The preservation of hip-hop history matters. This podcast gets it.
July 10, 2015 at 2:00 am
Many podcasts have come to be and gained popularity as of late. But one that stands out from the rest is The Combat Jack Show. This podcast is hosted by Reggie Ossé – a Brooklyn native and former lawyer within the hip-hop business whose moniker as a personality is Combat Jack. Combat’s show has featured many co-hosts, including super producer Just Blaze. However, the co-host that remains to this day is Premium Pete – an enthusiast of sneakers, food and culture who leads various projects of his own. Together, Pete and Combat deliver the best interviews in hip-hop today. Combat’s experience working with artists and executives such as Jay-Z and Diddy helps him give fans keen insight into the music business. His personality and engagement with Hip-Hop since its infancy also help him draw much energy from every guest of the show. The Combat Jack Show is usually an entertaining listen, but its value is much more than good stories and laughs.
Combat’s podcast is centered around hip-hop. In some opening segments and episodes with guests such as Marc Lamont Hill and Jamilah Lemieux, he addresses issues of race in America, but hip-hop history remains the focus of the show. Several artists that are favorites of today’s generation, such as J. Cole and Rick Ross, have appeared on the show. Yet, Combat often uses his show as a platform for MCs, DJs, producers and executives with long-standing legacies or overlooked impact in hip-hop. From Chuck D to Kool Herc, Pete Rock to Red Alert, many episodes turn into history lessons you actually want to sit through. These stories explain how hip-hop has become the cultural force it is in America and the world at large. Furthermore, the guests, Pete and Combat document the relationship between hip-hop and the African-American experience in a way from which other black music genres could benefit.
In many of his interviews, Combat mentions how American media tends to treat black art and culture as if they are disposable. He fears that hip-hop will soon suffer from such treatment, having the racial significance of the music and culture forgotten due to corporate control. His concern is very reasonable given the history of black genres such as jazz and rock and roll. Through rock and roll, many black artists earned local hits and potential for great careers. However, their songs would often be covered by white singers, marketed to the predominantly white American audience, and celebrated without credit being given to the originators. This process caused the rise of Elvis Presley, one of the nation’s most revered stars ever, and the relative neglect of artists such as Chuck Barry and Muddy Waters. As pointed out by J. Cole recently, jazz’s suffering is summed up by the lack of black representation on the homepage for jazz on iTunes. The sight is hard to believe given the history of musicians such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis. One has to wonder if hip-hop will undergo the same shift in its racial representation.
One of Combat’s latest interviews drives home the message of the need for preservation. He spoke with Lloyd Price – a true pioneer in black music. In the episode, Price states that the 1952 song “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” made him the first black artist to sell 1 million copies of a single. This achievement of his and many others strengthened the link between music and racial advancement in America. Price was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame years ago, but I and many other listeners of the episode were probably unaware of his work before the interview.
Such enlightenment has to be sought out and created within the black community. Awards shows and other mainstream platforms will simply continue the narrative of American culture that benefits from black innovation, but often doesn’t acknowledge black innovators. It’s difficult to prevent the imbalance of which racial identities reach the level of fame and success seen by artists such as Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus. However, people like Combat Jack help to bridge the gap between truth and public knowledge of hip-hop culture. Hopefully fans continue to learn from and support his work.
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