Roni Size is one of the most famous names in drum 'n' bass
. He was a producer
for a long time, collecting talent, producing tracks for greats like Krust
, and Suv
. He is involved in several dnb imprints, including Full Cycle
, Dope Dragon
, and V-REC0RDINGS
. He is the front man for Reprazent
, his dnb group that has made two albums and a slew of singles. He is everywhere at once, and he's stood the test of time quite a bit better than artists like Goldie
(sorry Goldie), especially since electronica
time is quite a bit faster than internet time
Roni Size is Jamaican in decent, but he is pure Bristol, born and raised. He often references reggae as his first love in music, but it was ultimately dance music that he would change forever. He began mixing very young, and moved up the electronica ladder to beatboxes and synths very quickly. He met Krust, Suv, and Die through the Basement Project (an early Bristol group), and in 1993, he started Full Cycle with them. Full Cycle churned out dance floor hits and got huge cred in Bristol, becoming a top outfit for producing jungle.
Size had always been interesting in changing forms, adding drum and bass to other styles, and pushing boundaries of what was appropriate in dance music. "It's a Jazz Thing" and "Jazz Note" were early hits, mixing bebop jazz sounds with DnB, notably using a live bass to add to the beatbox rhythm. Size was also fond of changing tempos, and beats, using so many layers that the two-step rhythm that defines DnB was hidden by intermeshing cadences.
It was ultimately out of this experimentation and success that Reprazent's first album, Newforms, was born. Newforms was a brilliant masterpiece, it contained what would become 6 hit singles, and many more notables, and it was a blueprint for the future of DnB. When it hit in 1997, everyone had to jump back and reassess DnB, realizing that within DnB there was room for limitless innovation. Even though DnB had been put to rest after 1995 when everyone believe that it was a bunch of drum machines strung out on coke with ragga samples on top.
Newforms defined Size's style on and off the dance floor. Basically it is this: 4 or 5 parts DnB mastery, 2 parts live honest-to-god instruments, 1 part mixing other musical styles, 1 part developed raps or vocals. Newforms pushed DnB past the barriers of drum noises and bass noises. It became a precussive rhythm driven bottom end with a smooth rolling melody. Newforms's downside? It was a double disc set that totalled nearly two hours of music. While all of it was good, there was so much in the package that it was hard to listen through and difficult to see the standouts. Many believe Newforms would have been even more respected if it had been a single disc set. However, Newforms amazed the British press and won the Mercury Award, the highest honor an album can receive in England.
In 1999, he joined with DJ Die and punky vocalist Leonie Laws to form Breakbeat Era (which consists of very little breakbeat, by the way...). Breakbeat Era released an LP, Ultraobscene, the same year. While critics and listeners ignored the album, it contained a lot of unique and interesting material. Size and Die lay down some pretty bare drums with a live guitar and bass, while Laws kicks out bitter sentiments like a teen angst poet. The overall sound comes out to robopunk, very dark sounding stuff from the likes of Size, who stayed away from darkcore and hardstep, opting for richer, deeper textures in his work at Full Cycle.
In 2000, Size released a new album, In the Mode. In the Mode was hugely anticipated as the follow up to the breakthrough Newforms. Size did not live up to expectations, though. What critics and fans expected was another solid Newforms-esque release that would give them something new to put on the decks. But In the Mode features a lot of vocals, from Mc Dynamite, Onallee, Method Man, Rahzel (well, he is a vocalist), and Zach De La Rocha. Out of 17 tracks, only four are vocalless. Another notable thing is that even though there are 17 tracks, only a few more than on Newforms, they are compressed onto one CD, and none of the tracks really develops as fully as they did on Newforms. And In the Mode is still just as difficult to play through as Newforms (this is not an insult to either record, it is just a lot of depth to listen to at once).
Since In the Mode, Size has been touring and has returned to the studio to work on another new album. He has also been working with the rest of the Full Cycle crew, as they have all been releasing albums.