Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins Talks Janet Jackson and Beyonce’s Upcoming Album

Webster defines longevity as a long duration of individual life. In the music industry, longevity has another definition, Rodney Jerkins. This New Jersey bred hit maker began his career in the early ‘90s while he was still a teenager. Before he was even old enough to drink, he had already created hits for the likes […]

Webster defines longevity as a long duration of individual life. In the music industry, longevity has another definition, Rodney Jerkins. This New Jersey bred hit maker began his career in the early ‘90s while he was still a teenager. Before he was even old enough to drink, he had already created hits for the likes of Brandy, Mary J. Blige, and Jennifer Lopez.Now, ten years since he began his ascent up the charts and up the ranks to mega producer status, Jerkins, 30, shows no signs of slowing down. In 2007 he had two more hit songs to add additional notches to his already golden belt with Ciara’s “Can’t Leave Em Alone” which featured 50 Cent and Keyshia Cole’s “Shoulda Let You Go.” In 2008, he worked with Janet Jackson on her highly anticipated album Discipline. On top of that he had the lead single on the project, “Feedback.”If you ask many they will say that 40 is the new 30. However, this 30-year-old would say that 30 is the new 20. His longevity in the entertainment industry is something very hard to come by. And the truth is he just might be able to stay as relevant as he desires to be. We had the chance to catch up with the super producer to discuss hits, the future, and more hits… Alternatives: So what’s going on with you, Rodney?Rodney Jerkins: Just in the lab man. Always in the lab.AHHA: What’s new with you? What’s up next?Rodney Jerkins: I just did a joint venture deal with Interscope Records, and I’m consulting for Jimmy Iovine. I also just did a record for R. Kelly. I’m in the studio working with The Pussycat Dolls right now. I’m about to start on the new Keyshia Cole album. I just did a record with Ludacris and Sean Garrett. And I’m also about to get back in the studio for the Beyonce project.AHHA: Lots of other producers have had their lows and highs in their careers. There are few producers who have managed to stay consistent and relevant throughout the years. You are definitely one of those producers. Do you have any thought on why that is?Rodney Jerkins: I just really give all my credit to God. I think He has put me in a position to dominate. The minute that I start to forget that he is my source, that will be when I start losing. I also feel like I’ve been able to have longevity, because I am a true studier of music. I think there are a lot of great producers out there. Some are music producers, some are beat makers. But I think when you really study music that makes you timeless. I’m like a chameleon. Whatever you put in front of me I can do. That’s how you create a legacy. I’m 30 years old now. I started young. I got about a good 11-12 years professionally in the game, and I feel like I could do this another 20 years and still be at the top of my craft, because I study music.AHHA: You have always been one to shy away from the spotlight. You have made several cameos but for the most part been pretty low key. Recently, a lot of producers have stepped out of the shadows and have started behaving more like artists. What are your thoughts on this?Rodney Jerkins: I think at the end of the day this is a business and if being in the spotlight is going to bring more paper to your account, then you have to do that. But I also feel that along with that, you have to be an artist. Like, I respect Kanye West, because he is a producer but he is also an artist. What makes a producer turned artist hot in my eyes is when they let another producer produce them. Because that shows that they respect the craft. Like Kanye is a producer but he might have any different number of producers on his album. That shows he is comfortable in what he does. And honestly, it’s always tempting to step into the spotlight because is a lot of cases it bring a lot more money. But I think it’s timing as well.AHHA: Earlier you talked about doing some consulting work for Interscope, and I know also you have worked with Def Jam in the past. Is there an interesting transition or contrast going from working for yourself primarily to working with doing A&R or consulting for a label?Rodney Jerkins: I feel like all of this sets me up for where I really want to go. I look at doing the A&R thing for Def Jam and doing the consulting thing for Jimmy [Iovine] like college. Because making music is now something I can do in my sleep; I’ve already learned that. Working with artists, that’s the easy part, but now it’s about taking that executive role and listening to records and giving my two cents or marketing ideas. That’s where I want to go. When I’m 40 I want to be an executive, so I need to start setting myself up for that now.AHHA: Is there any artist that you just absolutely love working with? An artist that can call you at anytime and you would run to go and work with them again?Rodney Jerkins: Yeah, probably Beyonce. I feel like our batting average is 4/4. We have done four records together, and all four of them were singles. I did “Say My Name,” “Cater 2 U,” “Lose My Breath,” and “Déjà Vu.”AHHA: On the other side of that, are there any artists that you just won’t work with?Rodney Jerkins: [laughs] Honestly, I think I’m pretty much flexible enough to work with anybody. Sometimes producers of a certain status feel like they can’t work with a new artist anymore, because they feel that they have reached a certain place in their career. I disagree with that because the new artists are the ones that eventually become the big artists. Every big artist was a new artist at some point. It is taking a risk, because with the established artist, it’s guaranteed that they might go platinum or gold. Their single might spin however many times and you are going to make so much money, but sometimes you have to take a chance and bet on the new artist.AHHA: Is there any new artist coming up right now that you are excited about?Rodney Jerkins: I mean there are a couple of artists coming up out there, but none of them really make me go “Wow, this artist is crazy.” I haven’t really seen anything special.AHHA: Let’s talk about the Janet album, Discipline, which you worked quite a bit on. Did you feel any pressure on you considering all of the “drama” that surrounded the last project and all of the media buzz that surrounded this one?Rodney Jerkins: No, not at all. I always wanted to work with Janet. I really wanted to do the whole album. I feel like there are certain producers for certain projects. I feel like if you would have locked me, my team, and Ne-Yo in a room together, we could have done the most amazing album on Janet. But I am happy with the fact that I have four songs on there. I don’t really feel the pressure of anything that is going on the outside. It doesn’t really affect me.AHHA: What do you think of the state of R&B music? Do you like the direction it’s going in?Rodney Jerkins: I think it’s getting stronger. I think everything happens in cycles. Ten years ago, I had my first hit. It was “The Boy Is Mine” [Brandy & Monica]. It was an R&B record that crossed over to pop. Nowadays, a lot of records that are R&B don’t even make it to the pop charts. But I think now we are about to see a complete turnaround where you have R&B songs on both sides of the charts. Like for example the J. Holiday record “Bed.” That was an R&B record that crossed over. I see R&B really about to come back huge in a big way. AHHA: Do you have any aspirations to do anything outside of music?Rodney Jerkins: Oh yes. I’m about to get into the video gaming business. I’m actually working on two deals right now on the video game side. On the film side of things, I definitely want to produce some movies. I’m already heavy into real estate. I own over 100 acres in Jersey right now. Eventually I want to branch out and do things on the clothing side, but I’m just a kid taking my time. I’m still grinding on the music side. If you look at most producers, they really don’t get big success until they are 30. My success came at 19, so I feel like now is part two for me. I feel like I’m starting all over like I’m 19 again and going hard.