Exclusive: Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins Talks New Gospel Single, the #VERZUZ Battles, Love for Brandy, & More

Published: Friday 15th May 2020 by Rashad

 Photo courtesy: Getty Images

King of Pop Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, and Beyoncé are just a few of the multi-Platinum selling artists who have soared to the top of charts on the wings of production from Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins.

With hits spanning over two decades, the GRAMMY-winning producer boasts a collection of RIAA certification plaques that knows few rivals.

Yet, despite having amassed accolades and peer recognition beyond measure over his storied career, the 42-year-old operates with a hunger and tenacity akin to that of an industry newcomer – a trait he recently told That Grape Juice is among the many that keep him humble.

In addition to dishing exclusively about his new single ‘Come Together’ – an amalgamation of some of Gospel music’s biggest names (i.e. Fred Hammond, Karen Clark Sheard, Kirk Franklin, Lecrae, Marvin Sapp, and more) – Jerkins waxed honest on his love for longtime collaborator Brandy, the VERZUZ battle franchise, and so much more.

See the “must read” interview inside:

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

That Grape Juice:  How are you holding up during this time of quarantine and social distancing?

Rodney: It’s not too bad. My studio is home, so I have no complaints. I am able to create. The kids are home schooled, so it’s kind of normal for them to be home.

That Grape Juice: Before we hop into the interview, we lost some big names in music recently – namely Little Richard, Betty Wright, and Andre Harrell (click here to read more).  Do you mind sharing any fond memories you have with any of them?

Rodney: When I was 16-years-old, I sent my demo tape to Uptown Records and the A&R had me come up to New York.  Next thing you know, I was pretty much a staff producer there.

I got to know Andre really well.  In fact, I was with him a couple of months ago after the GRAMMYs. It’s a tough thing to lose someone like Andre, because he was always smiling, always talking about music; his passion and love for music was bar none.

Betty Wright, I had an opportunity to work with her when I produced songs for Michael Jackson.  He wanted a choir on one of his songs so she put it together, brought the choir to the studio, and did the choral arrangements for me as well.

That Grape Juice: Thank you for sharing that.  Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind your new benefit single, ‘Come Together’?

Rodney: It actually started in 2003. Myself, LaShawn Daniels, and Jazz Nixon were in the studio in Atlanta and were coming up with an idea for a song that could reach the masses.  The vision for it was that I wanted to have a lot of different Gospel artists together on one song. I never felt it was 100% complete, so 2003 wasn’t the time for it to come out.

A month-and-a-half ago I wanted to finish it, so I put my daughter, Lecrae, Le’Andria Johnson, Marvin Sapp, Kelontae Gavin, and a lot of other artists on it. We were able to cut a video together and I’m so excited that it’s out now.

That Grape Juice: A lot of people may not know, but Gospel has been a mainstay in your life.

Rodney: Yeah, that’s my roots. I’m from church, my father’s a pastor, my mom’s a choir director, and we played in church and sang in the choir.

A lot of people don’t know, but throughout the years I also produced Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, Kierra Sheard, the Clark Sisters, and a lot of other [Gospel acts] as well.

That Grape Juice: ‘Come Together’ was one of many awesome unreleased gems I’m sure you have. What do you do with those songs that don’t make albums or you half-finish then put to the side? 

Rodney: Sometimes, what you believe in doesn’t mean the artist you are working with will necessarily believe in it at that time.  Other times their record company may take them in a different direction AFTER you record a song; I know there’s been plenty of times where that’s happened. It doesn’t mean it’s not a great song.

If it doesn’t get its due, it just stays where it is. I definitely have a lot of that type of material.

That Grape Juice: Give us an example of a song you loved that the artist didn’t.

Rodney: There’s a song I wrote called ‘Second Thought’ that was to be the continuation of ‘I Thought’ from Brandy‘s ‘Full Moon’ album.  No one’s ever heard it, but it was really good.

That Grape Juice: ‘Full Moon’ was such a game-changing album. It’s something to see how much the musical landscape has changed since its 2002 arrival. What are your thoughts on the status of R&B right now?

Rodney: I kind of like where it’s at and I like the fact that it’s coming back, because it was dormant for a while.  I think there are a lot of artists like H.E.R, Snoh Aalegra, Normani, Summer Walker, Teyana Taylor, SZA, and others that have R&B in their music, but in a cool, fresh new way.

That Grape Juice:  Now, as with many interviews, we’ve received five questions from our readers for you.  Are you ready for That Grape Juice‘s ‘Five From Fans’?

Rodney:  Go for it.

  • TGJ #1: Who are some artists you’d like to see engage on the VERZUZ platform?

Rodney: I’ve been wanting to see these two battles:  Bobby Brown vs. Keith Sweat and Pharrell vs. Kanye West.

  • TGJ #2: Would you ever do a battle on the VERZUZ platform?

Rodney: In a heartbeat. It’s got to be the right person, though. They’ve approached me, but I’ve got to feel comfortable in the battle. It needs to be a celebration.

  • TGJ #3:  Could we see a reunion with Brandy any time soon?

Rodney: You never know. If the cards are dealt right, it will happen. I think Brandy is an incredible talent, incredible voice, and has one of the most distinctive tones and quality in a voice that we have ever heard. So, we’ll see what happens.

  • TGJ #4: What would you say is your MOST significant achievement to date?

Rodney: My crowning achievement is probably my children; I’ve got two girls and two boys.  Out of everything, that’s the best production I’ve ever produced.

  • TGJ #5: We don’t see Rodney Jerkins playing “the celebrity game” as much as your counterparts. Why?

Rodney: I like being somewhat low-key, so I let my music speak for itself. Some people know who Darkchild is, some people don’t. Some people know who Rodney Jerkins is, some people don’t. I kind of like it that way.

I don’t need the extra praises, I’m not a person that is in search of fame, so I’m cool with playing my role and trying to make the best music possible for the artists that I work with.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

That Grape Juice: You have achieved so much in your career, including working with the biggest names in music. On your bucket list of things to do, what’s left?

Rodney: There’s a lot more left to do.  I just keep on working with more artists, working with new artists, and finding new talent.

There’s no real bucket list. As long as I’ve got this brain, these fingers that can play the keyboards, and this mind to keep being creative, then I’m sure there will be hundreds of artists for me to work with.

The Rodney Jerkins-produced, ‘Come Together’ (by Gospel supergroup The Good News), is available on all platforms now!  Proceeds from its sales benefit the Recording Academy’s MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund and Compassion International.

Your thoughts?

Comments 17

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  1. Only Facts May 15, 2020

    Rodney Jerkins v Timbaland would be good. They could compare who did better work for Brandy (spoiler alert: Rodney wins) 😌

    • Interac May 15, 2020

      I mean….timbaland showed out on ‘afrodisiac.’ Timbaland really knows how to bring out the emotion in his productions and Brandy’s nuances really compliment them. Think about songs like ‘I tried’ and ‘focus.’ And even the unreleased songs like ‘who’s the loser now,’ ‘home,’ and ‘drum life.’ If you haven’t heard them, check them out.

      • PinotNoir May 16, 2020


        Songs you listed are 🔥

        Thank you!

      • DeanD May 16, 2020

        Afrodisiac is the truth! Not only do I think it’s Brandy’s best album but one of the best R&B albums, period. I’d also like to add “Sirens” to the list of unreleased gems.

      • Sweet nothings78 May 16, 2020

        I will always hope a beat like maximum risk with those guys comes out but I will always live for Sweet nothings.

        Rodney could off delivered with human, she hated it but I love some of the songs on it.
        Timberland delivered with aphrodisiac in every song.

  2. Gee May 15, 2020

    Rodney has truly made a mark however as of late his sound, and production has become stale.

  3. MsMay May 15, 2020

    Brandy need his ass bad now

    • Martaevia La’Wayne May 16, 2020

      Lmao! No she don’t. Brandy has always been able to stand on her own. She has sooo many songs she didn’t do with him that are fire.

    • PinotNoir May 16, 2020

      He helmed Brandy’s Never Say Never like a boss. And saved Destiny’s Child’s last album with Lose My Breath. Even had a hand in Tamar’s breakout album, Love And War. 👍

  4. C******* UNBOTHERED May 16, 2020

    Syd tha Kyd should SUE

    Kelly FLOP Rowland should be ASHAMED of herself for STEALING writing Credits. She literally just snitched on herself by saying the recently released COFFIN song was already COMPLETE when she got it (on TGE BREAKFAST CLUB) and that she didnt write it but only changed ONE single word. So HOW did she get a Writers Credit???

    Why do writers allow artist to claim writing credit when they didn’t write???…

    That’s like a hospital patient claiming credit for their recovery simply for breathing.

    Kelly Flopland did NOT help write that song!

    • Beautiful+One May 16, 2020

      Your fat a$$ obviously knows nothing about songwriting credits. An artist can just change the melody of a song and receive a credit. Your big heavy neck a$$ should know that.

      • Beautiful+One May 16, 2020

        Or change one word…

  5. 1988 May 16, 2020

    Iconic producer. 🙂

  6. High Price May 16, 2020

    I LOVE Brandy! Like love, love, LOVE her! And I love the joints that Rodney Jerkins and her did together. But I would really like to know what is the TRUTH between them 2 being so distant all these years… I remember stuff in the press from Brandy voicing what happened during the “Human” era… but idk… I believe its something more or deeper… She’s since praised him and he has too but from a distance. I do agree, Brandy has definitely held her own after him. She has indeed made bangers after Rodney but most singers usually reconnect somewhere again down the line…. even if it’s for 1 song…

    Janet was with JD for long period of time for like 2 or 3 whole albums i believe but if you look it up, there are production credits on those albums from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. But they weren’t as praised (or even at all) on those albums like they were with her on her others albums for some odd reason… People think JD exclusively produced those albums for Janet.

    It’s also the same with Beyonce and The Dream… People probably thought she had a WHOLE new team for the Lemonade album but no, he definitely has production credits on there too…

    So I just don’t understand it. Their relationship at this point seems slightly “cordial” and idgaf HOW much they praise one another from distance. People who are true fans knows that Rodney was like family to her. So my eyebrow has always been raised at their dynamics over the years… It’s weird.

  7. Stephan May 17, 2020

    Okay I’m sweating over the thought there’s a continuation of I Thought!!!! Second thought!?! What!? I won’t be able to sleep thinking about this now! 😩

    • just saying May 18, 2020

      it’s been on youtube for YEARS! It was one of her leaked/unreleased tracks.

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