Through The Wire

January 09, 2007

We're just going to keep talking about Season 4 of The Wire until it tops Ugly Betty in your heart of hearts. (You're on the TiVo, America.) It's just too good not to talk about. Tune into BET on January 10th to catch up on seasons past, but also go buy Darkroom Productions' Hamsterdam 2, a double CD from the same duo hand-picked by series creator David Simon to provide background beats for the show's dirtiest deeds. We put dudes in the the mag last year, and Juan Donovan, who makes up half of Darkroom with Jamal Roberts, was kind enough to answer some of our questions the night before H2's release party, which we are super bummed to have missed this past weekend. Check the interview after the jump, and snag an mp3 of Tyree Colion's "Projects" from the mix right here.

What kind of stuff can we expect from Hamsterdam 2?
Hamsterdam 2, simply put, is like this area's Chronic. I hate to compare anything we do to something someone else did, but that is what came to mind when you asked me that. The music is very innovative, aggessive, and refreshing, but the artists on the project are giving the performances of a lifetime. As everyone knows, the first Hamsterdam basically made history. But it was done with no Baltimore radio support, no club support, and no big budget corporation behind it. It was straight street. And doing something like that gave the artists of Baltimore and DC hope. Because now, they don't have to make songs that aren't really them, or resort to unethical practices, just to get on the radio. They look at it as Darkroom made a lane that leads to national exposure, just by being themselves and representing where they are from. So the artists on here are going very hard. So it reminds me of the Chronic because at that time, those beats were like nothing you ever heard before, so Dre instantly solidified himself as a serious Hip Hop force. But the artists on the album were so talented that they instantly became household names. Same thing with Hamsterdam 2. Our slogan is "Hamsterdam made history, but Hamsterdam 2 will make you a believer".

What else is Darkroom working on currently? What artists are you producing?

Aww man, Darkroom is going to be everywhere in 2007. We are in-house producers for the group from New Orleans named Sqad Up. Their debut album on Money Yung 'N Records/Def Jam should be dropping in February, it's called We Here Now. We just did a song for Grammy-nominee Chamillionare. It will be on his upcoming album The Ultimate Victory which is slated to drop in March. He really loves the song too so we are hoping that he makes it a single. We start on Season 5 of The Wire this spring, and also have some things in the works with MTV for a reality series. And along with all of that, we are trying to find a home for our label Darkroom Enterprises, and our flagship artist Diablo.

Speaking of The Wire, has your work on the show opened any doors for work with artists outside of Bmore?

Well to be honest, not really. We have worked with artists such as Maino, E. Ness, Chamillionare, Quan, Posta Boy, NOE, Young Hootie, and more. But most of those opportunities came from us just grinding and working hard. My partner Jamal and I have always been go-getters. We are more like an independent rock band instead of Hip Hop producers. Most producers, when they get a gig as big as an HBO project, they just sit on their butt and wait for the phone to ring. Now don't get me wrong, the HBO project has been incredible and has made a lot of people pay attention to Darkroom and Bmore artists. But me and Jamal have always been out here on the road running the streets, meeting with artists, managers, A&R's, record execs, all of that. I'm from West Baltimore, dog, it's not like me to have an awesome product in my hand and do nothing with it. We get up off of our asses and hustle.

Haha. Will you tell us what happens in Season 5 when they call you to work on it? Hah! It is a blessing to have a man like David Simon in your corner and actually be a big fan of work. So I will never give that man a reason to be pissed at me. So sorry, y'all have to wait like the rest of America to hear what happens on Season 5. But I can tell you right now, ain't seen nothing yet.

Don't play with our emotions like that. Do you worry about the Bmore sound/culture being co-opted by the mainstream like Houston, Atlanta, the Bay Area, etc, because of the increasing exposure of the show, your music and other Bmore artists?

Honestly, I pray that we can get the exposure these cities you just named have. Because think about it, those cities are getting mainstream exposure, and sometimes even over-exposure now, but each of those cities have already had their doors kicked down. And what I mean by that is this: Yes, Atlanta is hot as hell right now. They have some of the biggest artists in entertainment in T.I., Jeezy, and Ludacris. But LaFace Records, Outkast, Goodie Mob, TLC, and Organized Noise made America recognize Atlanta over 10 years ago. Chamillionare, Paul Wall, Mike Jones, Slim Thug, and all of Houston are doing it big too. But the Geto Boys and UGK had gold and platinum records way back in the early 90's. Same thing with Too Short and E-40 with the Bay. Now name a Baltimore rapper who created a huge Hip Hop buzz in the 80's and 90's. Can't do it right? So basically, my point is, that we ARE those trailblazers. We ARE the ones kicking the doors down and making the nation pay attention. So if we can get the mainstream notice that those cities get today, without having to wait over a decade, then that would be the answer to our prayers. I would love for Mullyman, Bossman, Tyree Colion, Paula Campbell, and Diablo to allbe household names across the country by this summer. And trust me, that would only be the beginning. We have a fountain of talent down here. Bmore could put the industry on smash for the next 20 years. And once I throw in the talent in DC and Virginia, it would be a phenomenon that has never been seen in Hip Hop before. We have already labeled it the Middle East Movement.

Whoa. That's kinda awesome. So, we've got some mid-Atlantic roots and used to listen to 92Q on Saturday nights, too, and one thing we always wondered about was why dudes' drums were so hard. Seriously?

Hah! 'Cause we got a lot on our chest man. The weight of the world is heavy on people in Bmore, DC, and Maryland. You don't get the nation's highest drug rate by accident, homie. People need an escape. People need a trip. Even if it is only for the few minutes of a fix, or for the length of a Darkroom mixtape. So we do everything hard down here, man. We make beats bang hard, we live hard, we love hard. This is not a place for the weak. And it comes out in our music. Whether it's just to dance to, or whether an MC is expressing himself. Hip Hop, Club music, Go-Go...everything we make down here must have mad bottom in it with vicious drum patterns, or we simply can't feel it.

Posted: January 09, 2007
Through The Wire