Music: Prince of Pleasantville

He made Britney a Rolling Stone and took Toni to the top. Rodney Jerkins is pop's man of the moment

If you happened to be searching for a mother lode of soul, New Jersey probably isn't the first place you'd look. But if you take the Garden State Parkway south from New York City and exit in the town of Pleasantville, after a few turns you'll find a squat, beige building with a sign outside that reads DARKCHILD STUDIOS. The immediate vicinity seems intensely, iconically suburban--there's even a crossing guard out front with a hand-held stop sign--but as it turns out, Pleasantville is a good deal funkier than its name might suggest.

Darkchild is owned and operated by Rodney Jerkins, the...

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