Photos by Nik Torrens /
Chibuku Shake Shake photo gallery
Line-up /Roni Size (3 Hour Hip-Hop & DnB Set), Krafty Kuts, The Beat Monkeys, Sarah Sweeney & Alex Sweeney B2B, Loz
Roni was born and grew up at the top of the hill‚ a.k.a. St Andrew’s, Bristol. From the bottom of this hill came the sounds of the 70s blues parties and sound-systems - the beat infected Roni‚s bones. So, after being expelled from school he walked straight into Sefton Park basement project, which allowed youngsters to try their hand on the decks, the mixing desk, drum machines and samplers. Here he learned the basics and his brother’s comprehensive collection of Studio One records gave him material to work with. After setting up a home studio and buying a sampler, a musical master of production was in the making.
Meeting up with Krust in the early 90s brought two musically compatible minds together, they faced the same dilemma of having no outlet for their music they put their energies into their own label. The nucleus for Full Cycle, Where’s The Party At was born. From here Full Cycle and Dope Dragon were established in 1993.
Bryan Geeee was an early admirer, holding on to their tapes whilst at work at Rhythm King Records. In 1994 he set up V Recordings, Krust’s Deceivers EP was the first release, Roni and Die’s debut release Agility was the second. Looking back Roni says “We looked at V as the strong brother label, with Full Cycle the sister following in its footsteps... Over the years the two gelled, people associated V and Full Cycle together”.
Roni Size and Full Cycle were one of the first to bring the jazzy elements into the dark jungle of the early 90s. We were using more melodies, more jazz orientated loops ˆ sounds that in London only people like Bukem, or maybe Fabio or Peshay were using”. It’s a Jazz Thing‚ in 1994 sparked the interest of fellow experimental types James Lavelle and the Mo‚ Wax posse, as did “Music Box”, a 50/50 collaboration with Die released on Full Cycle in 1996. These releases on V and Full Cycle soon caught the attention of Gilles Peterson, who soon had signed Roni up for his imprint Talkin’ Loud.
It was the varying personal influences of its members helped create the unique Full Cycle sound, “Suv was more dub, Die was more jazz, I was more ragga or bashment and Krust was definitely more hip-hop but we all had elements of soul and break beat in us, we all had graffiti stains on our hands, we all rode BMXs or skateboards. We all came from the same school - the school of the 80s and 90s. We‚ve always tried to incorporate all those elements into our music. If we could put the sounds from spray can, the sounds from skateboards scraping along the road and of people falling off BMXs, in one record we would.”
The following year the crew, now officially called Reprazent‚ took the world by storm with their New Forms LP, their first release for Talkin Loud. Winning the Mercury Music Prize in 1997 boosted their international status and the world awoke to the sound of Roni Size and Full Cycle.
The singles from the album all featured the unmistakable vocals of Onalee whose call for the music in Brown Paper Bag‚ is a signal all ravers still respond to. Heroes‚ and Watching Windows‚ are also stone cold classics. The album went platinum and, spurned on by their new massive fanbase Roni formed an 11 piece live band fronted by the energetic Dynamite MC. They toured the world rocking clubs and festivals , helping to build the worldwide following that drum and bass has today.
In 1999 with Die, Roni produced the Breakbeat Era album featuring vocals from Lennie Laws which was picked up by XL Recordings for worldwide release. In July the following year his Through The Eyes compilation, showcasing new sounds from the Full Cycle crew (who by now had added D Product and Surge to their numbers). Never forgetting the role V Recordings had played on setting him on his road to success Roni also contributed tracks to the V Classics album.
Later that year came the long awaited second album from Reprazent. In the Mode delivered a variety of tracks, some featuring vocals from Dynamite, Onalee and some from collaborations with hip-hop legend Method Man, Rage Against the Machine’s Zac de la Rocha. Once again Reprazent hit the road.
Roni also found the time to work on productions for outside the immediate camp. He has produced tracks for such diverse artists as Redman, Sonique, Beverley Knight, Fallacy and Cypress Hill and written tracks for numerous film scores including the Avengers and Blade 2. Many of his remixes have also become classics, for artists as diverse as U2 and Basement Jaxx.
In this time he also produced Touching Down - released in October 2002. This, his first truly solo album, was 16 brand new dancefloor smashers mixed into a hour set. It was also his first artist album for his own Full Cycle label. It included more classics such as the massive Snapshot and Sound Advice.
In 2001 Roni met a young female MC named Tali whilst on tour in Melbourne, and immedietely seeing her potential invited her to come to Bristol to make an album. 6 months later she landed in the UK and Roni began producing her album Lyric on my Lip. A single of the same title became Full Cycle’s first top 40 hit, 2004.
In 2004 Roni put together a new live show. It featured some of his new tunes from forthcoming Return To V and remixes of old classics like Brown Paper Bag‚ and Breakbeat Era‚. The Roni Size & Tali in the mix Tour was hosted by Dynamite MC and Sweet P. With extra vocals from Hollie Grant and Zaniah the new generation of Full Cyclists were on show, all backed by the musicians who make up the Full Cycle house band - UV Ray on drums, Si John on bass and D-Product on keys/samples.
Roni’s latest release Return to V shows his production skills never fail to vary and adapt. The album features numerous vocalists, from bona fide legends like Beverly Knight and Jocelyn Brown to the younger generation of Full Cyclists. Many of this new generation have come through the Basement Project, the organisation that originally nurtured Roni’s talent, and somewhere he has remained involved in ever since.
Both a nod to the past and recognition of the pivotal role in his career played by Bryan Gee and V Recordings, it is also pointer to the direction and sound that Roni Size fans can expect in the future. A result of two years hard work, it is arguably the most complete and satisfying work yet from Mr Roni Size.