Mega-funky hip-hopper tells FBPO about the gigs with Snoop Dogg, Lupe Fiasco and much more!
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
July 16, 2012
A bass player since the age of 14, Robert “Bubby” Lewis was quickly deemed a musical prodigy in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. Bubby has played bass for rap stars Snoop Dogg and Lupe Fiasco, as well as hip-hop artists Warren G, Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Tha Dogg Pound, Soopafly, The Warzone and many others.
FBPO: It’s always good to talk to a fellow Michigander! Tell me about your musical upbringing.
RBL: I was born in Grand Blanc, Michigan, and raised mostly in Flint, right next door. My father was a pastor of a church in Flint. I come from a huge church family – cousins and everything. We are all church folk.
FBPO: How did you end up a bass player? Didn’t you start out as a drummer?
RBL: Bass was not my first choice in instruments. Being in a big religious family, we have a lot of musicians all over. I was fascinated with the drums. My oldest sister, Benita, is an incredible drummer and I wanted to be able to play like her. Unfortunately, I can’t really play drums. I tried, but it didn’t work out.
In the middle of trying to learn drums, I was trying to draw inspiration, so my sister told me about Dave Weckl. I went out and got Synergy and listened to the actual “Synergy” song. After I heard Tom Kennedy destroy that awesome solo, I wanted to play bass! So my sister and brother had to beg my parents to get me a bass instead.
FBPO: Who were your influences as an up-and-coming student of bass?
RBL: From Tom Kennedy, I started listening to everybody: John Patitucci, Jeff Berlin, Stuart Hamm, Jimmy Haslip, Jimmy Johnson, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Stanley Clarke and, of course, the gospel guys: Andrew Gouché, Joel Smith and everybody you could imagine. For some reason, I really became connected with Allan Holdsworth and Frank Gambale, two guitar players that really inspire me tremendously.
FBPO: How did your career begin to take off? What kind of gigs were you doing?
RBL: Everything started with Andrew Gouché getting me on the gig with Snoop Dogg. I’m very thankful to him. As anybody who knows him will tell you, he is a role model to people all over the world, and a great one.
FBPO: Tell me about your relationship with Andrew. He seems to have been a catalyst in furthering your career.
RBL: Andrew is like a brother to me, just like he is to so many people all over, whether they’re musicians or not. He touches the lives of people. He’s a truly genuine person, one of those people you just love to be around.
FBPO: How did the Snoop Dogg gig come about?
BL: A buddy of mine that played for Snoop had become really busy with some other gigs. Apparently, they were going out on another tour and needed a bassist. So Andrew made a phone call and that was pretty much it. It all just really happened fast!
RBL: Snoop is a great guy, very musical. He really appreciates all music. He’s just an all-around great person and a very funny guy. I had a lot of fun working with him for those four years. I had some great experiences I can never forget.
FBPO: You must have a good Snoop story you can share!
RBL: One story I could never forget is the time we were in Greece. It was the very first tour, my first time out of the country and everything. After the show, I was tailing along back to the dressing room after packing up my bass and a guy walks up to me with a vinyl and a bracelet that he made and he wanted to give it to Snoop.
The thing that was so crazy is the guy couldn’t hear or talk, but he was at the concert. He was trying his best to communicate with me through signs and stuff. He wanted to see if he could get back to the dressing room to meet Snoop. I didn’t really know if that was possible because I thought everybody was packing up to leave. So he just said it’s okay and told me to tell Snoop, “I love you. You’re great. I’m a huge fan since the beginning.”
As I walked away, something told me to turn around and grab that guy. I took him backstage and told Snoop’s security guard, Big Keys (a/k/a “KILLA”), that this guy couldn’t hear or speak and was here at the concert and wanted to meet Dogg. He said “What!” and looked at the guy and just said, “Take him in.” I took him in there and explained everything to Snoop and as soon as the guy saw Snoop, he fell to the ground and started crying. Snoop stood him up and told him, “You may not be able to sing or hear it, but you can feel it.” Snoop touched the guy’s heart. It was a really touching experience that I’ll never forget.
FBPO: Tell me about Lupe Fiasco and that gig.
RBL: Lupe is a great guy. I must say I have a lot in common with him. Being into martial arts and Japanese Anime and stuff like that, we get along great! He is awesome, super friendly and great to be around. His music is super fun to play, too. It’s like playing hip-hop fusion. We mix in so many different styles of music. Playing with him has been an awesome experience. All the guys in the crew are like brothers. We love hanging together and of course jammin’ in the middle of sound check while Jimmy, who does stage, and Richard, who does front of house, yell at us all the time for shedding when we’re supposed to be getting levels right! [Laughs] It’s a lot of fun.
FBPO: What kind of basses are you playing these days?
BL: I have about eleven basses!I mainly use MTDs, though. I have the first MTD six-string MIDI bass. I also have an MTD six-string with a whammy bar. Pretty cool! My other MTD basses include the CRB Kingston model, which is incredible, and the USA Saratoga, which gives me that classic P-bass sound.
FBPO: What do you like about MTD basses? Why have you chosen to use them?
BL: The thing I like about MTDs is that they are so smooth and easy to play and their sound is so unique. There’s such a wide variety of tone you can get out of them, too. Plus, they’re incredible-looking instruments, like works of art!
I always knew the history of the classic Tobias basses from back in the day, that they were to die for, but I didn’t know when I’d ever get to play an MTD. I walked past their booth at the NAMM show one year and the basses looked so amazing I was afraid to touch them! [Laughs] If it hadn’t been for Andrew Gouché having me sit down to play one, I never would have realized how amazing they are.
FBPO: What else is keeping you busy these days?
RBL: Other than touring, I just try to create music whenever I feel ideas. I also love practicing while watching my Anime and Star Wars stuff.
FBPO: How about the future? What else would you like to do that you haven’t already accomplished?
RBL: One thing that has always been an inspiration to me, even before playing bass, is movie and video game composition. I pray one of these days I can really venture into doing that all the time. I still would love to tour and do shows all over the world.
It would also be cool to do music for some of my favorite game franchises and work with many of the composers who inspire me, like Nobuo Uematsu, and all the guys that do the music for Final Fantasy. And of course Hans Zimmer, John Powell, John Williams, Alan Sylvestri and so many others. I get a lot of my inspiration from these guys.
FBPO: How did you get your nickname? Did you know that “bubby” in Yiddish means grandma?
RBL: Yeah, I have a lot of friends that tell me that all the time! I know the common nickname for Robert is Bob but, for some reason, my parents just said Bubby instead.
FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
RBL: I love food comic books, Anime and video games. Something out of those would possibly be the next thing! But I’m thankful to be doing music and I try to mix all those other things in there some kinda way.