Conceived in Cologne in 2005 and now based in Berlin, Jakarta records has over a decade of sterling, esoteric output behind it. Stylistically, the label has featured a heady mix of hip-hop, jazz and bass, as well as putting on a host of prodigious beatmakers. Releases have included the likes of Germany’s unflinchingly unique Flomega, Swedish hip-hop veterans Looptroop Rockers and U.S. neo-soul queen Akua Naru, as well as gifted producers such as Suff Daddy and Kaytranada. Jakarta’s reissue sub-label, Habibi Funk, has also seen the release of long-forgotten and rare ambient, soul, funk, experimental and electronic records from the Far East. On top of that, it also operates two strictly vinyl subdivisions, Dubplates From Jakarta and Beatgeeks To Go, which focuses on timeless instrumental hip-hop. For Carhartt WIP Radio, the Jakarta head-honchos Jannis Stürtz and Malte Kraus put together a show that digs deep into the label’s vaults with tunes by artists such as Suff Daddy or Benny Sings, whilst also looking to its future with fresh music from their latest signing, Detroit’s Illa J, amongst others. To get deeper into their musical history and passion, we talked to the label managers Jannis and Malte.
Hello Malte, Hello Jannis, can you introduce yourself a bit to our readers? What is your musical background? What was the impetus for starting of your label, Jakarta, in 2005?
Jakarta: In 2005 the friend of a classmate of us had a band called Werle & Stankowski, they played some Electro Folk and stuff like that. We liked the album, but it wasn’t available on LP. Since we both were collectors already we agreed this record needed an LP re-release. So we checked with their label, Haute Areal, and its owner Fred (who helped us a lot by giving us further advice in the following years) asked us if we just wanted to help by financing the pressing or if we really wanted a logo/label to be included. So we asked what we need to “start” a label and he said, at this point, it’s more or less about the logo. We asked a friend (Manuel) for a design and started with JAKARTA001 as a collab with Haute Areal from Berlin. Werle & Stankowski later signed their major deal with Virgin, which was basically the beginning of their end.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do?
Jakarta: Decent customer service.
Jazz, hip-hop, funk, soul, electronic, beats, reggae: your label is hard to pigeonhole. How would you describe it to somebody, who never heard one Jakarta beat?
Jakarta: It’s basically a reflection of our personal taste in music, which is a melting pot of a lot of styles. No boundaries though. We would release a techno record if we liked it.
Your roster contains German artists like Shuko, Umse, Suff Daddy, FloFilz. How would you describe the link between Jakarta and the German hip-hop and beatmaker scene?
Jakarta: Jakarta is not focussed on German hip-hop at all; we keep it to our personal taste here. The beatmaker scene was kind of growing parallel to our label efforts and at one point our paths crossed each other and kept doing so from time to time. The producer’s releases are definitely a big part of our catalogue and will most likely always be.
Jakarta: We guess it’s because hip-hop is a culture from the US and our focus was and is on hip-hop, so it just makes sense. Our second record was a release by US band called Wade Waters, so we have released US records from the very start.
Detroit is rough but the people are super friendly. It just had a vibe we’ll never forget.
Your latest signing is Illa J. Can you tell us a bit how you came into contact with him and what his music does for you?
Jakarta: A booker from Germany let us know he was looking for a label and we just approached him. We personally dig his singing almost more than his rapping. Since we both loved the record we decided to give it a shot. It’s definitely a big release for us, since to all the traveling to Detroit and video-shoots involved a lot of effort.
Illa J is – like Carhartt – from Detroit. You have been there lately to shoot a video with him. How did you feel the town? What makes it special and what are some unique experiences you had in Detroit that you would like to share with us?
Jakarta: Detroit is rough but the people are super friendly. From a European perspective, a city, or let’s say a big city, typically becomes even bigger these days with resulting in higher rents etc… Detroit is the exact opposite. Or at least it feels like this: abandoned houses everywhere, not a single pedestrian on the street (besides downtown). It just had a vibe we’ll never forget.
How do find the music you release in general? Demos? Internet? Friends? Friends of friends?
Jakarta: Definitely not demos! It’s really sad but even if we try to listen to all the demos we receive via the Internet, most of them just don’t do it for us.
What exciting new stuff do you have in the pipeline for 2017?
Jakarta: We’ll be releasing new records from Ivan Ave and Suff Daddy. JuJu is working on his album and Bluestaeb is most likely gonna finish his second album too. Also a new BRRWD release is on the way.
You also run the sub-labels Beatgeeks To Go, BRRWD, Dubplates From Jakarta and Habibi Funk. Can you tell us a bit about the idea behind the labels and what future releases are planned for 2017?
Jakarta: The Dubplates is more a series then a sub-label. Beat Geeks has had a break after No.5. But yes, Habibi Funk is in full effect – this is more than just a label since Jannis is also DJing under the name of Habbi Funk. We only release originals from the 70s & 80s Arabic world – though there is a band we’re about to sign with Habibi Funk which is contemporary! BRRWD is a sub-label we started with Ta-ku and Repeat Pattern – only 10inch releases by beatmakers from around the world with coherently designed artwork.
How important are the non-musical components of your releases, ie. packaging, album art and liner-notes?
Jakarta: In the beginning we just weren’t able to afford these costs in our projects, but since vinyl is not that “cheap” anymore, we usually try to include inlays/liner notes wherever it makes sense. It definitely improves the product in our opinion. We’re trying to not overdo it with the deluxe or even limited aspect. Cause we’re neither fan of deluxe editions for 25+ EUR, and also in the past we saw a lot of our limited records being sold on discogs for small fortunes by people that most likely just bought ’em to resell. That’s also not a scenario we wanna support actively.
Do you think that Cologne and Berlin have had a strong influence on your work as label people?
Jakarta: Yes of course, these two cities have had an influence but as a non-digital natives (we were born in ‘83 & ‘85) we would say that the internet had a by far stronger influence. Without it, the easiest things like sending music to different continents or just communicating to artists would be much more difficult!
What has been your biggest hit so far?
Jakarta: Single hits are definitely not our cup of tea, but of course the Kaytranada EP and Mura Masa mixtape made a lot of buzz and got a lot of plays/clicks for us.
What were your musical tastes like when you were younger?
Jakarta: Hip-hop, and we both took it from there. We really like that aspect about it, that hip-hop can lead you to a lot of different kinds of music in an organic way. Mostly by sampling.
Are there any key albums from your adolescent or early years that you find yourself revisiting and enjoying in the current era?