Bristol producer/DJ Roni Size first learned the basics of music production at his local youth club. A wayward teenager, he was expelled from school at 16 and started attending parties in his native Bristol that were run by the Wild Bunch (an earlier incarnation of Massive Attack). A big reggae fan, Roni (born Ryan Owen Granville Williams) started making music in the late 80s. Then, in collaboration with fellow drum and bass artists Krust, Suv and DJ Die, Roni founded Full Cycle records – widely regarded as one of the major foundation labels for the jungle sound in the early 1990s.
Roni’s early productions – like ‘Box Of Tricks’ and ‘It’s Jazzy’ – hinted at the groundbreaking work he was set to release later in his career. But no-one was prepared for just how good his debut album with group Reprazent was going to be. Reprazent were a collective, made up of musicians, DJs and producers and vocalists (including Roni, Die, Siv, Krust, Onallee and Dynamite MC, though the current lineup has changed). At the time, drum and bass was hyping itself up to be the most cutting edge dance music on the British scene, and the genre-defining album ‘New Forms‘ smashed all other contenders into touch. Released in 1997, the album combined jungle with instrumental fusion and roughneck rhymes. Ravers listened to the album incessantly – in the car on the way to a night somewhere, the singles were played while you were on the dancefloor, and it was the first thing on the stereo at the afterparty. It was an album that changed the world of drum and bass forever and launched Roni Size to DJ superstardom, though many say Size and Reprazent’s future work failed to live up to New Forms.
Whatever your opinions about that, there’s no doubt that the Mercury-Prize winning album is fantastic, and the epic lead single ‘Brown Paper Bag’ became a classic of its time. The in and out vocals are distinctive, the drop is huge, it’s a banging track without sacrificing melody or musicality. “Step to the rhythm made out of brown paper,” says Onallee. And who are we to argue?