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Combat Jack: A Legacy Of Journalistic Excellence

Yesterday (December 21) the world was shocked to hear of the untimely passing of one of the culture’s most prominent…

Yesterday (December 21) the world was shocked to hear of the untimely passing of one of the culture’s most prominent and crucial historians, Reggie Osse, better known as Combat Jack. His death came just over two months after it was announced that he was diagnosed with colon cancer — a deadly disease that claimed the lives of 50,260 Americans in 2017 alone (with an additional 135,430 Americans diagnosed this year).

Starting his career as a legal intern for the storied Def Jam Recordings in 1989, he spent the 90s (up until 2004) as a music attorney, most notably working with Roc-A-Fella Records (among MANY others). He later spent time as the managing editor of The Source Magazine and lent pen game to some (major) blogs — including his own. It was his podcast though, The Combat Jack Show, that ultimately solidified his place within the culture and helped to pave the lane to brand new industry that has since seen a new wave of strong voices.

The in-depth interviews that Reggie was able to get on his show, coupled with his well-spoken demeanor and incredible microfiche of Hip Hop knowledge allowed him to — since launching the show in 2010 — create a rich archive of stories. These have effectively helped to fill in many gaps in golden era happenings while digging into more contemporary artists and brands pushing the culture forward.

We’ve since become acclimatized to a number of (new) staples in the Hip Hop storytelling game, such as DJ EFN and N.O.R.E’s Drink Champs (currently airing on Revolt). Reggie, though, set the blueprint.

The stories were crazy. D-Nice described to Reggie in astonishing detail the events that led to the shooting (and death) of DJ Scott La Rock. John Forte told the story of his rise alongside the Fugees — and eventual downfall after a massive drug bust. Ice-T gave an excellent first-hand account of how gangsta-rap developed organically in 1980s LA. That, of course, is on top of more guests like J.Cole and Big Krit. The show’s seven-year run built up an incredible library that will forever teach and inspire a new generation of both fans and fresh journalistic voices.

From the success of The Combat Jack Show, he built an empire, Loud Speakers Network which includes other notable shows like The Brilliant Idiots with Charlamagne Tha God and Andrew Schulz, and (of course) Tax Season with the notorious Tax Stone. His roster boasts 1.2 million listens per month and regular appearances on Apple’s Top Podcast Charts.

This year, he had been riding particularly high after possibly his greatest body of work, Mogul, which was the incredibly detailed life and times of iconic music executive Chris Lighty — as told by the people that knew him best. Touching on topics such as mental health and domestic abuse, it unbiasedly traversed the good, bad, and ugly in the music industry, while walking listeners through digestible chapters in the life of a man who profoundly steered the most glorious and arguably essential years in the growth of the culture.

It was, without question, one of the best listening experiences I’ve personally had in many years.

As Hip Hop is getting older, we’re increasingly being reminded of our mortality. Earlier this year, I had to (sadly) write about the death of Jay “Icepick” Jackson, a producer and A&R who was instrumental in the Ruff Ryders movement, who passed away from prostate cancer. According to Swizz Beatz, who is the Godfather of Jay’s son, his final request was that men are made aware of how important it is to see the doctor and check up on their health.

Perhaps — like Jay — Reggie can also serve as a reminder that we need to keep a close eye on our health. Scarily enough, 1 in 21 men are at risk of developing colon cancer. If caught  early, about 92% people with stage I colon cancer are given relative 5-year survival rate.

He will forever serve as the benchmark for Hip Hop journalism that all of us in the game should aspire to achieve. As well, he exuded a level of love and detail that readers and listeners should demand. Reggie’s spirit is a tremendous loss for the culture — he leaves behind four children, many (many) friends and a legacy of fantastic content. Our condolences to all those personally affected by his loss.

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
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#IndieSpotlight: MusicbyKO “Life In Element” Is The Soundtrack For Pre-Fall Blues

A new LP floated across my desk by an Oakland, California, singer/rapper named MusicbyKO. A warm blend of jazzy 90s…

A new LP floated across my desk by an Oakland, California, singer/rapper named MusicbyKO. A warm blend of jazzy 90s Hip Hop and a cadence reminiscent of acts like Isaiah Rashad. Having shared stages with names like J.I.D. and Earthgang, he appears focused and composed — as evidenced by Life In Element, his new LP.

With a very consistent sound, KO slowly unravels a series of tracks that let you into his world just enough — without blatant TMI, or inducing a “yeah right” effect. What listeners get are the tales of a low-level drug dealer (this is both referenced and downplayed at different points), who is taking a chance on a dream, as he slowly but surely uncovers that everything the glimmers isn’t gold, and just because someone calls you brother, it doesn’t mean they have your back — or at the very least even your best interests at heart.

It’s an almost paranoid sense that snakes are roaming the grass that is revisited numerous times throughout the project, like on the song “La La Land,” “Empathy,” and “Let Me Talk With Ya/While I’m Here,” where he notes “I Know niggas right now that want to see me fall.”

He also paints a picture of himself as someone who overextends himself — such as on “Too Much Falls Short,” where he preaches that failing to leave your comfort zone is a fail before even leaving the running block.

That’s just the first few layers of this project; touching on socio-economic issues facing the black community nationwide, and even relationships (see the super dope “Spirit Rise”), he creates a lot of depth. Though the vibe is consistent — almost bordering on redundant — it manages to remain engaging. Also, that instrumental on “A Devil’s Advocate Corner” is a bucket of flame emojis doused in gasoline.

Like a bride on her wedding day, Life In Element is something old and something new; all that Hip Hop is dead shit goes out teh window when you hear younger cats with cohesive projects like this. With enough amazing quotables to create a success Instagram daily quote account (“I couldn’t heal in eth place I got sicker”) and an admirable ear for production, MusicbyKO NEEDS to be on your radar. It’s just good for the soul.


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Video Spotlight: Mean Joe Scheme & Optiks

In this video spotlight, Joe and Optiks discuss the new project, the state of east coast hip-hop, and what to expect from BEAMS. Be sure to check out both singles below, and follow @meanjoescheme and @thisisoptiks on your socials.

NYC artists Mean Joe Scheme and Optiks are putting the finishing touches on BEAMS, their new collaborative project. If “Cannonball” and “Hands Down” are any indication, we’re in for a viscous slice of hybrid hip-hop- a fusion of beats, rhymes, and anxious 2018 energy.

In this video spotlight, Joe and Optiks discuss the new project, the state of east coast hip-hop, and what to expect from BEAMS. Be sure to check out both singles below, and follow @meanjoescheme and @thisisoptiks on your socials.

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Eminem: Kamikaze- A Relapse of Epic Proportion

Poor Eminem. He’s damned if he do and damned if he don’t. His last album, 2017’s pop-heavy Revival, flopped by…

Poor Eminem. He’s damned if he do and damned if he don’t. His last album, 2017’s pop-heavy Revival, flopped by way of social media yet wasn’t a total disaster. It moved units and afforded him headlining spots on the summer festival circuit- but it didn’t give the fans what they needed. Or did it?

This conundrum surrounds Eminem’s career. When he’s on there’s only a handful of rappers alive who can compete with his pen and his fury. But when he bogs down projects with introspection- giving us a break from his hyper-aggro screaming at the mic- it feels like we’ve been cheated. Stans can’t deal with the sappy pop-crossovers, and today’s charts simply do not have space for good old-fashioned rap acrobatics. So what’s an aging top-five-dead-or-alive rapper to do?

Marshall Mathers unleashed Kamikaze as his response to the Twitter army (and critics) who condemned him- an unexpected and venomous (although carefully measured) surprise album packed with more syllables than a semester’s worth of English-as-a-second language classes. As we all secretly hoped for, rappers ain’t safe from Em’s verbal barrage of double and triple time bars on Kamikaze, and if you have time to unpack these 13 tracks you’ll find some genuine heat.

Unfortunately, if you really unpack these ferocious bars you’ll find a grumpy old man rapping for the simple sake of reminding us how technically skilled he truly is. The problem is we’ve known that for ages. Reverting back to early 2000’s Eminem complete with the use of “faggot”- his favorite homophobic slur on the otherwise bulletproof “Fall”- does little to contribute to his relevance in 2018.

There are a few maniac standouts on Kamikaze, songs that young rappers should study for the intricate art of word play and cadence (check “The Ringer”, and “Not Alike” featuring Royce Da 5’9). Yet, those lessons are harder to learn when it’s impossible for the listener to catch their breath. For most of the record, Em is in such rapid-fire mode that you absolutely have to run back verses and entire songs to truly digest his messages. Rap nerds and old heads will revel in the task, but is that what the game needs these days? I’d argue no

Kamikaze is a rare full-on barrage of supernatural MC’ing; but it comes and goes without much meaning when the target becomes Machine Gun Kelly-who tweeted about Eminem’s attractive daughter back in 2012. Is there really a hip-hop fan alive willing to side with MGK on this one? And if you’re looking for the most lukewarm, mediocre diss track (possibly ever recorded) check out MGK’s response, “Rap Devil”, a headscratcher that splits its time attempting to discredit Em while simultaneously praising his longevity and abilities. You either want the smoke or you don’t? Like it or not, the whole thing feels like a charade.

Eminem has always carried a chip on his shoulder. When the critics go low, he goes lower. While Kamikaze is far from a low point in what will be viewed someday as a catalog of studio hits and misses, it’s far from the return to form that it was intended to be. He might not be afraid to take a stand, but it’s become tiring trying to figure out exactly who Eminem is standing against.

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#IndieSpotlight: Noah Wright Is Back With His Latest Visual “Cameras”

Noah Wright is on a run with his latest visual, “Cameras,” and we’re here for it!

27-year-old American Cedar Rapids MC Noah Wright is back with another super dope video treatment. First popping onto our radar back in March with his short film “Valley of the Sun” — and with his super dope LP Love, Noah. From opening for Rakim, Rick Ross, Futuristic and working with Young Money’s very own Cory Gunz, he’s definitely on a run, and we’re here for it.

Relevant: Check out our March 2018 Noah Wright feature

His latest video for his sure-shot single “Cameras” is next level creative. It begins with a plot reminiscent of the iconic episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air when Will and Buddy were trying to be in the BBD video being shot while Phil and Viv were away. In this video, the cleaner keeps trying to be in the shot, interrupting the shoot to the point that Noah storms off. That’s the opening skit, though. As the actual video kicks off, we’re introduced to gorgeous models, a luxury car, and that same interrupting cleaner is playing out a virtual reality plotline that eventually intertwines with his performance shots.

It’s the type of creativity we’ve come to expect from Noah who’s been dropping some fire lately. The short and sweet “El Chapo,” which he dropped back in June, and the intensely powerful visual for “No Room” have been building his profile — his quality is next level.

Check out “Cameras” above, and be sure to follow Noah via Twitter.

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Fly From The 518: Abs01ute and Shyste Pack Style and Substance Into Debut Concept Album

Travel 150 miles north of the Big Apple on I-87 and you’ll hit New York’s Capital City, Albany. Amongst the...