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.