.... He was a local man who didn't know anything at all about managing anyone because he didn't know of any contacts."

As a songwriter and member of an unnamed Baltimore trio at age 18, he ran into the same deadends, Mr. Cobb recalled recently while sitting with his wife, Katrece Z. Cobb, and their 3-month-old son in their Ellicott City apartment.

To help similar aspiring rappers, hip hop artists and producers get a foot in the door of the lucrative music industry, he released CobbComm's 1994/95 Hip Hop Directory & Promotions List last month.

"I've noticed from talking to a lot of rap groups . . . most people who really have a desire to make a career out of it, they often times become discouraged because they don't know what to do," Mr. Cobb said. "They are frustrated."

The Morgan State University graduate's 54-page promotional directory lists hundreds of names, addresses and telephones numbers for distributors, radio stations, lawyers and record companies.

"It's the national white pages of hip hop," he said.

Rhonda Mann, a publicist for rapper Queen Latifah's New Jersey-based Flava Unit Records, which has signed groups Naughty By Nature and Shai, said she's unfamiliar with Mr. Cobb's directory but has seen other rap and hip hop directories.

"I don't know if the person you're speaking of, if (his) is the first one," she said. Her company is listed in his publication.

Ms. Mann did say directories are useful, especially for acts trying to break into the rap industry.

"Names and phone numbers are definitely invaluable when you need to get in touch with a producer," she said.

Mr. Cobb hopes to take in $150,000 in sales this year for the $29.95 directory. He said 50 directories already have been sold through his home-based business, which is advertised in four trade publications.

"We've gotten calls as far away as Alaska, New York, New Jersey," he said.

When he' s not teaching and promoting his directory, Mr. Cobb works with a teen-age Baltimore hip hop group called The Knuckleheads, who are signed to his independent rap label, Rhythm Records. The group has released a local single called "Here Comes the Knuckleheads."

With school out for summer, Mr. Cobb said he is concentrating on his "first love," rap.

"It's actually the voice of young black America," said Mr. Cobb, who ranks Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy and Heavy D among his favorite rappers.

Said Mrs. Cobb: "It seems like a lot of music groups don't realize how big rap has become, and how many avenues and networks there are that are available."

Since rap first hit the airwaves, it has ballooned into a powerful vehicle for youths. Some rap songs, such as Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and The Furious Five's "The Message," have become almost prophetic, Mrs. Cobb said.

"Ten years ago," she said, "you had Grandmaster Flash saying, 'It's like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.'

"Now people have gone under, literally," she said, referring to violence. The narrator is "at the edge and he said," 'Don't push me.' If you got philosophical, somebody pushed him and now he's killing people.... It's kind of prophetic."

Mr. Cobb, who began teaching U.S. history at Mount Hebron in August, said rap is "just like history" because it chronicles contemporary urban America.

He also said he "went into teaching to give back to the community, realizing that in some cases students are shortchanged."

If the opportunity arises, Mr. Cobb said he's willing to help promote a talented student. Meanwhile, he wants his company to prosper.

"CobbComm is here to stay," he said, adding that he may publish rock 'n' roll and rhythm-and-blue directories, too.

"Who knows? Maybe even country," he said, Laughing.

For more information about CobbComm, call (410) 607-7221.

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