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Hip-hop producers strike 'Big' deal to submit music for MTV reality show

The Baltimore Sun

In a move that will give local hip-hop composers Darkroom Productions a larger national audience, the duo closed a deal yesterday with MTV Networks to submit music for the coming season of the reality series Rob & Big.

The independent production duo of Juan Donovan Bell and Jamal Roberts, who also write music for HBO's The Wire, recently sent about 40 instrumental tracks for use on MTV's Rob & Big. In turn, these tracks can be used on a slew of other Viacom networks such as VH1 and Comedy Central, said David Weitzman, a music supervisor for MTV.

"I absolutely welcome that," Weitzman said. "I think they're really talented, and I'm glad to make this connection."

Rob & Big follows the daily life of skateboarder Rob Dyrdek and his bodyguard, Christopher Boykin. Last season, the popular reality series aired at 10:30 p.m. Thursdays. Season 2 starts in June.

Weitzman discovered Darkroom through a blog post about The Wire. After listening to the duo's original music - marked by pounding bass, innovative instrumentation and tough rhymes - he reached out to them.

Bell said he and Roberts plan to send dozens more beats to MTV in the coming weeks. They've also begun working on tracks for Season 5 of The Wire, he said.

In the MTV deal, Darkroom retains the rights to the songs and can shop them around to other rappers.

"Who else without a major record contract can say they work for HBO and MTV?" Bell said. "It's definitely a good look for us, considering we thought we could get in the game and produce for major artists. I had no idea that two of the biggest networks of all time would come calling."

The pair produced a track for Grammy winner Chamillionaire's new album, Ultimate Victory, which drops this spring.

In January, Darkroom released Hamsterdam 2: Stash to the Strip, the follow-up to the underground hit Hamsterdam Vol. 1 - named after the open-air drug market on The Wire. Roberts and Bell have day jobs and produce tracks in their spare time. They also wrote about half of New Orleans-based group Sqad Up's forthcoming album, We Here Now.

"We work really hard, and we don't sleep," Bell said. "We're going to have a really healthy resume in 2007."

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