The Tragic 1999 Murder Of Funk Legend Roger Troutman Explained

You may know the Zapp frontman Roger Troutman from his famous hit, "California Love," the catchy Tupac Shakur song featuring Troutman and Dr. Dre. Before that, in the early 1980s, the band Zapp had hits such as "Doo Wa Ditty," "Heartbreaker," and "Computer Love," which blended talkbox effects with funk music, per Roger Troutman also worked on other songs with his contemporaries, collaborating with Snoop Dogg, Blackstreet, MC Hammer, and The Notorious B.I.G.

According to the Zapp official website, the band's lineup has changed frequently, but originally, it was composed mainly of a group of brothers: Roger Troutman, Larry Troutman, Lester Troutman Sr., Terry "Zapp" Troutman. After experimenting with a few band names, they settled on Zapp in 1978.

The 1980s were an exciting time for Zapp, when their song, "More Bounce to the Ounce," penned by Roger, became a bonafide hit in 1980, soaring to the top of the Billboard Top 200 songs. MTV reports that the band had another chart-topping hit in 1987 with the song "I Wanna Be Your Man." Although Zapp was a successful band fronted by Roger, his life was cut short in a tragic murder-suicide.

Zapp's influential sound

Roger was deeply ingrained in the band's success, as the producer, writer, arranger, and composer of numerous creative songs, per the Zapp official website. He had a passion for using a talkbox to give Zapp's songs a fresh and unique sound. The band began touring the country, and continued to produce funk hits like "Doo Wa Ditty" and "Computer Love." 

Their covers were also popular, like "I Heard it Through the Grape Vine," and "Dance Floor Part 1," which also held spots at the top of the music charts in the mid-1980s. SF Weekly reports that Zapp's music even influenced kids who later became musicians themselves — Ice Cube said Zapp's "More Bounce to the Ounce" was the first hip-hop song he had ever heard.

Even decades later, the exact circumstances of what happened between two of the Troutman brothers is largely unknown. reports that on a Sunday morning in April 1999, around 7:20 a.m., police were called to find Roger Troutman dead in an alleyway. He appeared to have been shot numerous times. SF Weekly reports that eyewitnesses said Roger, who was sitting in the passenger seat of a black sedan, tried to get out but the driver shot him multiple times and left the scene. Roger had been shot twice in the front of his torso, and twice in the back. 

A murder-suicide

Roger Troutman's brother Larry was soon found in a car matching that description, per Larry Troutman was the president of Troutman Enterprises Inc., in Dayton, Ohio, which had recording studios and rehearsal spaces nearby. It was soon learned that after reportedly shooting his younger brother with a .357 caliber gun, Larry drove away, but he didn't get far (via SF Weekly). Larry crashed his black Lincoln into a tree only half a mile from where Roger lay. He turned the gun on himself before he was discovered by police officers.

The Troutman family was devastated by the death of two family members in one day, and sought out answers. The family spent time together as they grieved the loss of the brothers in solitude.

While no one knows for certain why Larry allegedly decided to kill his brother and then himself, BET suggests it was a business dispute gone wrong. And in 2002, Vice reported that they had been told Roger was just about to fire Larry, who had been the manager of his musical career, and the conversation turned violent.

A funeral attended by thousands

According to SF Weekly, the brothers had increasingly become angry over numerous issues in their shared musical career. They reportedly squabbled over the band's plans, money, and even Larry's role as the manager of Roger's musical talents. Roger apparently wanted to take his career solo.  But that would mean separating from his brother and manager of 25 years, Larry. The Troutman family emphasized that this breakup would have been a very serious move to make.

The Troutman family reportedly knew that the brothers were having a tense moment, but no one could have predicted that Larry would go so far as to murder his brother. When Terry Troutman was asked how he felt about the murder-suicide of his brothers, he answered, "​​I resent that my brother Roger is gone more than anything else in the world. I resent whatever sickness came over Larry that caused him to do something like that," per SF Weekly. reports that the joint funeral was absolutely massive, with 3,000 people in attendance to show their respects to the two deceased brothers. Roger Troutman left behind six sons and five daughters, per The Famous People. Fellow musicians sent flowers to the funeral, and in true Troutman family style, their nephew performed a talkbox version of "Amazing Grace" (via SF Weekly).