The Grammy-nominated and four-time Carolina Music Award-winning Producer of The Year, Jerard “J Manifest” Wiggins, has worked with some of the hip-hop industry’s biggest names. Money Bagg Yo, Whiz Khalifa, Rick Ross, and Young Dolph. Just to name a few. Earning him the title of super-producer.
But according to J Manifest, coming from Rock Mount, North Carolina. A small town of 54,000 people. Reaching the heights of becoming a well-known producer in the rap game offers slim to no chances.
“It’s pretty difficult coming from a small town like that,” J Manifest says. “Dreams of being a mega-producer or a super-producer were next to none.”
J gravitated towards music in 1993 at the age of 13. Soaking up the game from his sister’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s brother. As the two were part of a local rap group. It was a beneficial situation for J Manifest. With the father of the brothers owning the only recording studio in town.
“They would bring me to the studio a whole lot, and I would sit and watch them write,” explains J. “I was a sponge soaking up everything they did in the studio.”
The untimely death of the brothers caused the brother’s father to take J under his wing. Where he learned how to engineer, create a crisp live sound, and the art of music producing.
Gaining years of knowledge and staying on a consistent grid. J landed on Rick Ross’s 2014 Grammy-nominated studio album, “Mastermind.” Producing one of the album’s most popular songs. “Drug Dealers Dream.”
“In 2012-2013, Ross was doing an afterparty here in Raleigh, North Carolina,” J says. With Ross being one of my favorite artists. I was like, I’d like to get a beat with him.”
Equipped with a couple of CDs and a flash drive, J Manifest was ready to get his beats in the hands of the Bawse. But as you can imagine, getting close to Rick Ross is highly unlikely. But in true hustler fashion, J took a different approach to get his beats to Ross.
“I remember in one of Rick Ross’s interviews, he talked about his manager Alex “Gucci Pucci” Bethune. I saw Gucci Pucci and figure if I can get it to the manager, then we got something,” J Manifest continues. “I get to Alex, and he declines the CD. He refuses the flash drive. But in a loud ass club, he shouted out his email. I don’t know how the f**k I remember that. But I kept flooding their email for about nine months. After nine months, he hit me back. Gucci Pucci was like they recorded a lot of songs to the records I sent. I was like, alright, bet. I did make a connection. And then, about three months later, I get word that one of the records would make the album. Shout out to Ross and the MMG family. That was a blessing. It was a great thing. It opened a lot of doors for me,” says J Manifest.
Capitalizing on his accolades and experience. J is giving up-and-coming producers a path to reach a high level of success. Through his company Legion Of Muzik, J helps up-coming-producers who don’t have many outlets get their beats to high-caliber artists in the game.
“I’ve been there before. I know how it is,” J says. “I’d like to take those guys and help them get placements. So, they can get a good start in their producing career. And what I do is, I take the requests I receive from artists that may need a hook, a beat, or a beat and a hook. I take the protégée beats and add them in a pool of records that I’m submitting. And that creates opportunity for them to land a placement.”
But with anything worth having. You have to grind to get it. And you have to grind to keep it. Legion of Muzik is for those that are hungry and wants to be the best version of themselves. When it comes to producing.
“I’ll be running my scouting report. Checking on you. Making sure you’re teachable and hungry.,” J says. “And then we go from there.”
Ali Bouldin is a freelance writer within the Black and Hip-Hop culture. With featured articles in multiple publications.