With a CV that includes attorney for Jay Z and Dame Dash, and managing director of The Source magazine, Brooklynite Reggie Ossé, aka Combat Jack, has had a career spanning generations. His most recent, and perhaps biggest, transition as a spokesperson for hip-hop culture comes from his podcast The Combat Jack Show, which he began in 2010 with just enough foresight to become one of the earliest podcasts without slipping away into ahead-of-it’s-time obscurity. Today, when everyone and their aunt has a podcast – Combat Jack still leads the pack.
Combat’s conversations take listeners on journeys, often for multiple hours, that expose stories that even the most hardcore fans aren’t familiar with. Rather than gunning for the controversy that unfortunately fuels the click-bait Internet generation we currently live in, his interviews aim to inspire, giving the guest a comfortable forum to share some of their deepest thoughts and feelings, and allowing them to be candid and relatable to his listeners.
As a documentarian, he now has hundreds, likely thousands of hours of conversation all preserved on iTunes, that listeners can dig into and unearth gems that don’t just fill their heads with rap trivia – although you will, of course, get plenty of that – but a deeper understanding of this aspirational culture, from icons to those that have chosen to work behind the scenes. Combat Jack has interviewing down to an artform.
Last week we caught up with Combat, who was in London to do a live interview with Kano at The Brooklyn Bowl, to discuss everything between the research that went into that conversation, to getting in to the podcast game and the motivation behind The Combat Jack Show…
How are you?
I can’t complain man. I’m enjoying this break from the States man, tremendously.
Is it your first time out in London?
Technically my second time, but the first time I was here I was 14, so [I can’t really remember it.]
How have you been preparing for your interview with Kano?
Naturally the first two courses I ‘ve taken have been listening to his discography – I’m totally blown away by Made In The Manor it’s so good – and of course getting the whole Netflix experience with Top Boy. Then I’ve been reading prior interviews, current interviews, just reading as many things that he has done; finding out about all that he’s accomplished.
Often the kind of accent barrier gets mentioned when it comes to people from the US trying to get into grime or UK rap – has that been a problem for you?
No, not at all. I listened to his first album and was actually quite surprised at how you could definitely hear that turn of the century Jay Z influence. As well as the influences coming from garage and the early days of grime.
Listening to his music now, seeing that he’s grown, like all of us do. We all come into our field and we try to work with a blueprint to promote what it inspires. Then we get employed and we’re now comfortable to say I still have these inspirations. I may have other inspirations, but this is the full me that you’re getting right now. So listening to Made In The Manor, it’s the fullest representation of Kano to me.
He’s making the music that he wants to regardless of what his peers are doing. What’s making his peers famous and successful, he’s taking his own form and doing what he does. I appreciate that.
Yeah. It’s interesting that you mentioned Jay Z, I’ve always picked up that influence from his live shows in the clarity and movement on stage…
Right, but you know what I would say, you mentioned earlier about us Yanks complaining about the subtle difference in language, but what I find amazing is how UK artists are very clear dictating what they’re saying. To me there’s no barrier in language.
The first time I really got into Skepta was earlier this year. My kids have been ranting and raving about Skepta, but I really didn’t know Skepta’s discography. I was fortunate enough to get tickets to see him perform live in Toronto. You know, I would imagine you can empathise with me. You go to a rap show, you’ve never heard of the rap artist perform before, he unloaded the discography, and when they’re performing you kind of get a sense of what they’re performing, but mostly you don’t know what that record is about or how I’m supposed to feel. This Skepta performance was so clear that even though most of the songs that he was performing was my first time hearing, it felt like I knew the song before. Then ‘It Ain’t Safe’ came on. By the second time the hook came on I already knew the hook. I think in essence even though the accent difference is not that slight, you guys really are experts at [getting lyrics across] clearly while not compromising stage presence, energy, and breath control.