Keeper Of The Hip-Hop Flame, Reggie Osse AKA Combat Jack Sits To Talk Shop In An Exclusive Interview With
Keeper Of The Hip-Hop Flame, Reggie Osse AKA Combat Jack Sits To Talk Shop In An Exclusive Interview With

The Okayplayer Interview: Combat Jack Discusses Where The Battle Lines Are Drawn For Hip-Hop & Its History

Keeper Of The Hip-Hop Flame, Reggie Osse AKA Combat Jack Sits To Talk Shop In An Exclusive Interview With

Keeper of the hip-hop flame, Reggie Ossé recently sat for an exclusive interview to discuss life as Combat Jack - a champion of hip-hop culture whose love and respect for the game have coupled with a persistent thirst for the real, ultimately transforming him into one of the most important preservationists of his time. From Ivy League alum and entertainment attorney to one of the most recognizable names in digital radio, Combat Jack has taken the world by storm as the face of the Loud Speakers Network and an ambassador of black music whose interviews have ventured into the deadly waters outside the realm of commercial radio to serve up the raw, uncut and often transformative stories at the root of hip-hop's biggest moments and most iconic figures. This is the in-depth and sometimes complex story of The Combat Jack Show and the man at the center of it, who is determined to do the work it takes to tell the stories that ensure hip-hop never truly dies. There's no escaping this. Get ready for Combat.

Okayplayer: Can you talk about the history of The Combat Jack Show? How planned was the rise of the show?

Combat Jack:Dallas Penn is actually the core founder of the show. I didn’t really know anything about podcasts or internet radio. A. King approached Dallas Penn to do an online radio show. This is back in '09. And in '09, Dallas Penn and I were kind of running tandem with our respective blogs and just having a good time as this blog team. He asked, “Do you want to do this radio show?” We sat on it for like a year, then finally I was like “I wanna do it.” Dallas said “Okay, it’s going to be your baby and I’ll run shotgun.” If it wasn’t for Dallas Penn, I wouldn’t be doing this. We’re kind of like the Avengers and Dallas Penn is the Hulk of The Combat Jack Show. He’s always going to be an important part of The Combat Jack Show. We come from the same era.

When we started The Combat Jack Show it was really just a hobby. It was an experiment that turned into a hobby that turned into a passion. As an attorney, I really just got burned out with the music industry and when I became Combat Jack in 2004 as a blogger, I sensed that there was something there. As blogging lead into publishing, which lead into online radio, which lead into the podcast, it was something that continued to draw me in. I didn’t know how big we were gonna be, but I just felt that this was what I needed to do. I give this brother so many props, but I have to give credit where credit is due. I remember Dallas and I were in the studio. It was maybe our fourth or fifth episode. I didn’t think anyone was listening. Maybe 40 or 50 people were listening. After that episode Dallas and I were talking about the '80s and how we were really into cocaine in the '80’s. After the show, I got a DM from Elliott Wilson saying “Yo! The show was dope. Don’t stop.” In the world of publishing and media I always held Elliott in such a high esteem. Elliott was also the type of cat that, when it was so hectic while I was trying to get on - making that transition from being a lawyer to being in media - I could never get him on the phone. So for him to reach out and say that this little obscure podcast thing was dope? That put so much battery in my back.

Initially I really studied Howard Stern. I think there are two components to Howard Stern. There’s the zoo that goes on with his cast. I looked to that when we started to grow and add people to the lineup. Then there’s his interviews, which are really dynamic and insightful. As a rap fan, I don’t recall hearing any hip-hop interviews done in the same manner that Howard Stern conducts his interviews.

I never expected the show be this, but I wouldn’t have continued to do it if I didn’t believe that it would continue to get bigger and better.

Of course, we’re still the little podcast that could but at this point the satisfaction that I get comes from talking to individuals that I really really care about. Be it from the artistic perspective to contributions they’ve given to the culture or things that have given me joy, or perspective, etc. I got a call last week from Ice T, so it’s only getting bigger. There’s so many people that haven’t been on the show yet. I have always wanted to have Questlove on the show, Q-Tip on the show. I’ve always wanted to have Jeezy on the show. I don’t if they hear what we are doing, but to hear people of that caliber say that they fuck with the show? I’m still amazed.

OKP: Do you book guests you already know have interesting stories that you’re trying to get out or are totally surprised by the things people say once they get into the hot seat?

CJ: At this point, it’s certain labels are starting to call me and they’ll suggest artists. I’m so honored to get a call from Def Jam or Atlantic saying, “Hey, we’ve got an artist in town.” But it still comes from who I am genuinely interested in. Most of the people I’m interested in, I have some inkling as to what their story is and I want to bring that story out. I prefer old-school artists because they have such a breadth of wisdom and experience and insight. But then there’s a lot of young cats that really interest me - that really make me interested in their perspective on things. Then there are artists sometimes that I’ll have on the show without any expectations and it turns out to be something really special. I guess, to answer your question, there’s no real rhyme or reason. We just try to fill in a slot every week. We’ve been very fortunate that the people we want to interview and the people we get to sit down with continues to align with the kinds of guests we’ve already established.

This year we’ve been working to identify a pattern. We had Russell Simmons on the show earlier this year. He came in ready to talk about meditation and that’s cool, but I was like “Russell! We come from the '80s. I was there with you.” He was like, “Wait a minute. We can talk about cocaine and pussy?” Then seeing old Russell pop up and talk about those days was amazing. As we were talking, he mentioned the downtown scene and the people who helped him get in the back doors of these clubs. He mentioned Jessica Rosenblum. So then I realized I needed to interview Jessica Rosenblum. She came on and talked about when she ran Stress Management and how Talib Kweli was her intern. So then I realized I needed to get Kweli on. So there’s all of these stories that are putting together a larger puzzle.

OKP: Listening to what’s going on this season, it feels like you all are taking a very calculated approach. You’re hitting people with content that knocks you on your ass, but also preserves the culture - it’s a history of the culture from the people who created it. This is profound and possibly groundbreaking work. What does something like this mean for hip-hop down the line?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

CJ: I’m very fortunate to have lived a lot of this but my father-in-law worked in the music industry. The late, great Teddy Vann. He had a Grammy and was really up on his politics. He used to always school me about being aware of how the culture could shift at any given moment. I remember when Eminem dropped in the late-'90s. He and I would talk and I would profess to him how great Eminem was. He would always hold back from giving Eminem his dap and closer to his death, he really just opened up. He was like, “I came from the era of these greats in rock & roll. The Chuck Berry’s and the Lloyd Price’s. I came from that era and watched it completely wiped away only for Elvis to be crowned the king. I watched it get to the point that when you reference rock & roll, you don’t reference black faces.” I was like “That can’t happen now!” Our culture is so well documented, there’s no way you can just come out and say somebody’s the king of hip-hop. So he passes away and I start seeing a shift that alluded to what he was warning me about it. I don’t have a problem with white people in hip-hop. I don’t care about that, but what I do care about is the white-washing of our history. So, you have to imagine how I felt when I picked up an issue of Rolling Stone and it proclaimed Eminem the king of hip-hop. This is something that I had been taught to watch out for. Now you start hearing that hip-hop is not black music. Its “urban music.” I have this running joke with my crew and I sometimes tweet about it but it seems like hip-hop is becoming “No Country For Black Men.

I love this culture so much that I can’t allow that to happen. I was there. You’re not going to erase me. It’s not coming from my need to protect the racial integrity of the culture. This is really what happened. This is the history of it. So those people - white, black or otherwise - who’ve contributed to the culture are people we encourage to tell those stories. But we’ve got to weave all of these things together to get these things out there and paint the bigger picture. I want to cover it and I’m really grateful to be able to do it. Who the fuck am I? I’m just a fan. To be in this position, I cherish it so much. It annoys me that hip-hop and to a differing degree, black culture sort of has this stigma that it’s disposable culture. It’s not disposable. A very good friend of mine, Gabe Tolliver, reached out to me about a month ago to discuss preserving the shows. He suggested that I reach out to Harvard because they have a hip-hop archive and Cornell. I’m an alum of Cornell, so that’s on my to-do list. I plan to reach out to both of them and establish some sort of relationship with them, so that they can help to preserve the archives for educational purposes. We’ve got to preserve it. Ultimately I would love to teach. At Cornell or NYU - they have an amazing program. But all of it will come around.

OKP: What do you feel about your role in hip-hop history, given all of this. How would you define it or what would you like your legacy to be down the line?

CJ: I really want to inspire. It’s not about the grandstanding. I am hip-hop, so I do like to stunt on all of my colleagues from time to time, but I’d really love to inspire. One of the books that really inspired me years ago was Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. It wasn’t the process of getting rich that really struck me. It was that Hill interviewed a string of successful people and pulled out the stories of their individual successes, from point A to point B. I realized maybe a year or two into the show, that “Oh shit, I’m actually doing this.” Suddenly I’m interviewing people and trying to find that - like Oprah says - that “A ha!” moment that really gave them the inkling, or the notion or the gumption that they could do it. It sounds so hokey, but I really do want to inspire people and that’s where it comes from.

I spoke to RZA and he talked about he was one of the 3 youngest of 13 siblings. Single parent home, in the projects. As he’s telling me this story I could smell the piss and feel the pain in that environment. Going back to the mechanics of Think and Grow Rich, you have to know that the possibility of success was there. So, I’m like “RZA how did you see success? You’re in abject, urban squalor. How did you see success?” He said, “We were doing bad, but my mother’s brother was a successful surgeon in Atlanta. We were doing so bad that he said to my mom, ‘During the summers I’ll take your three youngest.” So RZA’s talking about leaving the projects every summer and spending his summers in a mansion in Atlanta. I realized that that was when it became possible for him. I want to get those kinds of nuggets to inspire my listeners as much as to inspire myself. Shit is hard right now. The phrase that I say at the end of the show, Dream those dreams…? I really believe in that and I want to take from everyone that I interview, a bit of their dreams becoming reality and share that with the audience. Yeah it’s great getting to talk to all these entertainers and celebrities and personalities that I enjoy and have a lot of respect for, but I want to take from them and give that inspiration to the audience.

OKP: How does hip-hop age gracefully? And does a platform like this make that transition a bit easier?

CJ: We were never at a juncture where hip-hop was forced to age gracefully. But now that hip-hop is 40 years old, you have relevant people in that age range still contributing to this culture. As long as you do what you want to do, you’re going to remain youthful. I have this thing. I believe that the older you get, the younger you should become. When I was in my twenties, I was so cynical and angry. You couldn’t tell me shit. I was so rigid and stuck. Now I’m in my forties and it’s like “Yo, relax.” Magic exists. It’s undeniable. I have to give a shout out to Elliott Wilson, because no one is running harder than him. I used to cringe at people trying to force us to compete, because I didn’t want to be pushed into the ring with him. But then I’d wake up and see him doing it. I had to keep working. Regardless of what you think of him or me at the end of the day - that’s my comrade, that’s my brother - If we’re going to age gracefully, we’re going to compete and we’re going to show these young cats how it’s done. We’re going harder than y’all. I’ve got my knees to my chest. If your knees ain’t to your chest, I don’t know what you’re doing. There’s a difference between hustling and running. Props to Puff, but I think his story fucked a lot of people up with respect to our culture...

Keeper Of The Hip-Hop Flame, Reggie Osse AKA Combat Jack Sits To Talk Shop In An Exclusive Interview With

He [Puffy] became very wealthy at a very young age and all of a sudden this mindset spread out that “If I’m not doing it by 30, I’m fucking up.” People saying they don’t sleep. Beating themselves up. There was this pressure on the younger generation to go out and get it. Just running. Do you have a game plan? Do you sit back and look at the bigger the picture?

You’ve got to trust the process. If you’re getting up and you’re moving - even if the direction it seems to be taking you seems to be so far away from your goals - you have to trust that process. When I ended my music industry career I ended up working at CitiGroup as a lawyer, but in this little cubby. I had never sat in a fucking cubby in my life and I remember thinking I was a failure. I was still writing as Combat Jack and I had just got my book deal. I was still doing it, but I was wearing corny shirts and clocking in at 9 o’clock. Dealing with that water cooler shit that is really a thing in corporate America. Our offices at the time were right next to the Hammerstein Ballroom. All these crazy events were going on and I would come out and see all of my colleagues stunting in Jordans and I’m in these tight slacks. I would literally walk the other way, because I didn’t want them to see me like this. But 7 years later, I’m still here. You’ve got to trust the process.

OKP: So let's talk Dame Dash x The Combat Jack Show. The episodes are great and really compelling from front to back. Then shortly afterward, Dame Dash is upset. What happened?

CJ: My relationship with Dame Dash goes over 20 years. And my relationship with Dame Dash as it has played out on The Combat Jack Show has been exactly what my relationship with Dame Dash has been in real life. I represented Dame when I was in my twenties and he was maybe 18 or 19. Dame’s intellect is incredible. You can’t argue with him. Even if you’re right, you cannot win an argument with him because he’s so sharp. He’s also very mercurial and he has this element - even when he was on top - of just being mean. So, even when I’m running with Dame there’s a little anticipation about when things may or may not turn. I’m not trying to condescend, but Damon is what you see.

So, the first time we had Dame on the show, I hadn’t really spoken to him in over 10 years because I was like,  I’m not fucking with Damon Dash. But, that’s Damon Dash and it would be interesting to have him on the show. I’m not the only one who felt like that. Just Blaze felt like that. I remember meeting Dame like a week before the show. I came back and told them, regardless of what you think of Damon you can’t just go head to head with Damon. Before we did the first episode with Just Blaze I got the feeling that Just was going to get at him and something in the back of my mind told me to pull him aside and advise him not to go in there going at Dame. I didn’t follow that and then you saw what happened. Dame and Just started going at it. I really am anal about keeping things under control, but when I saw that I couldn’t control it I realized it was great and I let it go.

The second time Dame came on the show, he called me. He saw what was going on with Funkmaster Flex, Joey IE and Hot 97 - all this culture vulture shit. He knew that Flex was supposed to air him out on Hot 97 and he’s on this whole independent thing, so he reached out to me to use our platform. Dame came on the show. It was legendary. It was epic. It was crazy. It got us what we wanted, but then Dame started making plans for the next show and the next show. Then I got a call from Joey IE and he was like “I want to come on your show. I don’t necessarily want to go at Damon, but I feel I at least need to come on your show.” Dame’s position was like, “Yo, fuck that. I want to come up there.” Joey kept saying to me, “I just want to make sure that if I come on the show, I have an opportunity to come on the show.” It’s my show. It’s not Damon Dash’s show. I give everybody a platform, whether it’s a great episode or not. I’m holding onto my integrity as the head of the show. Damon got upset that I chose to have Joey IE on the show. He was also like, “Make sure I know if Joey IE is going to be on the show. If Joey IE comes on the show, call me.” I hadn’t gotten any confirmation from Joey until like the day before. When I got the confirmation I was like, “Yo, I don’t need this energy. Let me just deliver this episode.” The minute I put up the episode, Dame was on it. I was relieved when Dame started coming at me. I’ve known Dame for years and like I said, I get nervous when I’m really good with Dame. Because of that conflict, the episode did even better. I got a call from Kim Osorio and she said “You’re winning because you’re covering the news and you are the news.” I’ve been doing this for 4 years. I kind of have a sense of the temperature that comes with being on a platform and I embrace Dame’s message - culture vultures, people raping the culture, all that - I just hope that he doesn’t burn his bandwidth. I want his voice to be so strong. I don’t want people to say, “Oh, this dude is talking. Here he goes again!” There’s a slight difference between remaining steady and strong on your platform or just deducting power from it. I really stand behind Damon, I just hope he doesn’t burn out his platform.

OKP: Can you talk a bit about the Loud Speakers Network? And having found your niche, what would you say is the way forward for the music business and the business of music journalism?

CJ: Urban pop radio is not servicing our community. I’m sorry to say, but it’s not servicing our community. As a result, the trend has become podcasts. But when you look at podcasts, the phenomenon of podcasts and podcasting technology, it’s traditionally been very middle class/upper class white. It’s very sterile. The Loud Speakers Network is run by myself and a partner. My partner realized there was a void with regard to people of color. I’m sure there have been other podcasts out there. With the success of The Combat Jack Show - knowing that we live in a society where people don’t want to hear more than 5 minutes of soundbites, here we are putting out 1, 2, 3 hours of content and people are locking in. You realize that there’s something there.

I’m a middle-aged guy. My audience is growing, but our culture is wide and broad. So we talked about how to diversify, capture and embrace everything that this culture is. The first person we saw beyond The Combat Jack Show was Kid Fury. Kid Fury is undeniable. He’s next generation. He’s at the forefront. He’s got his youth and humor on his side. He and Crissle are breaking with convention. Here we are, the old guys playing the "Pause" game, but I don’t mean that. That’s how I came up, but as a network I want to show that we’re not about that. We’re much bigger than that. So, we put The Read out and that show flew. That show quadrupled our numbers and when we saw that it was a hit, the mainstream podcasts began calling to find out what we were doing. Even now if you look at some of the top mainstream podcasts, their numbers might be 175 downloads or listens per week. The Read is doing 150,000 per week, with no guests...

Keeper Of The Hip-Hop Flame, Reggie Osse AKA Combat Jack Sits To Talk Shop In An Exclusive Interview With

Then, we released The Brilliant Idiots with Charlamagne and Andrew Schultz. We banked on their respective audiences and popularity and they have been kicking ass also. The numbers are great. We have become the Def Jam of the podcast space. The experts are trying to copy what we do. You had the Profiles, the Sleeping Bag Records, Select Records and Jive Records, but nobody of the urban generation held their stake in hip-hop or black culture like Def Jam did. That’s what we’re becoming. We’re starting to get calls from some of your favorite personalities and celebrities, looking for deals with the Loud Speakers Network.

So, thanks to The Read, the door for advertising was opened for us. And thanks to The Brilliant Idiots. Then there’s The Combat Jack Show. It’s funny. I don’t know anything about journalism. I’ve never taken a class in journalism. I don’t know what journalism is. So, when I hear people tell me that what I’m doing for journalism is amazing, I take it with a grain of salt because I’m not a journalist. I don’t know what the implications are for journalism. What I do know is that there are very few places where you can have pure un-agenda’d conversations with your subject. Yeah, I want to get to the juicy parts too, but I really want the totality of your story. This is barbershop talk with the actual subject in the room. This is black talk. This is urban talk. I love Black Twitter for putting that on a platform. People want to say that this is a new phenomenon. No, this is how we talk. This is how ignorant and brilliant we are, at the same damn time.

OKP: Who are your favorite artists right now? What are you listening to?

CJ: I’ve been listening to DOOM a lot. DOOM was very therapeutic for me when I left the industry. I felt spent and I discovered DOOM once I was like, “I’m not listening to the radio anymore. I’m not listening to this or that.” So there’s been a lot of DOOM. I’ve been listening to a lot of Jay Z - the best that ever did it. I get the backlash, but I love Rick Ross. Jeezy. I love the Pharaohe Monch album, PTSD. I’ve been listening to a lot of Cormega. A lot of Public Enemy. My guilty pleasure right now is Migos. We could sit around and have a line around the block protesting their message. It’s very clear that we’re at this juncture where we have to ask how much leeway we continue to have with trap music and drill and all of these things that obviously affect our kids. You definitely see the relationship between this music and the violence in our major urban centers. We can’t tolerate glorifying the killing of each other or making profit from that. Glorifying things to the point that you question our conscience or humanity. We are better than that. I wish I could talk to Ross about how effective he is when he’s spitting that knowledge. Jay Z and Jay Electronica. I think it’s at this point where the caliber of artists that we have have been trained in this environment where they are afraid of the very media that they need. You hear their conscience speaking to them and I believe they may be testing the waters from time to time. But yo, brother. If you really spit that shit you’re still going to make money and you’re going to see a shift. Your legacy’s going to be preserved and it is going to be that much more important. Otherwise, I’ve been listening to Pink Floyd, Steely Dan and a lot of house music. I’m a huge house fan. I put out a house mixtape recently. Paradise Garage, circa 1986 to 1987, Larry Levan. Classic garage music. I’ve been listening to a lot of shit just to soothe my soul and really take me away from how intense this juncture is right now in black music.

OKP: How do you feel about the public’s recent challenge to major radio? Do you feel like it has legs to go anywhere?

CJ: You know, I really do appreciate the channel that Ebro’s opened. The honest back and forth that we’ve had. I think it’s gotten a little too intense because it got a little slap-boxey, so I had to disengage from that. But I do appreciate that. When you’re talking to someone who is the program director. Somebody that has so much influence over a major outlet and they’re really listening to what I’m saying. I’m giving him his props and he’s giving me my props. He didn’t have to do that. I think that even if it hasn’t been executed in terms of changing the format or changing the messages, it’s already planted in the consciousness. The elephant is already in the room. You could play "murder murder, death death, kill kill, bitch bitch" all day long, but you and I have had these conversations. A lot of these guys are in these corporate castles that were once so well protected that they could really ignore the masses. But the drum of social media is so loud that they can’t ignore the call for change.

I don’t know what’s going to happen but I love that they know the pressure is on. That’s a big change from seven years ago, where the public wasn’t being heard at all. We’re at a juncture where we need a new code of conduct. You can’t erase those that revel in ratchetness, but we have to find a way to make it clear that this is not all that we are. There should be some diversity. There should be Migos and Jay Electronica and everything in between. I mean, where is love? I grew up on the O’Jays and Stevie Wonder. The Sylvers and The Jacksons. Love was so important. I’m not just talking about the slow jams, but everything that celebrates the love between a black man and a black woman. Where is that? I was in the car listening to the radio with my wife one Saturday and every song was degrading women. I was like, “Damn, we don’t love our women no more? We don’t love?” If anybody loves harder, it’s us. Why aren’t we talking about love? Is there a stigma against being a young dude and being about that? You could be a player out there, but where’s the love? We are so savage right now that we can’t embrace black love? I’ve got a daughter and I’m concerned for her. We’re on the precipice right now and we really need to get back to talking about love. To act like loving each other is important. It’s sad, but we are better than that. At the end of the day, it’s never too late.

OKP: Do you think that the groundswell that is pressuring major radio will force some diversity back into that platform?

Keeper Of The Hip-Hop Flame, Reggie Osse AKA Combat Jack Sits To Talk Shop In An Exclusive Interview With

CJ: I don’t think we can force radio, but we can force our artists. I’m not going to put it on Jay Z, but he’s shown us that he knows better. Kanye knows better. Ross knows better. At a certain point, as painful as it is we have to look our favorite artists in the face and be like, “We can’t do this anymore, bruh.” I would hate to go there because I don’t believe in censorship of music, but there’s a fine line between censorship and preserving life. I don’t give a fuck who you are or how hot your shit is, we just can’t do this anymore. There has to be some accountability. It won’t be with radio because radio is corporate and concerned with their bottom line. There are enough powerful platforms that are not fully controlled by corporate radio. All we got is us. We have to put the pressure on each other. On these artists. We have to have that difficult conversation. When you are the only one making a profit and the cost of that profit is the destruction of your people, you are no different than those people who sold your people into slavery. Right now there’s a school and music industry pipeline to the prisons. I could be the most conscious dude in the room, but if I’m full of liquor and I’m listening to gun talk my whole aura is going to be off. So, we have to take our artists to task. To publicly disagree with them. And the argument about artists not being role models is over. If you’ve got a platform and you have more than 20 fans, you’re a role model. They are placing their trust in you. I’m rocking with this Jeezy album, but that’s my cut off. After that I’m taking it back.

OKP: What are your thoughts about the marriage of hip-hop and tech? The Beats deal with Apple, etc?

CJ: There is a great episode I had with tech entrepreneur Anil Dash. He said that the disconnect between black people and the tech world happens because black culture doesn’t occur to the people in tech. He said racism is baked into the foundations of technology. So, the tech world is hermetically sealed with whites and those that pass in that arena. It doesn’t occur to them that these apps and devices are going to trickle out, but when we get those things in our hands our creativity and brilliance changes the direction of their technological platforms. Then they sit back in amazement. I think it’s an uphill battle regarding their perception of us. We are in a white supremacist society and white supremacy is a religion. You can’t easily convert somebody from their religion. You can’t convert someone’s thinking that easily. Even when they don’t feel that they walk around with it. That white is superior to black. It’s the popular opinion. But we have proven over and over again that we are some of the earliest adaptors of technology. I mean, when that Motorola two-way pager hit, everyone had one and we flipped that platform.

I think it was HipHopWired that did the Black Twitter list. I was one of the guys on this Black Twitter list and one of my boys was like, “Why they gotta marginalize Twitter by singling out Black Twitter? Why are they putting that stigma on us?” I had to say hold on. I’m proud to represent Black Twitter and if anyone is putting a stigma on black, it is you. We can’t change other people’s perception of us, but we have to get our shit together. I have to become more well versed on it, but we also have to pay attention what is going on with net neutrality. I know these motherfuckers on the other side are thinking, “Why did we give black people Twitter?” There’s so much power in the ability to join together and be unapologetically black and demand justice or raise our voices across platforms. I want to break that corporate wall. I remember having technical problems with my site that I couldn’t afford to have and I was having trouble getting help from the company that hosts my site. I was calling and being patient with the automated system, but I was dying. One day I just said “fuck them” on Twitter and two minutes later, it was like “What can we do for you, sir?” I was like “WHAT?” All I needed to do was tweet? Next thing I know they’re calling me sir this, sir that. I was out. I had to discontinue that service. Yo, Internets. Please keep bringing the public embarrassment to these companies. It’s so difficult sometimes to be heard. Look at the changes that social media has made already. You cannot deny the role social media played in getting President Obama elected. You cannot deny the fact that social media played a strong role in at least getting the proper attention for Trayvon Martin. We totally got fucked over with regard to that, but they weren’t even going to try George Zimmerman until people on social media began to speak out. That’s why I pray that we pay attention and respond intelligently to this net neutrality issue because I know that they know this is too much power that we’ve got in our hands. I really don’t know the full details of the Apple/Beats deal. All I know is how it has affected me personally. Usually when I need some headphones I can reach out to Karen Civil to get some help with a replacement. The last time I reached she was like, “With this Apple deal I’m not sure that I can get it to you anymore.” I was like, “Damn, Damn, Damn!”

OKP: How do you feel about YouTube and SoundCloud shifting away from independent music and making moves that negatively affect indy artists reliant upon their platforms?

CJ: I don’t like that. Our primary platform is SoundCloud. They have been very good to the Loud Speakers network. They reached out to us to say, “You’re changing the complexion of SoundCloud and we love that.” We are really appreciative of that. Also the ease of access available with that platform is invaluable. If we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t be where we are today. If it’s going to become a lot more difficult for the indy artist or even the individual to get on SoundCloud and make some noise, I don’t think that that is ideal. I think that it’s an obvious attempt at monopoly on the part of the majors and if it starts to trickle down to these types of platforms, that’s not good. I wouldn’t be able to do The Combat Jack Show if I didn’t have access to these kinds of platforms.

OKP: What do you think will happen if access to these platforms changes that drastically or is wrested from the people?

CJ: Technology is a virus. If they shut down that avenue, there will always be someone else ready to fill the void as long as it’s viable. People are going to look for something else. They shut down all of those download sites back in the day and people found a way around that. Some people are still allegedly getting their music through alternative means.

OKP: What can we look forward to from The Combat Jack Show? Do you have a bucket list of interview subjects?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

CJ: I want to interview 50 Cent and Puffy. You can say what you want to say about both of those men, but with regard to their cultural impact and business savvy, they are huge. Puffy is the best that ever did it and I love when he talks that shit. We got Russell Simmons to talk that shit on The Combat Jack Show, I can’t wait for the day that Puffy comes through to do the same. I want Barack Obama. People don’t understand the relationship between hip-hop and Barack Obama. I read The Big Payback by Dan Charnas. There’s a chapter about The Source Magazine that talks about how President Obama was in the same room as the magazine’s founders during the publication’s formative years at Harvard. They asked him to get down with the magazine, but he had other aspirations. That’s crazy. I want to talk to him. I think when D-Nice was on the show, that that was one of our best episodes. He talked about spinning at the inauguration and being excited just to see Barack Obama and when Obama stopped to acknowledge him he said, “They call you D-Nice!” Then he said, “Michelle loves your records, too.” It’s a testament to how big this thing is.

That’s why I’m so against ageism in hip-hop. I’ve been in this thing since '89. My whole career has been inspired by hip-hop. I have a beautiful family. My daughter is on the cover of TIME Magazine. We’re living the American dream, but the lens that I see those things through is hip-hop. This list is endless, but those are the three. Puffy, 50 Cent, Barack Obama. Also, Mike Tyson. He and I are the same age. We were partying in the same clubs. I want to talk to '80s Mike. I had a conversation on Twitter about who was the first athlete to represent hip-hop. People said Michael Jordan. He had that aesthetic, but he wasn’t a hip-hop dude. Mike Tyson was a world champion with a gold tooth, a moon part and he had a Dapper Dan outfit. That brother was Brooklyn. I want to get to that era of Mike Tyson. Of course, LL Cool J. The pressure is on for me to interview KRS-One and Rakim and those guys. But for now, those are the guys on my list. 50, Puff, Barack Obama and Mike Tyson.

OKP: Any parting words you want to leave us with?

CJ: If you look at every other culture, what they hold sacred to them is family. I want to say that our wealth and the survival of our people come from preserving the black family. We have got to work on that. Black men and black women. We have to work this out. All we got is us. The more we drag each other through the mud publicly, the more we impede progress. It’s bad enough that we’ve got our young soldiers out there killing each other. When we’re not protecting the most important things - the things we’ve fought for through slavery and the Civil Rights era - and we’re not discussing the sanctity of the black family, that’s dangerous. That scares me. Black men, you’ve got to love your women. Black women you’ve got to love your men. And you have to love your kids, B. We fight at home. Sometimes you have to put the iPhones down, turn everything off and sit down and talk. Share a meal. We have to look out for each other. We have to take it back to our principles. It really does take a village. We have to take care of our kids. Chuck D says, “We moved from a culture of we, to me.” and this “Me” culture got us all twisted. Again, all we got is us.

I’ve been pushing that. A couple of my close white friends have been asking me about that. “Why are you saying that? It’s so divisive.” I had to think about it. Why is it that every time black people talk about unity we’re seen as divisive? As much as this country has done to divide us? It’s that time. White people have got each other. I’m not saying that we’re not together, but at the end of the day for black people in terms of our survival and success, it’s just us. As long as it’s a matter of us versus them, we’re not going to get it together. We have to look inward.

Right now it’s the fourth quarter for black people and we are down by some points. We have got to take accountability and have those family and community discussions that help us to improve from the inside out. It’s crucial. The reality is, not all of us are going to make it. This country is bringing out tanks on our people right now. We’re mourning (Michael Brown) and they’re bringing out tanks. Where are we? We have to change that perception. And we have to be prepared for the fact that if we succeed at that, they are still going to come after us. They came after us when we were excellent. When we ran Black Wall Street. They came after us when we had Rosewood. They come after us. That’s how it is. All we got is us. I’m not saying “They” to be divisive, but we have to cognizant of the fact that we are alone in ensuring our ultimate success. The last thing I want to say is the same thing I say at the end of every show:

Dream those dreams then man up and live those dreams because a life without dreams is black & white and the universe flows in technicolor and surround sound.