Odds are, if you grew up listening to hip-hop, then you also grew up listening to The Gap Band, because the funk/R&B group’s music was a staple of hip-hop’s samples and style almost since the genre’s inception. Hits like “Outstanding,” “Yearning For Your Love,” and “I Don’t Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops!)” have been the foundation of fan-favorite songs from contemporary artists like Tyler The Creator, seminal storytelling from pioneers like Nas, and the inescapable jams of superstars like Bruno Mars. So the news that Gap Band co-founder Ronnie Wilson has died at the age of 73 definitely comes as a blow to hip-hop adherents everywhere.
Wilson founded the band in 1974 with brothers Charlie and Robert (Ronnie was the oldest) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, naming it after three streets in the historic Greenwood neighborhood in honor of the Tulsa massacre. The group was one of the most prominent funk and R&B bands throughout the ’70s and ’80s, remaining favorites of Black dads and uncles who drive Cadillacs to this day. Songs like “You Dropped A Bomb On Me” and “Early In The Morning” are considered classics of the genre and inspired both early G-Funk hits and more recent funk revivals, with Charlie, in particular, becoming a go-to feature artist for rappers like Aminé, Guapdad 4000, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Tyler The Creator, and more. Charlie is now the last remaining member.
Ronnie’s wife, Linda Boulware-Wilson, announced his death via Facebook Tuesday evening (November 3). “The love of my life was called home this morning, at 10:01am,” she wrote. “Please continue to pray for The Wilson, Boulware, and Collins family, while we mourn his passing. Ronnie Wilson was a genius with creating, producing, and playing the flugelhorn, Trumpet, keyboards, and singing music, from childhood to his early seventies. He will be truly missed!!!”