Meet Crimson Monroe

From ‘Po’ Broke & Lonely’ to Dr. Dre and never giving up on R&B

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“Love You Mo”

He’s a man who has been known by many names in a career that has taken him from working with Hip Hop production kingpin Dr. Dre as lead singer of the vocal group Po’ Broke & Lonely to Jazz piano maestro Bobby Lyle as a featured vocalist to a song placement in the TV series “Real Husbands of Hollywood.” However, he is ironically representing his truest artistic self – for the very first time – using the colorful moniker Crimson Monroe…under which he is also sporting multiple hats: singer, songwriter and record company CEO of Koinonia, a joint venture with his lovely wife, Monique Monge.

Crimson’s latest sounds are a mocha crème blend of soul music at its most timeless and contemporary, as evidenced by his lead single “Love You Mo’,” a seductive song about making a choice to rekindle the love you have instead of starting over with someone new. From an intro that mirrors the masterful work of Barry White to a groove that has ‘today’s radio’ written all over it, this love song marks the rebirth of a talented man who came up in the lurid music era of the ’90s when Rap and R&B collaborations were far edgier and more provocative.

 “Love You Mo’” is the perfect song to launch not only Crimson Monroe but also his company Koinonia, defined as “Christian fellowship in communion with God.” Monroe is actively seeking like-spirited talents to collaborate, develop and introduce. “I met my wife while I was the lead singer of a band called Groove Coalition at Kennedy’s in Stone Mountain, GA, working weekends. She believed in me, so we started talking dreams and goals. She liked my idea for Koinonia. We’ve been developing it as a relaunch for me and a company. I tell Monique all the time, ‘Before I was messing with little girls, Now I have a woman.’ She saved me from a lot of peril…” With Koinonia, Monroe comes full circle.

“This project has taken on a life of its own,” Monroe marvels. “I did not envision I would be in Philly writing ‘Love You Mo’ with Carvin Haggins (co-produced by Stanton Drinks and mixed by Ivan Barias). The person I truly am is finally coming through. Sometimes the dream that never happened for you was a blessing. I’m learning to express myself in a way that will connect to more people.”

Raised in L.A. near the well-known corner of Crenshaw & Slauson, a boy named Ruben Monge was born to a father of Puerto Rican heritage from New York and a mother of African American heritage in Los Angeles. Mama Rosemarie was his first inspiration – a singer/songwriter in the local family group, Somerville. Vocal rehearsals took place in the living room and band rehearsals would go down in the garage, leading to Ruben’s first experience in a recording studio. Though he played drums in middle school, basketball was his first love. Attending St, Bernard’s Catholic High School where he was a star player, Ruben went on to Saddleback Junior College to play ball for two years before leaving school altogether.

A chance 1991 meeting with budding producer Chris “The Glove” Taylor led to the pair co-writing two songs. Then they had a chance meeting at a pool party with N.W.A-co-founder Andre “Dr. Dre” Young who heard the songs, brought Ruben to appropriately named Ruthless Records under Eric “Eazy-E” Wright and Jerry Heller. Dre slotted him into a vocal group he dubbed Po’ Broke & Lonely (a.k.a. ‘PBL’) and they were briefly paired up for management with Marion Suge” Knight. The trio made its debut on the soundtrack to the gritty 1992 urban flick “Deep Cover” singing “The Sex Is On” and, later, “Funky Vibe.” “It was a whirlwind that changed the person I was,” Monroe reflects. “Before that time, I didn’t smoke, drink or curse…but I conformed to their lifestyle. We hung, partied, chased women and watched people get beat up!” Ruben and ‘PBL’ were granted a release from Ruthless after one lukewarm CD and three years on the backburner.

 PBL took one last shot at the brass ring signing to Big Beat Records via Atlantic Records where they recorded the underground hit “Twisted”: an ahead-of-its-time R&B ode to bisexual women. “I wrote that song based on a story a friend shared with me about not being satisfied with her man so she chose to be with a woman,” Monroe shares. “She and a crew of girlfriends running around the industry called themselves ‘Twisted’ – today most of them are married with children! I wrote the song in the studio with a 40 and a blunt to a track Chris ‘The Glove’ produced. It went #1 in L.A. and got us a trip overseas.”

PBL disbanded and Ruben signed a solo deal to Aftermath Records, reuniting with Dr. Dre. “Another whirlwind,” Ruben recalls, “but I got two song credits on Dr. Dre presents The Aftermath (1996) plus songwriting credits on the soundtracks ‘The Wash’ and ‘Save the Last Dance 2.’ I just don’t think Dre’ had a vision for R&B artists… He kept asking me to be patient but when I started having to chase down money to pay bills, I had to take another look.”

Ruben, who worked under the name Ruben Cruz, next tried a solo turn as “R.C.,” recording a ribald indie project Rubenaughty featuring the single “SloBurn” (2001) with childhood friend Arnold Glasker and Robin Lyle (of the band Domino Theory and son of jazz man Bobby Lyle). Then Ruben arrived at a crossroads.

In the middle of all these travels, Ruben had encountered drum legend/professor Ndugu Chancler who proved to be a very positive inspiration. A visit to the guru’s home in which a profound discussion took place opened Ruben’s mind to a higher understanding of how all aspects of music worked together, particularly performing which PBL – more of a studio vocal group – had done little to none.

Ruben linked up with quartet Portrait, another group that was hittin’ at the same time ‘PBL’ was out. They needed a strong lead singer/songwriter, Ruben joined (anxious to ditch his day gig) and they recorded one CD, Share My World with the single “Let’s Dance,” supervised by singer Howard Johnson of “So Fine” fame. Initially released only in Seoul, Korea, it did little and Ruben soon after bounced.

Before relocating to Georgia in Spring of 2006, Ruben had an epiphany in his modest Inglewood abode. He stumbled upon the term Koinonia which he connected to deeply in his spirit. He filed it away and made the move to the ‘ATL’ which initially found him working a 9-to-5 to take care of his two daughters and son from his first marriage. On weekends, he began to bulk up his live skills with The Groove Coalition – singing covers like Mint Condition’s “Pretty Brown Eyes,” Maze’s “Before I Let Go,” and Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time.” After six months of that, Ruben and the new lady in his life, Monique, decided it was time he lead a band to the beat of his own drum.

At one point he partnered with songwriters that wanted to experiment under the name ‘AnonOmous’ in which they all took nom de plumes. The guy took the name ‘Lavender Lenny’ and the girl took ‘Contessa Isabella.’ Ruben dubbed himself ‘Crimson Monroe’ (“in case you didn’t know”) and decided to keep it for a while. A brief reunion with Portrait ended abruptly but inspired Ruben to forge full-speed ahead with Koinonia and his new album which also includes the autobiographical “L.A. Made the Man” and the conscience anthem “World” (both collaborations w/ Chris Starr Productions – CSP Music Group).

“When someone tells you that your first impression is your last impression, don’t believe them. You may not pass that test but don’t let that make you quit. When you get knocked down, get back up and work on you. Prepare yourself for that next impression and never ever give up. Get up and keep on moving!”

Crimson Monroe Koinonia

For more information on Crimson Monroe contact:

Monique Monge
C.O.O. / Administrator
Koinonia Entertainment Group, LLC.

[email protected] or 404-394-1103