The first time I met one half of Bad Perm’s creators, Editor-in-Chief Lala, I was with her cousin, Bad Perm’s Candace, attending a Nas concert at my school. Nas’ DJ was Pete Rock and although the name sounded familiar to me, no songs came to mind. Lala said “How can you not remember T.R.O.Y?!” Then proceeded to hum it for me. As I drew a blank stare, she played the music on her phone. “Oooooh!” I had heard the song before, but somewhere in the midst of the late 90s East Coast/West Coast tracks that populated my iPod, I somehow had forgotten about. “Well, Pete Rock is the DJ/producer on the track,” Lala said. I will forever think of her when I hear this song, which is coincidental since Mecca and the Soul Brother was one of the defining albums in Lala’s life.
Since meeting Lala, I’ve listened to T.R.O.Y. everyday. I always thought it was about his family anthology and losing a brother, but after doing some research I actually found out it was dedicated to Trouble T-Roy from Heavy D & the Boyz. I was very nervous to do a Ladies Love Lyrics post on this particular song because of its immense importance in hip hop, but the whole point of a LLL is to share the personal meaning a song has to you. I am of course always open to hear your interpretation. You can find me @TheWomansWork.
So anyways, here goes…
I reminisce for a spell, or shall I say think back
22 years ago to keep it on track
The birth of a child on the 8th of October
A toast but my granddaddy came sober
22 years ago, CL Smooth was born on October 8th. During the celebratory toast of his birth, from what I gather, his grandfather couldn’t participate because he was a recovering alcoholic.
Countin’ all the fingers and the toes
Now I suppose, you hope the little black boy grows, huh
18 years younger than my mama
But I really got beatings cause the girl loved drama
CL’s mother had him at the young age of 18. Although that’s legally considered an adult, she seemed to still have a ways to go when it came to adult maturity. She obviously loved her son and cared for him, hoping for the best, but he still got whooped. He seems resentful of this stating that his mom seemed to enjoy drama.
In single parenthood there I stood
By the time she was 21, had another one
This one’s a girl, let’s name her Pam
Same father as the first but you don’t give a damn
Once again, CL continues on a resentful note. His mother gives birth to his sister Pam three years later. He and Pam share the same father, but their mom appears to be unaffected by this. From what I understood, CL’s father is absent during his and his sister’s lives.
Irresponsible, plain not thinking
Papa said chill but the brother keep winking
Still he won’t down you or tear out your hide
On your side while the baby maker slide
Now, they lyrics here get a little explicit. CL’s maternal grandfather keeps warning his mom about his father. His dad appears to be a smooth operator who knows exactly what to say to charm his mom. This results in her pregnancy. Her father however does not end up upset like most parents would be, but rather is accepting of the situation. And the last bar? It’s about a sexual position. Figure it out for yourself.
But mama got wise to the game
The youngest of five kids, hon here it is
After 10 years without no spouse
Momma’s gettin’ married in the house
The beginning of the verse I never quite understood (even after doing research.) Either his mother ended up having five children or she herself was the youngest of five children. Either way, she eventually grew weary of CL’s father’s charm and ended up marrying a man more suited for commitment. The lyrics suggest that the wedding was held in the household.
Listen, positive over negative for the women and master
Mother Queen’s risin’ a chapter
Deja vu, tell you what I’m gonna do
When they reminisce over you, my God
CL acknowledges his mother’s ability to see the positivity that dwells in negative situations. Her perseverance and optimism enables her to start another chapter in her life. He’s having a déjà vu moment as he reminisces over the loss of his friend.
Yeah, so lovely
That’s how we like to do it in the 90’s
Pete Rock & CL Smooth comin’ atcha…
When I date back I recall a man off the family tree
My right hand Poppa Doc I see
Took me from a boy to a man so I always had a father
When my biological didn’t bother
An important person in CL’s life was his Uncle Doc. Because his birth father was absent during his life, his Uncle stepped in to help father him.
Taking care of this so who am I to bicker
Not a bad ticker but I’m clocking pop’s liver
But you can never say that his life is through
5 kids at 21 believe he got a right too
Poppa Doc’s heart was ticking superbly. However, his liver was another story. CL would monitor Poppa Doc’s liver and say that he was going to be fine, however Poppa Doc thought otherwise. He had five children and acknowledged the dawn of life as many people do, by passing his legacy onto his children.
Here we go while I check the scene
With the Portuguese lover at the age of 14
The same age, front page, no fuss
But I bet you all your dough, they live longer than us
CL listened to Teena Marie‘s song Portuguese Lover. Perhaps this was his inspiration to delve into music (he’s appearing on the “scene;” the music scene). At 14, he is beginning to do this at the same time as someone very close to him, who I believe is Poppa Doc.
Never been senile, that’s where you’re wrong
But give the man a taste and he’s gone
CL claims that Poppa Doc has never exhibited signs of old age like Alzheimer’s, but once illnesses like that start to take hold, the person will never be the way they once were.
Noddin’ off, sleep to a jazz tune
I can hear his head banging on the wall in the next room
I get the pillow and hope I don’t wake him
For this man do cuss, hear it all in verbatim
CL is trying to paint us a picture. Poppa Doc falls asleep to a jazz song, probably because he finds the music soothing. Upon hearing his head bang on the wall (most likely because the chair is situated right up against the wall), so he runs over to place, a pillow behind his head. This single verse shows not only about how much CL cared about him, but also the transition of life: we are taken care of by our parents until it is time for us to take care of our parents. CL can also hear every curse word Poppa Doc’s ever yelled at him crystal clear in his head, which is why he is careful not to wake him. Perhaps Poppa Doc was one of those super independent people that didn’t like to be fussed over. Either way, this one verse is so multi-layered that you can read into it a million different ways.
Telling me how to raise my boy unless he’s taking over
I said pop maybe when you’re older
Poppa Doc gives advice to CL on how to raise children, meanwhile CL further emphasizes how young he thinks Poppa Doc is by playfully stating that perhaps one day when Poppa Doc is “older” he’ll be able to give advice.
We laughed all night about the hookers at the party
My old man standing yelling good God, almighty
Use your condom, take sips of the brew
When they reminisce over you, for real
The two appear to be at some party with sex workers, perhaps a bachelor party. Poppa Doc is obviously mesmerized by the beauty of the women and cautions CL to use protection and be careful about the amount of alcohol he drinks. This memory causes CL to reminisce about his friend.
For real, baby
We for real
Pete Rock & CL Smooth
Yeah, c’mon, hit me!
I reminisce so you never forget this
The days of way back, so many bear witness the fitness
Take the first letter out of each word in this joint
Listen close as I prove my point
T to the R-uh-O-Y, how did you and I meet?
In front of Big Lou’s, fighting in the street
CL finally identifies who the song is about. The words “They Reminisce Over You” are abbreviated by the letters T, R, O and Y, which is actually meant to stand for Trouble T-roy. T.R.O.Y. is a sort of acronym for the title of the song. CL talks about how they met in front of an establishment named Big Lou’s during a fight.
But only you saw what took many time to see
I dedicate this to you for believing in me
Trouble T-Roy’s and CL’s friendship was evidently a very close one based on mutual respect of each other’s talent. T-Roy was a supporter of CL’s talent far before anyone else and CL thus dedicated this now hip hop classic to his beloved friend.
Rain or shine, yes in any weather
My grandmom Pam holds the family together
My Uncle Doc’s the greatest better yet the latest
If we’re talking about a car, Uncle Sterling got the latest
Regardless of whether times are good or bad, his family is persevering. His grandmother is the pillar matriarch of the family. Poppa Doc seems to be doing better than ever and Uncle Sterling? He’s financially prospering. The change in subject matter from T-Roy back to the family lets the audience know that CL considered him family too.
I strive to be live ’cause I got no choice
And run my own business like my Aunt Joyce
It’s Pete Rock, hit me, enough respect due
When they reminisce over you, listen
Even though CL has to deal with days that are more difficult than others, he knows that he must keep on pushing to be the best he can be. Failure is not an option. His Aunt Joyce serves as an inspiration because she is a self made woman, and CL admires that quality. The opportunity to work with Pete Rock helped CL create this remarkable hip hop track, and we’ll forever reminisce about Trouble T-Roy when we hear this.
Listen, just listen
To the funky song as I rock on
And that’s word is bond
I’m not playin
Everybody, just coolin
This song we dedicate
To the one and only
Never be another
he was my brother
It’s like that y’all
And you don’t stop
Pete Rock and CL Smooth of ’92
And we out, later
The outro pretty much sums it up. Pete Rock and CL Smooth of the legendary 90’s era of hip hop. Trouble T-Roy will never be replaced. It’s an incredibly beautiful song meant to pay tribute to a wonderful man and figure in hip hop.
I know today, June 21 is Pete Rock’s birthday. Happy birthday sir, and thank you for creating part of the soundtrack to my life.