Various Artists

Jakarta Record is a nifty little boutique label out of Cologne, Germany specializing in eclectic hip-hop, funk, soul, and electronic music.  In commemoration of their 40th release they’ve elected to dig in their vaults for unreleased gems by Jakarta artists, friends, and affiliates.  Some Jewels From Jakarta sports guest spots from Raashan Ahmad, Looptroop Rockers, Blitz the Ambassador, Shogun Orchestra, and Blu among others.  The project is hit-or-miss at times and as a whole it bounces back and forth between enlightening awesomeness of the variety that compels the listener to do some of their own digging--and forgettable mediocrities.

Amongst the gems on Some Jewels From Jakarta “Rhythms of 777”, with Lord Echo and Jennifer Zea,  is a cut in which all parties involved get their veritable shine on.  It’s a home run of a track and more than makes up for the lesser selections on this comp.  There are elements of dub, funk,  bossa nova, and an extended drawn out groove that indicate shades of Fela Kuti in the song’s DNA.  OKP favorite J. Mitchell makes her presence felt emphatically on Some Jewels From Jakarta putting in work on two cuts; “Don’t Lie” along with Rashaan Ahmad and “Cream Sweaters” featuring Blu.  As a vocalist she’s not afraid to take risks and be different, challenging you to get on her level.  J. Mitchell steals the show from both the emcees she collaborates on this project, Blu particularly.  Blu was blessed with a monster of a beat in “Cream Sweaters”; just this side of Dilla at his most abstract with enough of a nod factor to keep the vibe in this dimension, and he fumbled it with played-out carnal platitudes.

“Up to My Neck in Sh*t” by Fabulous/Arabia is somewhat of a misnomer of a song title.  The tone and content don’t reflect helplessness or despair, but rather an affirmative and positive outlook acknowledging that while life is often less than ideal, the only thing to do is to keep on keepin’ on.  Far from morose, it’s a dose of feelgood for anybody who’s had a moment where “shit just got real” (fans of Jamiroquai should dig this track).  The dichotomy between “Get On the Floor” and “The Others” by Ilarius and featuring Therapy of the Smile Rays and the Looptroop Rockers respectively are an example of the schizophrenic nature of Some Jewels From Jakarta.  Ostensibly both songs are party tracks, but where “Get On the Floor” is a genuine romp and stomp joint, complete with a nod to every Greg Nice joint ever recorded, “The Others” is cheesy as hell.  The Looptroop Rocker’s contribution seems better suited to a high energy Coors Light commercial or a club scene in a shitty B movie than this collection.

Lowlights aside, when Some Jewels From Jakarta hits its mark, it’s exemplary of the best that the little German label that could has to offer.  By and large it’s a solid release. The only thing holding it back is the lack of quality control, as it’s quite jarring to go from “who the hell is this” in a good way for 3,4 tracks to “what the hell is this, turn it off now.”  The folks at Jakarta would have benefited from focusing on heat as opposed to touching all the bases of artists who’ve recorded for them.  After all, there’s a viable reason that some joints didn’t see the light of day until this compilation.

- T. Love