Combat Jack x Vice On Race & Transparency In Hip-Hop [Interview]
The Combat Jack Show is a breath of fresh air for hip-hop fans looking for a voice of realism in a genre that is rife with fantastic displays of egotism and the occasional case of plain, old-fashioned frontin. Enter Combat Jack AKA Reggie Ossé – an industry vet who has learned and lived the rap game from the inside out. From his earliest days as an intern at Def Jam to his time as an industry “super attorney,” Ossé has seen and heard enough to approach the game with a fresh and less popular perspective – an honest one. In a recent interview with Noisey, he reflects on his experiences and the much touchier subject of race in determining the slant and efficacy of hip-hop journalism – a discussion that has reached the point of controversy since the publication of the interview, as consumers and stewards of the culture debate the fairness of the perceived accusation that reporting is somehow better or more valid when the analysis is coming from a white journalist whose emotional and cultural ties may not allow for the romantic egotism that hip-hop benefits from in the collective memory of black American men – a group who often find themselves lionized only within the hallowed halls of the breakbeat culture and are therefore understandably loyal to the task of maintaining their house of cards (something the biting realism and insider’s perspective of Combat Jack’s personal experience stands to contrast). His thoughts prove he is far from a shrinking violet on the matter.
Noisey: It’s interesting that even though there are so many voices in the hip-hop media, the majority of it is definitely spoon-fed by like press releases and PR agents. And to be honest, I believe that most of the best rap journalism has been coming from nerdy white guys. That is, until your show came around. Your team comes has a very authentic, New York perspective and you personally have a ton of experience in the hip-hop industry, it’s very refreshing.
Combat Jack: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I appreciate that. I worked in the business for years and I got burned out because I saw myself as a therapist to all these rappers and producers, just from hearing about all of their dysfunctions. I originally left the industry with a bad taste in my mouth. I think that rappers, black males in particular, become either some super-bad nigga, or some incredibly hot lover, a bad guy through the media. You don’t get to see what our daily lives are. We live the same shit, we breathe the same air, we go through the same girlfriend problems, we go through the same neuroses that everybody else does, and if we could just really cut all the bullshit and examine that, then I think that’s the new form of rap entertainment, man.
N: Agreed. I was hesitating to draw a racial divide when it comes to hip-hop journalists, but it’s true. There has been a significant lack of like transparent, honest black dudes (not to say that they don’t exist) doing hip-hop journalism and I guess that can be blamed on ego? Your show is interesting because the episodes are long and you don’t put up any fronts, so it’s just like hanging out with any real black person in real life, because it’s your reality. No one on your show is trying to put on a disguise and your guests go along with that.
CJ: Right, and I don’t think that’s just hip-hop in general, I think it’s society in general. If you look at television, black actors either are playing the bad guy or the sidekick or you’re the screwup or you’re The Super N**ga! That hurts us as a whole, because with those stereotypes people say “Oh, those are just roles on television,” but you know, I fucking hate when I walk in the subway and there’s a white man who looks at me because I have my hoodie on. All of a sudden I read instant fear and panic on his face. And that saddens me because I am not you. You have not had a chance to connect to my humanity. I’m an instant monster to you. So my mission is to demystify and once again humanize our culture. If I can do that in some way, then I’m doing my job.