Welcome to the final week of UNSUNG, a four-part series of articles celebrating Black History Month at TIDAL Read. In this roundup we highlight some of our favorite producers, the beatmakers and musical auteurs who shape the records we love out of the spotlight. Also be sure to check out our surveys of underrated musicians, vocalists and songwriters/composers. – Ed.
From Brampton, Ontario, here comes WondaGurl. Born Ebony Naomi Oshunrinde in 1996, she began making beats when she was a preteen, and has become a prolific and versatile producer at just 23. Her most prominent placement is probably Travis Scott’s “Antidote,” the mosh-pit anthem that propelled Scott into the vanguard of pop. For Drake and Lil Wayne, WondaGurl created the urgent, relentless “Used To,” from the former’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Most recently, for Pop Smoke’s Meet the Woo 2, she produced “Christopher Walking” and “Dreaming.” Both are cavernous, dazzling and bold — fitting platforms for the late Brooklyn rapper’s easy charisma.
Since he was a high school student in Kingston, Jamaica, DJ Frass has been musically inclined. His early mixtapes caught the attention of dancehall artist Buju Banton, who gave Frass some exclusive drops and dubplates and encouraged other top artists like Bounty Killer to do likewise. Inspired by their support, Frass continued his musical journey, touring the world with dancehall star Mavado in the mid-2000s, during the height of dancehall’s Gully vs. Gaza war. Paying his dues during that epic musical rivalry, Frass earned Mavado’s enduring loyalty. When Frass teamed up with Rvssian in 2009 to release his first production, a various-artists project called the “Clearance” riddim, it was only natural that Mavado was the first artist to lay vocals on the track.
Over a decade later DJ Frass may not be a household name, but he’s one of the most influential producers in Jamaica, pushing reggae and dancehall in new creative directions. “Big up the whole of the elder them,” Frass told Reshma B, TIDAL’s reggae and dancehall editor. “Big up all those who come set the pace. We try make a different thing in dancehall right now because we can’t do what everybody else did.” He executive produced I-Octane’s album My Journey as well as New Level Unlocked, the critically acclaimed debut album from breakout star Alkaline. “Alkaline is one of the baddest young artists,” Frass said. “Him full of melody, and him full of lyrics and him have the image.” Frass has also produced hits with rising star Jahmiel, a member of the MVP collective along with Alkaline and Mavado.