Picture this. A DJ named X-Rays fingers gracefully stroke the smooth surface of vinyl for the likes of MC Shan and EPMD. After being involved in various Hip-Hop entities, he and former Legion of D.U.M.E. member, Kev Roc go on to form a group that will bring a sound to the world that can best be described only by their name, Darc Mind. The two-year process of putting these in-depth, sinister lyrics backed by gritty, old-school beats on wax, takes from 1995-1997. And while the rest of the worlds ears are being graced with fellow Loud label mates, Wu-Tang Clan and Tha Beatnuts, their debut album never reaches the masses due to an unfortunate fold in the record label.
Now picture this. Its 2006, and a kid from Brooklyn walks into a record store, or for the sake of the generation, browses an online apple store and comes across an album that sparks his interest. At first when he listens to it something in him, almost cult-like, makes him want to turn it off because it doesnt make his fingers snap or his shoulders lean. But then he hears traces of Nas, Rakim, and Public Enemy sampled in a way hes never heard before and he really likes it.
Having no distinct regional affiliation or even time period, this kid would have never guessed that the album released this year was recorded over ten years ago. This is the journey of the forgotten beginning, frustrating middle, and bright future of Darc Mind.
AllHipHop.com: Did the two of your first meet as members of Legion of D.U.M.E. and how did Darc Mind come to be?
Kev Roc: Nah, WEB and I first met through a third party, a friend of ours that I knew from school and WEB just knew from around his way, his name is Trace Levine. Trace is a clothing designer, he has line out called Down to Earth that he currently manufactures online and sells from his own shop. Well, Trace put us down back in the day, he had heard me freestyling and he was like, Yeah, Ima turn you onto this cat, he makes beats, yall might be able to do something. So, I met WEB in the summer of 89 and hit him up, got to know one another and started to bang s**t out.
AllHipHop.com: Both of you moved to Loud Records after Legion of D.U.M.E. broke up, did you sign with them because of their reputation as a label or because of your relationship with [former D.U.M.E. member turned A&R at Loud] Scott Free?
Kev Roc: It was all of those things, actually, it was bigger than that, it was kind of a timing thing. Ya know what Im sayin, it just seemed like a natural progression and in all honesty, it was what was easiest, which was what was bad about it. If it aint hard, it aint worth it, ya know?
AllHipHop.com: So, what are your feelings today toward Steve Rifkind?
Kev Roc: Oh, its all good, I mean, Steve was always straight up and down with me. I mean, he never misled me in any way, ya know, we didnt keep a great deal of company but, I didnt avail myself to that, WEB did, and he benefited from that. But, its all good with Rif, Rif is doing his thing, I would have liked to have made more of that opportunity but whatever it didnt turn into is no reflection of Rifkind.
AllHipHop.com: Loud folded because they didn’t hit sales figures that were expected, now that Steve Rifkind is CEO of SRC, artists such as David Banner and Remy Ma have expressed their frustration with how their projects were handled, what do you attribute this to?
Kev Roc: Well, I cant speak with Remy and that other cat, I can only come from my own perspective and the thing I know about working with Rifkind, he gives you the opportunity to really do s**t your own way. The groups that I did see be successful on Loud, they were groups that did all of their own leg work, they did a lot of their own street promotions. They were groups that were gonna succeed whether Rifkind was behind or other entities were behind them and thats not relieve the label of all blame, ya know, they f**cked up along some lines. I think its because they put all their eggs in baskets that were paying at that time. I think they were very in the moment, I think their business practice reflected [them] responding to things in the moment, which at that time was appropriate. I think that was the environment of the record business at that time, so ya know, I really cant be mad. Hip-Hop is bigger than Loud, its bigger than Rifkind, its bigger than Darc Mind, its an ocean man, its bigger than all that.
AllHipHop.com: Youve said that you guys made good money messing with Loud, but they were too unorganized. Would you have ended up leaving even if they hadnt folded?
Kev Roc: Probably. Not so much leaving but doing what were doing now which is doing our own s**t. Thats what Wu did, ya know, thats what made Wu attractive to somebody like Rifkind.
X-Ray: We were doing that in the beginning before they met us anyway. We were trying to that on our own to begin with.
Kev Roc: They recognize what this s**t is and I think Rifkind recognizes that in other people, he sees it, he gets it, and you wanna do business with like-minded folks.
AllHipHop.com: Your album was recorded from 95-97, Loud folded in 2002, why was your debut never released?
Kev Roc: Uhh, I don’t think I have an answer for that question.
X-Ray: Well, after the Loud deal I started doing production for a lot of other groups and me and Kev just took some time off.
AllHipHop.com: So, it was by choice, not because they held the music?
X-Ray: No, they really held it cause they gave us a release for it and after they gave us a release for it they never held any of our music.
AllHipHop.com: What was it like having to sit on album that has been labeled historic in New York rap for so many years?
Kev Roc: In a word, frustrating. Thats what it was, at the same time Hip-Hop is good, shes an ill, ill chick because shes gonna come wearing different outfits and shes gonna come under different premises and shes gonna come in different forms. Sometimes she comes in the form of another cat doing his own thing and you come and jump on a track or two and compliment what hes trying to do. Sometimes she comes in the form of movie work or voice-over so, ya know, shes an ill b*tch. She comes at you in many different ways and if your game is good, shes always gonna come lookin for you.
Weve been fortunate in that, ya know, I been able to do voice-overs, a lot of different soundtracks that I did with WEB and Im walking other dogs too. I mean, you have to until you get to where you feel you need to be in this game and even then, you still need to keep walking other dogs so that you can stay in touch with the streets, so that you stay fresh and new. You gotta walk other dogs, its like cross-training, you gotta train in other places so you can bring those skills back to this place so you can really maximize you chances at being successful.
AllHipHop.com: Your sound is so different from any artist coming out of New York or any other artist out for that matter.
Kev Roc: I dont think were as different as much as we are old, I think its an old type of style. I decide to take certain directions that other cats dont. What Im doing is what I heard cats doing early on in Hip-Hop, taking chances, not trying to fit the mold.
AllHipHop.com: But thats thing about your record, because of the dense lyrics and gritty beats your sound carries no period or region affiliation so, when I heard it I didnt necessarily think old-school, I just thought this could not be labeled. So, do you think that helps in releasing Symptomatic of a Greater Ill so long after recording it?
Kev Roc: Well, thank you for that, absolutely, it makes it palatable for your generation, thats what your telling me. Its like you said theres no date on it, thats great. I cant look at it that way, nor do I want to, I want to look at it for what it is.
AllHipHop.com: I want to look at your deal with Anticon, how did that come about?
X-Ray: Well, I have my own independent label, which is Mindbenda Recordings and I been putting out a lot of stuff here and there in the underground. Anticon heard about me through this guy at Female Fun Records, Peter Agaston. He was originally gonna put out the Darc Mind material but that didnt pan out and he just introduced me to the guys over at Anticon and, ya know, we started talking and then things ended up working out.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think that maybe you were picked up because of similarities to Heltah Skeltah or Charlie 2na and how have critics been towards that?
X-Ray: We havent heard much from critics at all. As far as being picked up because of those similarities, I think that theres just a real void in Hip-Hop right now, theres no balance going on. Even in New York, there playing a lot of down South artists and theres a lot of New York artists that are being over looked because either there on a indie label or there not getting pushed by the big majors.
Kev Roc: It depends on whose drawing the comparison, ya know, Heltah Skeltah, s**t, I take it as a compliment. Like him, thats the best, Im not trying to but yeah, possibly.
AllHipHop.com: Most people are only familiar with Visions of Blur off the Soul in the Hole Soundtrack, tell us what we can expect on Symptomatic of a Greater Ill?
Kev Roc: Probably more of how you described it before, lyrics that dont really reflect any period but the other joints on there, U Da One, Seize The Phenom, a verse from this old joint by Legion of D.U.M.E., Knight Of The Roundtable, a demo cut called Im Ill, a demo cut called Covert Op, a joint I did with this guy from Jersey, Nate Nicholas, called Outside Looking In.
AllHipHop.com: X-Ray, on some tracks you go by the name X-Ray, on others you use GM WEB D, why is that?
X-Ray: I go by the name X-Ray now and I just wanted to introduce my name to anybody else that didnt already know and, ya know, certain cuts sound more like X-Ray, certain cuts sound more like GM. I just want to make the connection who dont know that X-Ray and WEB are the same person.
AllHipHop.com: Whats in store for the future of Darc Mind?
Kev Roc: The album drops August 29th and were always working on an album, the juices are always flowing. Were putting a mixtape together with some early stuff, stuff as early as 90, 91, all throughout the 90s, 2001, a bunch of different stuff and thats called Bi-Polar. After that, were working on another project and Ima try to keep rolling em out. Ima give it to you til you say stop and even then Ima keep giving to you. I got a whole lot of theories and s**t, a whole lot of s**t to get of my chest. If cats want to hear it, I got it for em to hear, a whole lot. Darc Mind operates, basically, its like, we pop in a track and do what it tells us to do. The interest [in making music] is still buggin me out, ya know, I been doing this for so long, to see that people want to hear it, it feels real good but its surprising at the same time and its something that bugs me out everyday.