This is an odd way to start out a Jakk Wonders review, but listening to Reef the Lost Cauze rep “from Philly to Johannesburg” on the opening track reminded me of something. It’s a all because of the repeated line “New York started it, but recognize from the start, my city was a part of it.” When I think of “New York starting it” I flash back to some of the earliest records and tapes I copped once hip-hop came into my life – artists like Run-D.M.C., Whodini and UTFO. Some of you may have already guessed where this is going. Mad love and respect to Educated Rapper (a/k/a EMD, real name Jeffery Campbell), who passed away on Saturday at the ageof 54 after losing his fight with cancer. I’ll have more to say about EMD at a later time but I can’t hear Reef say “New York started it” without pouring one out for him.
Now getting back to Jakk, that “from Philly to Johannesburg” reference is meant to let you know where both the master of ceremonies AND the producer hail from. These days the world seems to be getting even more insular, with everybody afraid of both immigrants and terrorism (and sadly seeming to think there’s a causal link between them), but hip-hop spread far beyond both New York and Philadelphia’s borders a long time ago. You can close borders and institute all the travel bans you want, but hip-hop’s in the air all around the globe and the spread can’t be stopped. The arts are alive in Tokyo, in London, in Paris, in New Delhi, in Sao Paulo, and in Johannesburg just to name a few of the many international cities I’ve never had the pleasure or good fortune to visit. They say travel expands the mind, but I’m going to have to let my ears do the walking to South Africa through the “Forgotten Wonders” that Jakk can bring me here.
Even though I’m making a point out of the fact this is album is a direct result of the undeniable globalization of America’s greatest export, you could honestly be forgiven if you listened to “Forgotten Wonders” and never knew the part it played in the diaspora. In fact the rappers Jakk works with here result in what could fairly be called an East coast mixtape, save for the complete lack of a deejay shouting out his name, rewinding the track every 20 seconds or inserting pistol cocking sound effects. Some of the names are a little more obscure if you’re not digging. Has anybody heard from The Legion since 1994? Well Molecules has been popping up on a few tracks of late, but again that’s if you’re really ear to the ground on this ish. Chaundon is a little more recent by 10 years — at least as far as our review catalogue goes anyway. Jakk isn’t just reaching out to the “Forgotten” though, because MidaZ the Beast is rocking for HiPNOTT Records in the present day and Skyzoo has been part of so many “Timeless Classic” releases that his song’s name is almost redundant.
Getting back to the “mixtape” reference though, we should make it crystal clear that this is essentially a one man showcase as to how Jakk Wonders is a Mad Skillz of beats. He’s not the writer who will make your s–t tighter for you, he’s the producer who will make your rap sound fresher, whether you wrote it yourself OR your man did. You can call this compilation “the best Johannesburg has to offer” and it would probably be accurate, save for the fact these are older songs and Jakk is undoubtedly cooking up that hot new flavor as we speak. I can highly recommend it for two reasons though — it’s FREE and none of these songs sound the least bit dated. They bang as hard in 2017 as when he first made them and Jakk ain’t working with nobody whack, so go ahead and cop a copy.