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.