Once every few years producer comes along and redefines music. From 1994 up until roughly 2001, Rodney Darkchild Jerkins was that producer. His Top 10 girl anthems read like a late 90s Billboard chart and flips from UK Pop like Holler by the Spice Girls, to straight up sexy R&B like The Boy Is Mine by Brandy and Monica. Every producer knows getting singles is almost as good as hitting the jackpot, but for Jerkins it was a more than just a run – it was a damn near marathon with record time.
Suddenly Darkchild, the producer that had every female R&B singer and then some sweet-talking his name on the mic, slowed down the pace. Even Jerkins admits that it appeared that he fell off the radar.
The truth is he didnt fall off – not even close. He got married, lost weight and reevaluated his business priorities. While he was making us lose our breath with Destinys Child, he simultaneously created his own label Darkchild Records; became the new VP for A&R for Island Def Jam; and signed his own artist to Jive.
2006 has become the year that Jerkins got his groove back. Not only did he deliver Beyonces biggest hit to date, Déjà Vu, he gave us the Mary J Blige smash hit Enough Cryin. We caught up with Rodney Jerkins to talk about the comeback – if you can call it that.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: What are you doing now? We hear you have your own artists.
Rodney Darkchild Jerkins: Im so glad you asked me that first. I have an artist called Natasha on Jive. I am telling you she has it. Shes a star.
AHHA: What took you so long?
Darkchild: You know what happened? I kept running into artists that would need three years to develop and by the time they were ready, the labels were not. I needed an artist who was ready to go now. That is why it never picked up before. Those artists werent ready – but now were ready.
AHHA: To the public it seems as if you fell off, although your production credits tell a different story. Do you agree?
Darkchild: Yeah, its a hustle. This is a business. No one is hot all the time. This is something that happens to everyone. Look at Koby Bryant. Everyone falls off sometimes. It was label politics too. The labels would tell me they couldnt put out my artist because they had J.Lo, but J.Lo was nothing like my artist. I saw it, but they couldnt.
AHHA: You have accomplished so much. What keeps you hungry?
Darkchild: Im not there yet. I havent even started. I still have a long way to go. Thats why I keep reinventing myself. Im going to be the best producer of this generation. I want people to know that Im the best at doing this producing [thing].
AHHA: Tell us about Def Jam.
Darkchild: Im now [Senior Vice President] of A&R over there. I just love what L.A. Reid is doing. He is a businessman. Im 29 now, but when Im 40-something, I want to be in the position he is in. I was to be running this, you know? I have a 40-song deal with them.
AHHA: How do you get so many singles?
Darkchild: Its a blessing. Product placement is nothing. Getting your song on an album is nothing. If it is a big single like Déjà Vu, 200 million people are going to listen to that as opposed to five million who bought the album. Thats a big difference. As a producer, you want singles. Im at a point where labels are calling me for singles. They arent calling me and saying Can I get an album cut? They are requesting the first single for the album. That is where it counts. You make more money that way, too.
AHHA: How do you get those hits if you are an upcoming producer?
Darkchild: I was telling this to an upcoming producer in Atlanta the other day – its all about who you surround yourself with.
AHHA: How did you come up with artists whispering your name on your tracks?
Darkchild: I invented that. Its all about branding. [As a producer] you can have the biggest single of your career, and it doesnt matter if nobody knows you. That is a career opportunity right there. Millions of people will listen to that song. I started shouting it out, but then I asked the artists to do it. For instance, I was in the studio with Michael Jackson and I asked him to say it. He was like, No you say it and I was like, No you say it!
AHHA: It worked, because I didnt know you produced Beyonces Déjà Vu
Darkchild: Its not appropriate on all songs. However, look how it works. People dont know I did Déjà vu because theyre used to hearing my name. And Im versatile with my sounds now. I have three of the Top 10 singles in the country, and they all sound different. I want to make all types of music.
AHHA: Its similar to how Diddy put himself in videos
Darkchild: Yeah. I couldnt do that before, but now that Im in shape, you will see a lot more of me. I didnt feel good about myself before. I just hated the way I looked.
AHHA: Why did you choose to get a gastric bypass procedure?
Darkchild: I didnt get surgery. I dont know why its all over the internet. I have my publicist looking into that. I lost weight by changing my lifestyle. I exercised and ate healthy. I still eat cake, just not all the time. I was in the studio all day and all night, eating and not getting enough exercise. Now I walk, I eat vegetables and grilled chicken. I feel better so I work better.
AHHA: Is there anyone who you want to work with?
Darkchild: Jay-Z and 50 Cent.
AHHA: Why 50 Cent?
Darkchild: I love his work ethic. It doesnt matter what anyone says, he is the hardest working rapper in the business. He comes up with catchy hooks, and I can come up with catchy melodies. I think we could make hits.
AHHA: Are you working with Jay-Z now or sometime soon?
Darkchild: No, but weve spoken about it. Now that hes out of retirement maybe itll happen.
AHHA: What inspires you to make incredible music?
Darkchild: The artist inspires me. Sometimes the label will say, why wasnt this song like that one? Its because I just wasnt as inspired by the artist.
AHHA: Whats the one thing people dont know about you?
Darkchild: Im a billionaire.
Darkchild: No, not yet! [Laughs] But Im putting it out there!
AHHA: You cant be a billionaire just through producing, right?
Darkchild: No, I know. Im working on some other stuff. I have my own publishing company. Most people dont know this. but Ive never been signed to a publishing company. I have writers under my own publishing company.
AHHA: Thats crazy! All this time, and youve never had the urge to sign to a publishing company?
Darkchild: I was young when I started. I was 17. I had a Bentley by the time I was 19. I had million dollar houses in my 20s. My mind just wasnt thinking like that before, but now I have a different outlook on it. Im thinking more maturely now.