Album of the Week: J.Rocc - A Wonderful Letter
Legendary LA-based turntablist delivers a love letter of beats and rhymes to the city and scene that spawned him
It seems only appropriate that DJ, producer and one of the greatest to ever rock a pair of turntables, J. Rocc, is dropping his second ever artist album in 2022, as it marks 30 years since he established The World Famous Beat Junkies, a crew of the best turntable technicians in California (and the world!) who conquered any competition, club or tour they found themselves on.
While A Wonderful Letter may only be J. Rocc’s second “album”, don’t let this rate of releases over three decades fool you - not only has he been touring constantly, but also releasing a steady stream of instrumental beat tapes and, as expected, producing for a myriad of other artists. With this context, releasing an actual “album” as traditionally primarily a turntablist first and a producer second (whatever that may mean these days), is no small deal.
As the name implies, this wonderful letter is indeed more of a love letter to LA, inspired by both the city and era he came up in - South California in the early 80s, where Jason Jackson AKA J. Rocc developed an early obsession with the radio dial, cutting up frequencies with some new, mysterious and inspiring sound just a few notches away. This obsession soon led to his first set of turntables, and the rest is history.
An album by a DJ & beatmaker can often be more of a “beat tape” than an artist album, but that is definitely not the case on A Wonderful Letter, as J. Rocc shows his diversity, range and inspirations across a number of genres. Yes, of course there are a few dope instrumentals to be found here, with Welcome Everyone, One, No Bad Drugs and Keep on (Yeah) all providing head nodding, vibe filled “peak J. Rocc” beats, however there are also a tonne of guest vocalists here.
LMNO and Key Kool jump on the rough and raw L.A. Anthem, while cult favourite MC MED features on the very laid back Love & Dope, and recent fave The Koreatown Oddity lends his smooth flow to the gospel inspired boom bap of The Changing World.
Packing a few curveballs towards the end of its tracklist, the record takes diverging yet sensical paths into 80s funk on Flawless (Smoothed Out) feat. Budgie, vintage electro with the cult legend that is The Egyptian Lover on Pajama Party, as well as J. Rocc going full jacking house mode on Go!.
Thirty years on from forming the greatest group of turntablists to ever throw down, on A Wonderful Letter, J. Rocc manages to not only deliver a catchy, diverse yet cohesive sonic love letter to the city and scene that made him, but to also show that he’s more relevant than ever and not going anywhere.
J.Rocc's new album A Wonderful Letter is out now via Stones Throw Records
The best of the rest of this week's records:
Bartees Strange - Farm to Table [4AD] USA
Flasher - Love is Yours [Domino Recording Co] USA
Foals - Life is Yours [Warner] ENG
Hercules & Love Affair - In Amber [BMG] USA
Electronic / Pop
Logic - Vinyl Days [Def Jam] USA
Nick Cave - Seven Psalms [AWAL] AUS
Perfume Genius - Ugly Season [Matador Records] USA