b. Brian Mitchell, c.1970. Rapper of West Indian heritage who grew up in Finsbury Park and Shepherds Bush, London, but also spent three years in the Caribbean. The reggae tradition in west London was very strong at the time and it was with the sound systems that he first learnt his craft as an entertainer, setting up his own system, Platinum. There he would alternate between Jamaican patois ‘chatting’ and a more conventional rap style, also learning production and helping out local groups Outlaw Posse and Cash Crew. He set up his own label, Powercut, in 1987. One of its earliest releases, One Love Sound featuring Joe 90’s ‘This Is How It Should Be Done’, was widely appraised as the first to combine reggae and hip-hop. In its wake Powercut was signed to Warner Brothers Records’ subsidiary Slam Jam, via dance producer Dancin’ Danny D (D-Mob). The contract never worked, with only one song from sixty demos submitted, the Powercut Crew’s ‘Firin’’, seeing the light of day. It left Mitchell embittered, an anger expressed in his first release as Darkman, ‘Whats Not Yours’, included on the Jus The Way compilation. This largely featured acts housed on Darkman’s new Vinyl Lab record label. Through this Beechwood collection Steve Jarvier, Darkman’s partner in his north London record shop, was head hunted by Polydor Records. He was placed in charge of that label’s ailing Wild Card subsidiary, to which he brought Darkman. His breakthrough disc, ‘Yabba Dabba Doo’, was another track to be inspired by anger, this time his impotent rage at watching a documentary on the killing of Stephen Lawrence. With its Flintstone rallying call (Mitchell is a big cartoon fan) it brought him overground approval, and sponsorship contractss with Magnum Hi-Tech clothing and Vicious Circle. All this while he was still pursuing his performance arts and animation courses. The follow-up single, ‘She Used To Call Me’, maintained his commitment to the rap/reggae interface: ‘Everyone should just dig into themself and then it would just come. A lotta people don’t look back, they forget where they come from, just live for today...’ Despite his protestations to the effect that UK hip-hop needs its own identity, there was some criticism of his gun-fixation as being irrelevant to indigenous audiences, but this was a minor carp.
Share this page