Latest posts by Tim Gadient (see all)
- South African based producer Jakk Wonders talks new beats and more - September 26, 2017
- West Coast emcee Aliano on new music and collaborating with South Africa’s Jakk Wonders - June 29, 2017
- Run The Jewels – Live footage from LA - November 24, 2014
South African based producer Jakk Wonders talks new beats and more, check out the exclusive GroundSoudns interview below!
Who are you & what do you do?
First off Tim, thank you for this opportunity for this interview, I got a lot of love for LA and over the years my involvement towards contributing towards the LA underground scene has grown immensely so it’s an honour to have this platform to talk about my work and what I do.
So, my name is Jakk Wonders. I am from Johannesburg, South Africa (yes, that is right, I am from South Africa and have never set foot in the US) – people think I sometimes use that line, that I’m a “South African producer / beatmaker” as a marketing tool or something haha but no, I am from South Africa and am South African. I am a hip-hop beatmaker / producer and have been doing this officially since early 2010/2011.
How did you get into producing and hip-hop?
Well, getting into hip-hop that was from about the age of 7 I would say. I vaguely remember hearing “Gangstas Paradise” by Coolio and I liked the sound it was generating and It would essentially lay the foundation for my love of this genre and also my love for the beats. I got into making beats around early 2010 as I met up with an old school friend at a university lecture and we began talking about hip-hop and where we felt the genre had fallen off and what we did not like about it at the time (this was March 2010). So we kind of decided to form a hip hop group right then and there haha! I told my friend I will take care of the promo work, artwork and press releases etc. but he was adamant that I try make beats. I reluctantly said Ok, I will look into it and give it a shot. Now seven years removed I have been able to make beats for some of the dopest artists the underground has. So in a nutshell I was forced into it haha.
What was it like growing up in South Africa and how does it influence your work?
South Africa is my home and as I write this now, I’m sitting in my Johannesburg house completing this interview haha. I mean, this is where I’m from and it’s all I know. I have never been to the US at all, I do plan to go one day but it is definitely something I need to do, also a shoutout and a lot of love to one of my good friends Lydia Rotary who has been pushing me to get out to New York. She’s been telling me ever since that I need to go to The States haha so it is on the agenda to be fulfilled at some point.
South Africa is a melting pot of cultures, religions, you name it. We are called the rainbow nation for a reason because we are so diverse. Now obviously everybody knows about our turbulent past and apartheid but as a nation we grow year by year and celebrate each other’s differences, it’s a process and one that will take time. Funny enough, it does not influence my work at all. Me being from South Africa has no real bearing on my sound or my view of hip-hop, it’s simply just where I live. Everybody has their “top 5, dead or alive” and their “golden era” and what makes a “classic album” for me I always felt the same rules apply, I listen to the sound I like the most and what I feel is “HIP-HOP to me”.
How would you describe your sound?
Yeah my sound, it’s a dead giveaway I think and it’s not hard to tell where I get it from haha, my sound is from DJ Premier and Apollo Brown (who I was fortunate enough to meet this year in May thanks to the good homie Skyzoo). Those 2 are the most common that you can pick up on when listening to my beats. The sound is very dirty with drastic chops. It’s quite stuttered with an essence of that vinyl crackle and sharp drums. A lot of people say its “old school” but to me its “REAL”. My sound is definitely based on the east coast sound that dominated the 90s
What’s your process like when you start to craft a beat?
My process is normally based on 2 things; 1 – I will get an idea and try find sounds that I feel best cater to that idea or song title or 2 – I hear a certain sound and I decide to make the whole beat with a certain noise or sample (case and point with number 2, this year when myself and Aliano put out “The Home Team” my whole goal was to centre that track around the crack of a baseball bat and the crowd cheering throughout the track.
Your projects and beat tapes are usually designed around a specific city or theme – Whats your process like when you set out to design an entire EP or LP?
Yeah I always try make it around some type of event or even based on a city. Like “Peace II Brooklyn” was just a dope, virtual excursion of a place I had seen based on movies, music and entertainment. It gives an outsiders take on it along with a listener who is actually from the city, to really enjoy the project and maybe listen to it in a different light. I mean, I have the “Rookie Season” franchise which looks at great athletes during their first professional season and/or college years for that matter. It doesn’t necessarily have to be 100% about that person but the listener will fill in the gaps with their recollections of that sports star or team. My latest beat tape was “Rookie Season 2” which was based on Shaquille O’Neal and shout out to Steve Juon of rapreviews.com who gave an amazing story of tying up my project to his days of watching Shaq and The Magic and brining back nostalgic memories, that’s what I’m going for at the end of the day. Although it’s a beat tape, you can tell a story with it that allows the listener to actually participate without knowing it subconsciously.
You’ve been working a lot with Los Angeles MC, Aliano. How does that collaboration work with you both being on different continents?
Man, shout out to Aliano, that’s my brother. Dude puts in so much work and is one hell of an MC. Thanks to him, y’all know my name haha, that freestyle and interview he did for GS was really dope. I’m honoured to have worked with so many amazing artists like Aliano, MC WhiteOwl, Pro Status, Lee Black and so many more but, the process is quite simple. I will do a beat based on a concept or one of the aforementioned people will hit me up and say “I want to talk about …” and give a breakdown of what it is they are trying to get across and i try my best to put it together as Jakk Wonders. The beauty of the internet, social media and e-mail, I can at any point get in touch with anybody… haha the other day Reks texted me in the morning for a flyer and I hit him up a few hours later with the final design, so at all times you are reachable and can make quality connections.
What other MC’s are you working with right now?
Right now, I got an upcoming EP with Aliano called “The Vanguard Heist” it should drop sometime in October 2017. MC WhiteOwl has me on his upcoming album called “Born Yesterday” which features production from myself, Statik Selektah, FatCatHayze 156 and DJ FredOnes. Lee Black and I have a joint project coming out soon called “The Blacklist” and I’m slowly working on some things with Reks, Vinnie Paz, Rizhy Razlo, Ice Grill, Pawz One, Rhinoceros Funk, Bryan of ‘The Bee Shine’, Price Stylez and there’s a possibility to reboot the single which was done for the late Praverb called “Cruel Intentions” which my good friend Kyle W Knapp put together and got a few more things I’m working on with other people.
How are some of your major influences in music and hip-hop?
For me, my biggest influence is the greatest producer of all time – DJ Premier. He is the single greatest source of all my influence. I’m always honoured when Premier plays my music on his Friday night show on SiriusXM “Live From HeadQcourterz” cause that playlist is handpicked by him, so it’s all the tracks he likes. I remember when Premier hit me back when I sent him the track Aliano and I did called “Trailblazer”. He hit me back a few hours later saying “I got you, I’m feeling this.” So always, a big shoutout to DJ Premier and DJ Eclipse. Those are 2 heavyweights in the industry and both have done a lot for me and the respect I have for them is immense.
What kind of records do you look for when you go digging?
My go to is always been deep soul. It’s so moving and you can just feel it move you in your soul. Those mid 70s deep, slow, gospel songs are my bread and butter. I can just go through them for hours. Every now and again I will get an idea or hear a sample that is maybe rock or jazz and will go with that, but the main ingredient is always soul.
What’s the hip-hop scene like in South Africa?
South Africa is really putting their own stamp on the genre, you got guys like A.K.A, Kwesta and Cassper Nyovest who are really making waves overseas. The scene is diverse too I feel because you can hear all sorts of hip-hop from conscious to boom bap to trap, we have it all.
Do you have any upcoming projects coming out? What’s the rest of 2017 look like for you?
The rest of 2017 has Aliano and I dropping “The Vanguard Heist” (the 1st single featured Ruste Juxx and is available now called ‘The First Step’. Lee black will be dropping “The Blacklist” which I fully produced. WhiteOwl will drop “Born Yesterday” and I look to continue “#FreeBeatFriday” hopefully towards the end of the year. It’s something I started in July and will do another month of dropping free beats every Friday with a specific theme. The previous theme was a variety of NHL teams.
Who are you listening to right now?
Right now, man I’ve got Aesop Rock, Planet Asia & Apollo Brown with Anchovies, my friends too like Skyzoo with his first LP “The Salvation”, Reks with “Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme”, I’ve got Dilated Peoples and oh man, one of my favourite albums ever “Lord Steppington” on repeat. There’s also a good variety of JMT, Sean Price, Army of the Pharos, Apollo Brown, 9th Wonder, Marco Polo and more.
What’s your all time favourite hip-hop album & all time favorite producer?
Damn, thats a tough question… I think, my favourite hip-hop album of all time is ‘The Ownerz’ by Gang Starr. It used to be ‘The Moment of Truth’ but after listening to The Ownerz over and over, it became my number 1 album. I would also say ‘The Platform’ by Dilated Peoples is right behind it for personal production reasons. My all time favourite producer… DJ Premier. His signature sound just encapsulates the real NY sound and is hands down the GOAT.
If you could work with any MC, dead or alive, who it would be?
If I could, I would probably work with Biggie. I would’ve like to have heard some more stories about his childhood over my type of beats or have done an EP with him based on a certain period in his life, so yeah Notorious is one MC I would’ve liked to have worked with.