Originally published February 2015
“What happened to the world is my biggest question / What happened to the cuddy Furl was the biggest lesson…”
About 2 years after Mac Dre (aka Furly) was gunned down while riding in a van through Kansas City, The Jacka reflected on the Bay Area legend’s passing with those bars from his 2006 collaborative album, Mob Trial. Less than 10 years after those raps were released, Jacka would become the next Bay Area superstar to be senselessly murdered. As we mourn the loss of yet another one of our hood heroes, Jacka’s bars ring truer than ever. Big questions to be asked, big lessons to learned.
A long time has passed since Jacka first emerged from the shadows of the Hyphy Movement. He had been making moves as one-fifth of the Pittsburg, CA group Mob Figaz, but his 2005 solo The Jack Artist certified his place as a Hip-Hop legend. While the rest of the Bay was going dum and still recovering from Dre’s death, that album was a grim but soulful soundtrack to the streets. Like many other Northern Cali teenagers, I spent many nights hot-boxing in the whip singing along with Jack’s eerie melodies.
“Smokin’ a stick of that Barney, but not the purple dinosaur / That shit that niggas dyin’ for…”
It seemed like just about everybody was bumping that album, and those words painted an all-too-familiar picture for us at that time. Before the gentrification-fueled makeover of ghettos across San Francisco and Oakland, Black and Brown youth were continuing the genocidal patterns of turf banging, drugs, and internalized self-hatred on a massive scale. It’s not at all rare for a rapper to speak on those issues, but very few had the raw emotion and realness that echoed through Jacka’s music.
“I probably smoked a lotta hop in my weed befoooooo’ / Damn near made a nigga crazy but I’m loungin’ though…”
Part of Jacka’s appeal was his ability to paint a 360-view of the underworld, one that might have glamorized gangsta life but never glorified it. Incarceration, loss, trauma, and addiction to substances (harder than weed and alcohol) are all themes in Jacka’s music. More importantly, they’re part of the harsh reality in many communities throughout the Bay and beyond. With Jack’s laid-back, melodic rap style over soulful, sample-based production, his music had a signature sound that helped many of his listeners cope with the very same issues. By 2015, however, the Bay had shifted directions.