Zapp (also known as the Zapp Band or Zapp & Roger) is an American funk band that emerged from Hamilton, Ohio, in 1977. Particularly influential in the electro subgenre of funk, Zapp served as partial inspiration toward the creation of the G-funk sound of hip-hop popular on the West Coast of the United States in the early to mid 1990s, with many of their songs sampled by numerous hip-hop artists. The original line-up consisted of four brothers--Roger Troutman, Larry Troutman, Lester Troutman and Terry Troutman--and non-Troutman family members Bobby Glover and Gregory Jackson. The group received attention in the early 1980s for implementing heavy use of the talk-box, which became one of their most well known characteristics. Zapp worked closely with members George Clinton and Bootsy Collins of the band Parliament-Funkadelic during its early stages, their support being a factor in the group gaining a record deal with Warner Bros. Records in 1979. Zapp released its eponymous debut album in 1980, having a P-funk reminiscent sound as a result of Clinton's and Collin's input on the production. Zapp achieved most of its mainstream recognition from the single "More Bounce to the Ounce" from the same album, now widely regarded as a classic example of early 1980s electronic funk. The following year in 1981, Clinton stopped producing the band over a record dispute regarding Roger Troutman's solo debut. Zapp continued to produce several more albums thereafter, releasing Zapp II in 1982. The album's musical style veered drastically away from their first release; despite this, the album sold well, and was certified gold by late 1982.
Zapp disbanded in 1999 after both Roger and Larry Troutman were killed in a murder-suicide, that was apparently carried out by Larry. Roger was shot several times before dying in hospital during surgery. Larry's body was found close-by in his vehicle with a single gunshot wound to the head. The motive behind Larry's attack is unclear, but there are speculations that were arguments over money, and Larry being angry over the lack of consultation Roger had gave as to why he fired him from being his manager. Zapp reformed briefly in 2003 with the remaining brothers of the Troutman family to produce the album Zapp VI: Back By Popular Demand. Zapp currently tours only around small scale concerts in the United States.
1966-80: Early career and major record deal:
Born on November 29, 1951, in Hamilton, Ohio, Roger Troutman began recording music in the late to mid 1960s, issuing his first solo recording efforts "Jolly Roger" and "Night Time" on the obscure and now defunct Ohio label, Teen Records in 1966 under the band name 'Lil' Roger and His Fabulous Vels. Although neither song received recognition due to its very limited release, Troutman and brothers pursued their music career throughout the 1970s, forming Roger & The Human Body in 1976, on their privately owned label Troutman Bros. Records. Their own label allowed Troutman and the band to give a slightly wider and more high profile release of their own music, issuing their first (and only) album Introducing Roger in 1976.
In the late 1970s Roger Troutman continued to record with his brothers, losing the name Roger & The Human Body and adopting the Zapp nickname from his brother Terry in 1977. The group searching for recognition, began playing at various small venues locally around Ohio. The Troutman family had long standing friendships with Ohio natives Phelps "Catfish" Collins and William Earl "Bootsy" Collins, who had both been involved with Parliament-Funkadelic in the early 1970s. Phelps and Bootsy were attendees at a performance, and were impressed with Zapp's musical abilities, prompting Bootsy to invite Roger to the United Sound Studios in Detroit (the P-Funk studio base) which was frequently used by Parliament-Funkadelic. Roger Troutman subsequently wrote and recorded the demo for "More Bounce to the Ounce" in 1978.George Clinton, the leader of Funkadelic liked the recording and encouraged Troutman to present the demo to Warner Bros. Records. Warner Bros. signed Zapp in early 1979, and on July 28, 1980, Zapp released their debut album, which was recorded by Roger and produced by Bootsy between 1979 and early 1980 at the United Sound Studios in Detroit, their first recording on a major label. The album's sound, which is highly influenced by Parliament-Funkadelic, contrasts largely with Zapp's later releases. "More Bounce to the Ounce" reached number two on the Billboard Hot R&B tracks for two weeks during the autumn of 1980. By November 18, 1980, Zapp had been certified gold by the RIAA.
"George Clinton just happened to step into the studio this night and he really liked this one part that we had already re-did on 'Funky Bounce'. He advised us to loop that section and put the other talk-box parts over it. At that time, this was considered a genius act, because you had to actually cut the tape and make the right cut, line it up and loop it. So let us not forget that Dr. Funkenstein was way ahead of his time as well."
- Bootsy Collins remembering Clinton's influence toward creating the song 'More Bounce To The Ounce'
1980-81: Split with George Clinton and other workings:
After the 1980 release of Zapp's debut album, tensions rose between Roger Troutman and George Clinton. Troutman's solo album The Many Facets of Roger was primarily funded by Clinton, through CBS, and was slated to be released on his own Uncle Jam Records label. By the early 1980s, Clinton and his musical projects were a midst financial troubles due to his poor management skills and shifting tastes in music. Around the time of Troutman's to be released debut, Warner Bros. Records dropped Clinton from their label, and quietly released The Electric Spanking of War Babies which Troutman had worked briefly on, in early 1981 without much impact.
Troutman, seeing the disarray that was surrounding Clinton at the time, accepted Warner Bros. offer of more money for the demo recordings of his album. The move resulted in a bitter severing of partnerships between Clinton and Troutman, and with Clinton's departure, Troutman was left to exercise virtually full creative control over the band's later work. In Clinton's biography George Clinton: For the Record, Troutman was quoted commenting on the situation with a blasé attitude, "... Heck gee-willickers, Warner Bros. offered me mo' money". In response, Clinton remarked, "CBS paid for it, I paid for it. I don't like to go into it on the negative side, but it cost about 5 million dollars, and a lot of people's jobs and what we consider as the empire falling". The loss of money that resulted from the actions of Troutman, is credited as one of the factors that disassembled both Clinton's and Funkadelic's musical careers.The Many Facets of Roger was eventually released in October 1981 on Warner Bros.
1982-85: Style change and gradual decline:
Zapp released its second album, Zapp II, on October 14, 1982. It focused on more of an electronic orientated sound, containing greater use of the talk-box that is often considered Troutman's trademark. Despite the contrasting styles between the first and the second albums, Zapp II attained gold status by September 21, 1982. The album fared almost as well as Zapp's debut, peaking at number two on the Billboard R&B chart, and reaching 25 on The Billboard 200 Albums chart. The single "Dancefloor (Part I)" peaked at number one on the R&B singles chart of 1982.
Zapp spawned several more albums in close succession within the 1980s, retaining the heavily electronic style that Zapp II had adopted. Zapp III was released in 1983, but it did not reach the same chart positions as Zapp's previous efforts. While still gaining a gold certification, it only peaked at 39 on the Billboard 200 and nine on the R&B chart.Zapp III's poorer commercial performance became a sign that the band's popularity and impact were beginning to decline toward the mid 1980s, with post-disco music falling out of trend. By the release of Zapp IV on October 25, 1985, Zapp's popularity declined more. The album gained gold status, but only in 1994, almost a decade after its initial release. Zapp's presence began to fade in the latter half of the 1980s, and Troutman's attention was focused on his solo career. The final release by Zapp before Troutman's death was Zapp V, on September 12, 1989, which was met with moderate commercial success and failed to receive an RIAA certification.
1993-96: Resurgence and brief increase in popularity:
The growing and increasingly dominant West Coast hip-hop scene of the early to mid 1990s brought Zapp and Roger back into the spotlight for a brief amount of time as many hip-hop acts began favoring Zapp's material as a source for sampling in their own music. Troutman gained recognition for providing talk-box backing vocals for both the original and remixed version of Tupac Shakur's 1995-96 comeback single "California Love"; the alternate version of the music video features Troutman playing the keyboard and talk-box during a party. Roger's involvement in "California Love" awarded him a Grammy nomination for "Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group" in 1997.
1996-present: Deaths of Roger and Larry Troutman, disbandment, and current activity:
On Sunday morning, April 25, 1999, Roger Troutman was fatally wounded as a result of an apparent murder-suicide that was orchestrated by his older brother, Larry. Roger was shot several times in the torso by Larry as he exited a recording studio in Dayton, Ohio. Roger was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital, but died shortly after. Larry's body was found in a car a short distance away from the murder scene. There were no witnesses at the time, and Larry's motive for the murder of Roger remains unclear, however, there were increasingly large troubles over money surrounding Larry who managed the family run housing company, Troutman Enterprises. The business filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, owing $400,000 in delinquent taxes. Larry was also possibly angry over Roger firing him as manager for his music career, of which Larry had been for several years.
After Troutman's death, Ice Cube said that "More Bounce To The Ounce" introduced him to hip-hop. "I was in the sixth grade, we'd stayed after school. We had this dude named Mr. Lock, and he used to bring in his radio with these pop-lockers. He used to teach the dance group the L.A. Lockers, and he would do community service in after-school programs. He knew a lot of kids and introduced them to all the new dances, he put on that song 'More Bounce', and they started pop-locking. And I think from that visual, from seeing that, it was my first introduction into hip-hop. Period. I didn't know nothing about nothing. I hadn't heard "Rapper's Delight" yet. It was the first thing that was really fly to me. They started dancing, and since 'More Bounce' goes on forever, they just got down. I just think that was a rush of adrenaline for me, like a chemical reaction in my brain." During Roger's funeral, his nephew Clet Troutman performed a talk-box rendition of "Amazing Grace". Roger is survived by his five sons and daughters, his sixth son Roger Lynch Troutman Jr. died of head injuries several years after the murder of Roger, (January 31, 1970 - January 22, 2003).
The resulting impact of Roger and Larry's deaths left the band stranded, halting production. Without Roger serving as the creative source, they effectively disbanded, and quietly left the music industry altogether. Warner Bros. Records eventually dropped the band from their label, bringing the professional recording career of Zapp to a close. A few years later, Zapp resurfaced for a short period after the establishment of its own independent label, Zapp Town Records, managed by the Troutman family. The label released its only album, Zapp VI: Back By Popular Demand, in 2003. Zapp returned to performing only in live concert, touring across the U.S. at various small scale venues.
Roger Troutman: vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, harmonica, vibraphone, percussion, talk box,
Larry Troutman: percussion,
Lester Troutman: drums,
Terry Troutman: keyboards, bass, background vocals,
Gregory Jackson: keyboards, lead and background vocals,
Aaron Blackmon (1984 - 1990),
Bigg Robb (from the early/mid 1990s - 2009),
Roger Troutman Jr. (died of head injury in 2003),
Rufus Troutman III,
Davis Brown (sound man),
Wanda Rash (vocalist),
Toika Troutman (vocalist),
Marchelle Smith (vocalist),
Eba Glover (vocalist)
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license