Early life and career
Born in Hamilton, Ohio, Roger was the fourth of nine children. He was a late-arriving member of Parliament-Funkadelic and played on the band's final Warner Brothers' album The Electric Spanking of War Babies. Beforehand, Troutman had formed various different bands with his four brothers including Little Roger and the Vels and Roger and the Human Body. In 1977, he and the Human Body issued their first single "Freedom". Within two years, Roger and his brothers were discovered by George Clinton who signed the newly-christened Zapp to his Uncle Jam Records label in 1979. Zapp made their professional television debut on the first and only Funk Music Awards show. A year later, as Uncle Jam Records was forced to close, Zapp signed to Warner Bros. Records and released their self-titled debut, which yielded the Bootsy Collins produced & Troutman-composed hit, "More Bounce to the Ounce". The song hit the top three on the Billboard Soul Singles chart peaking at number two in the fall of 1980 helping their debut reached the top twenty of the Billboard Top 200 firmly launching Zapp and Roger into the national spotlight.
Between 1980 and 1985, Zapp released gold-selling albums such as Zapp, Zapp II, Zapp III and Zapp IV U and released top ten R&B hit singles such as "Be Alright", "Dance Floor", "I Can Make You Dance", "Heartbreaker", "It Doesn't Really Matter" - which was a tribute to black artists of the past and present, and the Charlie Wilson and Shirley Murdock-assisted funk ballad, "Computer Love". Zapp's hit making magic faded shortly after the release of their fifth album, Vibe, in 1989. The album would become the group's final studio album though they continued to release singles into the 1990s releasing the hits "Slow & Easy" and "Mega Medley", which put together a collection of the group's hit singles in a remix. Throughout Zapp's tenure, the original five-member lineup grew to around fifteen. Troutman also made a habit of producing solo efforts for Zapp band members and associated acts. In 1993, the group scored their biggest-selling album when a compilation album, Zapp & Roger: All the Greatest Hits, was released. Featuring remixed cuts of Roger's solo singles and featuring the "Mega Medley", the album sold over two million copies giving the collective their most successful album to date.
Solo career and production work on other artists
In 1981, upon the fast-paced success of Zapp's first album, Troutman cut his first solo album, The Many Facets of Roger. Featuring his frenetic funk cover of Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", the song exploded to number-two on the R&B singles chart helping the album sell over a million copies. The album also featured the hit, "So Ruff, So Tuff", which was almost similar to "More Bounce..." as was most Roger/Zapp singles during this time. In 1984, Troutman issued his second solo album, The Saga Continues, which featured the singles "Girl Cut It Out", "It's in the Mix" - which was dedicated to Soul Train and its host Don Cornelius in one verse, and a cover of Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour", which featured gospel group The Mighty Clouds of Joy. In 1987, Troutman scored his most successful solo album with Unlimited, which featured the massive hit, "I Want To Be Your Man", which rose to number one R&B and number three on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1988, Troutman worked with Scritti Politti providing talk box vocals on the hit "Boom There She Was". Three years later, Troutman released his final solo album with Bridging the Gap, featuring the hit "Everybody (Get Up)". Alongside his successful careers as Zapp member and solo star, Troutman also became a hands-on producer and writer for other artists including Shirley Murdock, whose 1986 platinum debut featured the Roger-produced hit, "As We Lay". He also produced for Zapp member Dale DeGroat on his solo efforts.
After the release of All the Greatest Hits, Roger and Zapp were basically existing as a touring group only recording sporadically. Troutman was starting to be featured on hip-hop songs by this time agreeing to appear on rapper Snoop Dogg's 1993 debut, Doggystyle. Three years later, Troutman agreed to enlist vocals on 2Pac and Dr. Dre's single, "California Love". The song became Troutman's biggest-selling and most successful single to date as the song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over two million copies giving Troutman a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. This success led to Troutman being included in a top ten R&B hit cover of the Persuaders' "It's a Thin Line Between Love & Hate", which he produced and enlisted the talk box alongside Shirley Murdock and R&B group H-Town. In 1998, he appeared in a remix version of Sounds of Blackness' "Hold On (A Change is Coming)", which sampled Zapp's "Doo-Wah Ditty (Blow That Thing)". Throughout the 1990s, Roger was promoted heavily by Timothy Olague Entertainment in shows at emerging Indian Casinos in Arizona and California.
On a Sunday morning, April 25, 1999, Roger Troutman was found shot and critically wounded outside his northwest Dayton recording studio around 7 a.m. According to doctors, the 47-year-old had been shot several times in the torso and was in critical condition; he died during surgery at the local hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital and Health Center. Roger's brother Larry was discovered dead in a car a few blocks away with a single gunshot wound to the head. A pistol was found inside the vehicle, which matched the description of a car leaving the scene of Roger Troutman's shooting according to witnesses. The shooting was due to a personal dispute that had developed between the two brothers; Larry shot Roger, and then Larry shot himself. Roger Troutman, who lived 24 years in the Dayton area, left four sons: Roger Lynch (now deceased), Larry Gates, Lester Gates, and Taji J. Troutman; five daughters Daun Shazier, Hope Shazier, Summer Gates, Mia Paris Collins, Gene Nicole Patterson; and a grandson.
Even before his death, several hip-hop and R&B artists had sampled Troutman in one form or another since EPMD sampled "More Bounce to the Ounce" for their breakthrough 1988 hit, "You Gots to Chill". Credited with being one of the forefathers of G-funk and the West Coast hip-hop scene, his frenetic hand-clapped, bass-driven beats inspired the productions of songs released by Warren G, Spice 1, Tupac Shakur - who first sampled Zapp and Troutman with "Keep Your Head Up" taking the intro to "Be Alright", Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, E-40, Ice Cube and even East Coast rapper The Notorious B.I.G. on his 1997 song, "Going Back to Cali". Troutman, having been influenced by Michael Lambert, put the talk box to good use in the '80s and that sound was heard in other funk and urban productions throughout the 1980s bringing in the electro-funk movement. Songs that emulated Troutman and Zapp's style included One Way's "Cutie Pie" and Midnight Starr's "Freakazoid", which prominently featured a talk box.
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