Local Current Blog

Remembering Combat Jack, a central figure in hip-hop

Combat Jack in May 2017. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Spotify)

There is an African proverb that says, “Every time an elder dies a library burns.” This morning, it was revealed that hip-hop pioneer Reggie “Combat Jack” Ossé has passed away due to complications with colon cancer. The music mogul revealed his diagnosis in October and had been updating the public on the process through social media up until recently.

A long list of accomplishments accrued to the legendary music industry insider. The Brooklyn-born first-generation Hatian-American was widely known as host for the popular podcast the Combat Jack Show. Ossé was also a powerful lawyer, author, and at one point editor of The Source.

A member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, Jack graduated from Cornell University with a degree in law and went on to represent artists like Jay-Z, Nice & Smooth, and a laundry list of others. Together with multimedia journalist Gabriel Tolliver, Combat Jack wrote the book Bling: The Hip-Hop Jewelry Book. The book showcased the glamour of hip-hop excess while lightly touching on issues with the diamond trade.

Between being featured on the Backspin channel on SiriusXM, having tens of thousands of followers on SoundCloud, and millions of listens on YouTube, the Combat Jack Show has been a media force. The show is known for a wide variety of in-depth conversations with the likes of Ice Cube, RZA, CNN political commentator Angela Rye, J. Cole, Black Thought (the Roots), and Kevin Gates. The show spearheaded the Loud Speakers Network which boasts over 240,000 subscribers and features programs like the Read and the Brilliant Idiots with Charlamagne Tha God and comic Andrew Schulz.

As managing editor of The Source — the hip-hop Bible — Combat Jack came into the role at a time of significant transition in media consumption. “My goal is to position The Source brand up front and center, back to the forefront of all things hip-hop,” he said in 2011. That year the magazine landed big interviews and cover stories with the likes of Drake, Idris Elba, Gucci Mane, Rick Ross, and the controversial Chris Brown.

In Minnesota, Combat Jack was the keynote speaker for the 2016 Giant Steps conference. In his conversation with co-founder Susan Campion he said, “If all you’re going to do is hustle and grind, that doesn’t sound fun. That’s exhausting. I’d rather be on the other side of momentum: being pulled than having to push.”

The music and independent thought communities should be forever grateful for Combat Jack finding that momentum and pulling us along for the journey.