Emerging From The Shadows - Darkjoint
30 June 2001
In an age when hip hop producers can gain as much of a celebrity status as the top emcees in the scene, Roy 'The Dark Disciple' is determined to establish himself as one of the UK's finest beat makers. Born and raised in South London, but now residing in Canning Town, East London, Roy is the lead member of the Darkjoint production team and is responsible for crafting all of the beats on Malarchi's thunderous 'Forgotten World' LP.
Chatting with him in his flat (which also doubles as the Darkjoint music studio), I discover that his musical influences are not what many would expect for a rap producer. While most headz were growing up on Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, Roy was brought up in the pop era of the 1980s.
"For me, it was Duran Duran, Bros, Pet Shop Boys and all that shit. That's what I was brought up with,” he says. My parents were very strict so most of the tunes that I listened to was what my dad was listening to - from Beatles to Bee Gees and Rod Stewart. My only outlet for music was Top of the Pops." Roy was eventually introduced to hip hop through his best mate Leo 'LMG' Gilbert, the other producer in the Darkjoint team. "Leo was heavily into hip hop. So he started forcing me to listen to [groups like] Public Enemy. He played me Eric B and Rakim's 'Paid in Full' and EPMD's 'You Gots to Chill' - bad tunes! My early hip hop influences were Marley Marl, Ice Cube and NWA's stuff. But it was Adamski's 'Killer' in '89/90 that was the track that created Darkjoint."
"Me and Leo used to work in McDonalds," he continues. "One time, in the middle of summer, we finished work and came out and there was a traffic jam on the road. Every car was tuned into the same radio station and everyone who was in a car - from dread-locked yardie men to white boys - was nodding their head to the tune. I was like - 'fucking hell, this tune is heavy'. When I got home I started thinking of doing production seriously.
"When I started off, I didn't have an idea about production. Leo taught me everything I know. He had a friend who had a drum machine and he used to go round there and start programming beats. Listening to him made me start thinking – 'OK I could do something here. What can I do?’ So I started rapping and Leo was my producer and my DJ. It was just a fun thing to do when we first started. We started doing shows in Kennington Park and we did a couple of tracks."
Roy, Leo and a few of their friends formed a collective called GHC Entertainment and were signed to Polydor Records as an R&B act called Adejo. Two years later, with their album not yet released, they were dropped from the label. Following this setback, Leo decided that the crew should get their own equipment, record some material and then put it out themselves. "This was in '92/'93, " Roy recalls. "Kruez had just released their Motown album and MC Mello had just had a deal with Jazzy B's Motown label. Blade and Hijack had just come out with their album and then Gunshot came out with 'Patriot Games'. So there were many people at the time that really inspired us to go that extra distance." The pair got summer jobs, earned some money and started saving up. "We ended up buying a drum machine, a pair of Technics turntables, a little mixer and the keyboard that I still use,” Roy says proudly.
While Leo began scratching and programming beats, Roy started rapping. However, he soon became that he had serious work to do on his rhyming style. After listening to albums like LL Cool J's 'Mama Said Knock You Out', Eric B & Rakim's 'Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em' and Ice Cube's 'Death Certificate', Roy decided that he would never be able to compete with the expert rapping they displayed. So he stopped rapping and started helping out Leo with the beats he was making. "Leo taught me everything I know. He inspired me to do everything," Roy declares. "I started playing keys over [his] beats - hence we created a [unique] sound. That's when Darkjoint was born - '93/'94."
The Dark Disciple developed his skills and began producing tracks for local rappers like Femi X, RBX and D-Lyte-1. As time went on, Leo became disillusioned with the music industry and lost interest in making beats, leaving Roy to continue on and claim the Darkjoint moniker as his own. For Roy, the personal satisfaction that he has got from creating great tracks has been the only motivation he has needed to keep him going. "I just wanna make music that I wanna listen to. If you wanna check for it - that's cool." He adds, "I'm just trying to get my shit to sound good and audible. I'm influenced from a UK perspective by what every other guy brought up in the '80s was influenced by. So, from the reggae ting, hanging out with my mates and checking raves where the bass had to be heavy; and the Soul II Soul era - the heavy drum pattern - that's what appealed to me. So my sound was definitely influenced by those things."
Probably Darkjoint's most notable work has been with the conscious rhymer Malarchi. The two have known each other since Malarchi was a child and their close friendship has clearly made it easy for them to collaborate on tracks. "We've got like a natural vibe 'cos he only lives across the road and we've known each other for time," Darkjoint explains. "In doing Malarchi's album, we spent so much time together vibing that we got to a point where we chatted about anything, about the video we're watching, or whatever, and that threw up an idea for a tune. We've got a chemistry there. With Malarchi, he's usually got something serious and interesting to say. So he'll come up to me and rhyme me something and I'll tell him what I think. Then I have the idea of what he's on about and I try to recreate that musically.
After several delays, Malarchi's debut LP 'Forgotten World' was finally released in May this year on Gemtoy Records. It has since received considerable praise and has also been earmarked as a contender for the Mercury Music Prize. However, the fickle nature of the UK market is illustrated by the fact that Malarchi and Darkjoint's material initially received a frosty reception. "When we first sent out the album at the end of '99 to DJs, they didn't want to know," Darkjoint states. " We did the Mel B show Pure Naughty on BBC2 and we did [Notting Hill] Carnival 2000 with Tim Westwood on the Radio 1 stage. Then after that, everyone was like 'Yeah, this Malarchi guy is heavy'. When I heard that I got so pissed cos he performed the same track we sent them... I ain't gonna mention names, but there was this fucking idiot who wasn't feeling Malarchi a year ago. Now he's saying 'Malarchi is so talented. Darkjoint, is one of the best producers in the UK right now, blah, blah blah.' This is coming from the same DJ who was saying at the time we first gave him the record: 'This is from the UK - I ain't checking for it'!”
“That’s why we did the 'UK Ground Zero' track,” Roy explains. “The point Malarchi makes on that track is - look, this music is from your own back yard bredren! If someone passes you something, as a DJ you should at least listen to it. If you tell me it’s wack and tell me why it’s wack – cool! I’ll go back and fix it.”
Another track from 'Forgotten World' that attracted attention was the venomous collaboration with US rapper Canibus. Darkjoint animatedly describes how it all came about. "Last year, Gem [the head of Gemtoy Records] asked Malarchi what he would like for Christmas. Malarchi went 'Well, I wouldn't mind Redman, Method Man and Canibus on my album.' The next thing I knew, Canibus came down! I was very excited about the whole thing. When he came down, Canibus already knew what he wanted to do. He had heard the original version of 'Da Shock' and wanted to use the beat as it was. Even though the beat was four years old, he was still feeling my shit. He liked what Malarchi had to say and he thought that [the track] was nice for what he wrote on the plane on his way down.
"Anyway, Canibus - he's a real professional. All that shit you heard on Da Shock was done in one take. He went in the booth, did his stuff, came out and I was like 'fucking hell this is incredible' but he wasn't happy with it. So he went back in and once he finished he said 'Yeah! Now that's what I'm talking about' and he walked back out - done! We were playing video games with him for the rest of the day!"
"What I would have really liked," Darkjoint adds "was to get into the studio together and do a brand new track from scratch. I would have loved to do that and Malarchi said the same thing - that he would have loved to write some lyrics with him. But the track still came out OK."
Darkjoint has recently completed a remix version of 'Da Shock' which to me sounded even more impressive than the original. Its beat has a nice bounce to it and is complimented well by a banging bass line and tingling piano keys. However, it is uncertain as to whether this track will be commercially released. Darkjoint has also been busy producing new tracks for Femi X, D-Lyte-1, B Sharp from the Shadow Cabinet and PQ from the Social Misfits. However, Roy sees his main priority to be completing his debut solo album 'Going For D.E.L.F. (Death Expectancy Life Forsaken)'. "I can't wait to get my album out there," he admits, "because it's gonna be more of the stuff that I'm doing now. People'll get to feel [what I'm doing] now, rather than my shit from a year ago. Of all those tracks on 'Forgetten World', most of them were done between '96 and '99!"
Artists confirmed to appear on the Darkjoint LP include MC D, Moorish Delta, Outdaville and label mates Malarchi, Christynette and 2Sticky. In addition, Darkjoint wishes to get Rodney P, Taskforce, Social Misfits, Karl Hinds and Estelle involved, but he is also keen to distinguish his album from the other compilations that have been made by British hip hop producers. Roy says "The difference between my album and all the other producer-led albums [is that] they get an emcee, pass him a beat, drop some vocals, and mix it down so it sounds phat. My album is different. I've got my own story to tell so I'll get the right track to suit the right emcee with the right subject matter and then they'll tell the story from my perspective." He adds "I've completed 15 tracks, but a few of them I'm not happy with. So I'm gonna keep on going until I've got enough."
Two tracks that are definitely going to make the cut are the follow-up to 'Natural Substance' from Malarchi's LP which features guest vocals from soul singer Christynette and the lead single 'Maximum Pressure', a vicious track featuring Malarchi alongside the mighty MC D. Once finished, the 'Going for D.E.L.F.' LP will probably be released early next year. And if completing his album project isn't enough to keep him occupied, Darkjoint is already being pestered to start work on Mararchi's new album.
Roy's busy schedule is obviously a sign of him being a much-respected and highly rated producer; but the Dark Disciple is not one to get ahead of himself. "My experience, ten years in the game, taught me how to do things the proper way and that's what I did. If you believe in what you do, go out there yourself and do it," he says. "But I ain't got a secret to my success. I live in a fucking 'ghetto penthouse' - that's what I call it. This is a council estate, the 24th floor, lovely scenery! I've got a fridge, two broken chairs and a bust-up studio! And I'm still here making my joints!!
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