NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess) — Robert “Rocky” Ford Jr., a music journalist who documented the birth of hip-hop and served as a mentor for some of the early pioneers the genre, including Russell Simmons, died on May 19th.
His death was confirmed by Simmons in an Instagram post and by the New York Times. Ford was 70 years old at the time of his passing.
Ford began covering the music that would eventually become hip-hop while working as a writer covering urban music for Billboard.
According to the New York Times, Ford got a tip about DJs in the Bronx buying up obscure records for 30 seconds of drum beats. The tip lead to an Billboard article in 1978 called “B-Beats Bombarding Bronx” which featured DJ Kool Herc, who is now widely regarded as one of the progenitors of modern hip-hop.
After the initial article, Ford continued to cover the nascent hip-hop scene in New York and after meeting a young Joseph Simmons (AKA Run-DMC’s Rev. Run), who was promoting a show for his older brother Russell Simmons on a city bus. Ford introduced himself and gave the younger Simmons his business card, taking the first step in a relationship that saw Ford eventually became a mentor for the two young entrepreneurs.
“He contacted me and wrote the first music trade story on rappers and how they was a hood phenomenon. He even put me in the story as The promoter (that was the first time I ever saw my name anywhere in the media). He believed in hip hop and me. Within a short time he was my guru. I was thrilled to sit by his feet and do whatever he recommended. He gave me a book (This Business of Music) and he enabled me to give a party for Kool and the Gang and their manager Bumby, who inspired me. I knew right then I wanted to be a manager,” Russell Simmons wrote on Instagram, remembering Ford.
Ford also provided Simmons with guidance in first gig as a manager.
“I began ‘managing’ Kurtis blow He [Ford] told me that i should be careful and honest (not charge too much 10% ) and learn everything in site he said by being honest i would have my relationships forever He was right. In a world where ripping off artists or overreaching on deals was commonplace he stressed the importance of making your partner or artist successful and having deals that when they look back they know you were fair,” Simmons continued.
Simmons had caught lightning in a bottle with Blow who soon released the“The Breaks” which went on to become the first rap single to be certified gold by the RIAA and landing Blow a recording deal with Mercury.
Ford briefly worked as a vice president of Rush Productions, an early incarnation of Simmons’ Rush Communications and also served as a manager for artists, including Kurtis Blow, and the Texas R&B boy band Hi-Five, who scored a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with “I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)”.
Ford also served as a record producer, with multiple credits to his name, including Kurtis Blow’s early catalog and early rap oddities such as Rodney Dangerfield’s “Rapping Rodney” (1983) and Full Force’s “Get Busy One Time” (1986).
According to the New York Times, Ford Linda Medley in 1998. He is survived by her, as well as his son Robert Ford III; his daughter, Raque; a sister, Barbara Burwell; and a granddaughter.