Ronald Isley

The infamous Mr. Big enters his seventh decade of music making

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day and I was like, “Hey man, wait until you hear ‘Between the Sheets.’ ” I said, “We going to knock ‘Sexual Healing’ off.” We just laughed. We were very competitive in those days. Somebody like Teddy Pendergrass would do “Close the Door” or “Turn Off the Lights,” and we’d do something like “Don’t Say Goodnight.” It was fun to listen to those records and have a competition going at the same time.

EBONY: From Jay-Z to J Dilla, there are hundreds of rap songs that have sampled the Isley Brothers’ music.

RI: Some of the language [on rap records] used to make me want to say no, but I realized they were only telling their story the way they wanted to tell it. So I let it happen. One of my favorites is Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day,” that sampled “Footsteps in the Dark.” That record knocked me out, as did the “Big Poppa” song Biggie did. The Isley Brothers are the most sampled artists in the business; I think James Brown is second. Maybe the Funkadelics are third. Hey man, I’m just glad we influenced the rappers that much.

Cultural critic Michael A. Gonzales has written cover stories for VibeUptownEssenceXXL, Wax Poetics and elsewhere. He's also written for New York and The Village Voice. Read him at Blackadelic Pop and follow him on Twitter @gonzomike.