Full Force: How Can They Make a James Brown Movie Without Talking to Us?

The '80s R&B band talks latest LP and producing hits for music greats. 

Posted: 08/13/2014 03:30 PM EDT

The R&B band Full Force has been helping to shape the music landscape for the last 30 years. Beginning with their trailblazing production of U.T.F.O.'s 1985 hip hop music classic, "Roxanne Roxanne," the six-man collective (Paul Anthony, Bowlegged Lou, B-Fine, Curt-T-T, J-R and Baby Gerry) have put their music-crafting muscle behind hit '80s acts like Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Samantha Fox and, of course, themselves. With their fresh brand of electro-funk, they were also responsible for orchestrating James Brown's last hit album, I’m Real, in 1988.

And their sound reaches into the current roster of pop music stars, having produced hits for artists like Rihanna, Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake, N’Sync, Jill Scott and The Black Eyed Peas.

In celebration of their careers (and member Paul Anthony's successful battle with cancer), the crew is releasing their latest LP, Full Force: With Love From Our Friends. The star-studded album revisits several of the crew's classic hits (check also "All Cried Out") as well as new songs.

BET.com caught up with members Bowlegged Lou and Paul Anthony to discuss their latest project as well as their hit-filled music career.

What inspired this latest album?
Bowlegged Lou: The inspiration is that we are celebrating 30 years in the industry. And we wanted to do an album with a lot of people. One of our favorite albums when we were growing up was [Quincy Jones'] Back on the Block, where you had so many different artists on the LP. [Quincy] had versatile artists like Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald and Big Daddy Kane and Melle Mel and Ice-T and Al B. Sure and Barry White. So we wanted to do the same thing ...we wanted to bring together these artists of the "true school." We don't call them "old school," but "true school" because a lot of the other artists, let's just say the veteran white artists, they never call their hits "old school." They call it "classic." So we just want to call ourselves "true school."

This LP features everyone from Flavor Flav to Faith Evans to Howard Hewett. How was it working with that many arists and that many egos?
Paul Anthony: Man, it was definitely a labor of love [laughs]. It was very interesting, just getting it done. Of course we had to work around everyone's schedule. But Lou was the one navigating and engineering that. So, when you're reaching out to that many people, when one isn't ready for two weeks, there's other people to work with as long as we have the music ready. But it was wonderful. Some folks would fly in from as far as London. Definitely a labor of love.

Any standout moments?
Lou: The one that comes to mind was working with Flavor Flav on the song "Dance, Dance, Throw Ur Hands in the Air Air," which is a straight dance record that features Samantha Fox. When we asked Flav to do it, he initially said 'no' because he’d never rapped over something that fast before. He rocked it. His rap is so funny... the whole thing was hilarious.

Also, Paul Anthony, not too long ago you were battling a form of cancer called Mantle Cell Lymphoma. How are you doing since getting treated?
Paul: Thanks for asking. I feel good. I feel God good. I am right now (and beyond) cancer-free. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine. Giving thanks to my brother Bowlegged Lou for the bone marrow transplant… But, you know, you just got to be careful. Careful how you live, how you eat, how you rest. It all ties in. But I am thankful that the Creator had this project waiting for me at the tail end of that journey.

The film Get On Up is about to hit theaters [Editor's note: This interview was conducted in July]. Full Force worked on James Brown's album I’m Real. Do you have any memorable moments of working with the Godfather of Soul?
Paul: Oh yeah, man, we have wonderful stories of working with Mr. Brown. And, speaking of that film, I said to myself, 'How in the world can they make a movie like that without talking to us because we were privileged to do the last entire album (produced and co-wrote) of Mr. Brown's career. That was wonderful.

Any specific moments come to mind about recording with him?
Paul: Yeah, but you know, they are much too long to get into because they are extensive and humorous. You gonna have to check us out [when we write them] in a book.

As producers of the seminal hip hop record "Roxanne Roxanne," you opened a major lane for female MCs in the industry. Do your younger fans recognize your impact?
Lou: Well, many of our younger fans know us through House Party. But them knowing us through that film will help them gravitate toward our new album and they’ll get that history lesson. ...On this new album, we have a song called "Roxanne Roxxane (The New Chapter)." It features my son LouStar with U.T.F.O. and, for this remake, LouStar is trying to talk to the girl, but first he has to speak to her mother [lyrically played by Roxanne Shanté]. It's basically a soap opera now [laughs].

Behind the scenes, you have produced for some heavy-hitters in the current crop of music. Which up-and-comers would be your dream project?
Lou: Jhené Aiko. I think she's only scratching the surface of her talent. I think she's carving a lane for herself that's unique. And, of course, people who aren’t new. People like Drake, who I think is a talented cat. Always creative. Always fresh. I like him as well.

Would Full Force consider doing a reunion with former acts like Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam or Samantha Fox or any of your collaborators from the '80s?
Paul: Yeah, anything's possible. A reunion tour? Sure. Actually, we've done shows with Lisa Lisa before. We've done shows with U.T.F.O. We'd have to put them back together again and make it a U.T.F.O. tour reunion, which is a dream of mine. The four of them — Kangol Kid, EMD, Doctor Ice and DJ Mixmaster Ice — haven't performed together in like 15 years.

Full Force has also had a memorable stint in a few hip hop films like Krush Groove and Who's the Man. Do fans still throw lines at you from those films?
Lou: Well the most famous ones were House Party 1 and 2, where I played one of the bullies with the high, squeaky voice saying, "I'ma kick ya freakin' a--!" Still, today, 24 years later, I can't go without someone saying that to people.

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(Photo: Mark Mason/Legacy Recordings/Sony Music)

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