combat-jack
Photo: Mari Sheibley

Knowledge Darts Vol. 32: Winter Solstice

As many of you know, Reggie “Combat Jack” Ossé passed away this week shortly after his colon cancer diagnosis. Several of you knew him, met him, kicked it with him and have pictures of you both together to post on social media to accompany your anecdotes or memories of your interactions. I can’t do the same. Why? Because in the over 12 years I interacted with Reggie Ossé via the Internet or social media. I never once met the man. Mind you, we had numerous mutual friends and could communicate through them but we never met face to face. And all of that shit was my fault. I instantly think about all of the people that Reggie Ossé freely offered advice to, counseled and mentored over the years. I reflect on all of the people he gave opportunities to. All of the people that he believed in before they finally realized their dreams and got to thank him face to face. I’ll never get to do the same. I really felt like I could meet him whenever. He was always going to be there… like Fat Joe. Or racism.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

I could do a post running down his career as an entertainment lawyer, his transition into the blogging world, then his role in revolutionizing the Rap podcast. But anyone could do that. I could do that shit on Twitter. We spent years going back & forth on different comments sections but when I was invited to the 1st annual PNC Radio BYOB (Bring Your Own Blogger) BBQ in Brooklyn back in 2009 I didn’t go because I didn’t want to reveal who I was on camera or in public. (I didn’t post a picture of myself until 2010.) Even though both my friends Amanda Bassa and TeLisa Daughtry urged me to go, I stuck to my principles or whatever. Besides, I was certain there would be plenty more opportunities to meet everyone I’d known online for years. Plenty of time. Yeah.

Later on that Summer came the pilot episode of Nah Right Radio with Combat Jack, Dallas Penn, Eskay and Marvelous Mo on PNC Radio. If you heard that show live that Tuesday night in late July you knew that even though what you heard was raw, it was magic. I let Dallas and Reggie know immediately they were both onto something.

On August 6th, 2010, the inaugural episode of The Combat Jack Show launched live on PNC Radio with Dallas Penn. There was producer A King, a full studio of friends and fam and some of the most beautiful chaos you could’ve imagined happening live on Internet radio. As the weeks and months passed, the show gained momentum and the cast rounded out to include Premium Pete, Matt Raz, NY Delight and Robbie Ettelson from Unkut providing the Weed Carrier Update. Listeners who called in to the show were encouraged to yell “Shut The Eff Up, A King!” at the end of calls. It even became a Twitter hashtag.

I was an earlier supporter of the show, providing feedback on what worked and what didn’t to Reggie. I was even invited to get up with everyone at the 2DopeBoyz BBQ so we could finally meet (I’d met Dallas & Meka in Baltimore a few months previous) but I declined as I didn’t want to leave Boston. After all, I’d have plenty of time to finally kick it with Reggie. He wasn’t going anywhere.

When Reggie took the job as managing editor at The Source he’d vent about his frustrations with the job and the conversations he had with the young folks in the office about the present state of the music. He was extremely disillusioned and disappointed he wouldn’t be able to affect the change he’d hoped he could bring about while there. He extended me an open invitation to come down to the show but I wanted to be a legitimate guest as opposed to him doing me a favor out of the obligation of being a long-time supporter or due to our friendship. After all, I had plenty of time to finally meet Reggie in person or be on the Combat Jack Show. I wasn’t worried. Not one bit…

While I was going back and forth with B.Dot in December 2012, Reggie hit me and told me I did the right thing and that, regardless of the fallout, it needed to be done. That was all I needed to hear to be quite honest. A lot of other people told me I was destroying my career. Mind you, at the time my people from Boston used to drive to New York every single week to shoot footage of the Combat Jack Show and post it to YouTube. I had the open invitation and the homies were more than good with bringing me, but I decided to be hard-headed and never take the trip to New York with them. In my mind, I had all the time in the world. What’s the fucking rush? New York is only 4 hours away, after all. I was good.

After The Combat Jack “Eff Your Holiday” show in 2013 with Elliott Wilson, Danyel Smith and B.Dot, Reggie and Dallas asked the Rap Radar guys specifically about their beef with me. Of course, B.Dot began talking reckless, but Elliott opted to be more diplomatic because he’d been party to seeing B.Dot get his chest caved in after popping off to Ebro—and he still hadn’t learned his lesson. He didn’t need to do that. Neither Dallas nor Reggie had to mention my name on that show. I hit Reggie after New Year’s Day 2014 and let him know I was going to make my first visit to the Combat Jack Show, but I never really put forth the necessary effort. Again, what was the rush? When I finally do show up I’ll have an epic story to tell. It’ll be totally worth it. That’s what I kept telling myself.

In 2015, my mom fell ill and was diagnosed with cervical cancer. To his credit, Reggie continued to try to get me to come through to a show. I came down to New York several times for different events but we ended up missing each other because I would head right back to Boston. When he met with Genius, he recommended me as a potential writer/editor for them. That didn’t pan out, but I appreciated that he still believed in what I was doing—although the space was no longer in need of music historians and hip hop culture advocates. Every single time I quit Rap journalism he kept telling me my knowledge and voice were necessary and that the game wouldn’t let me quit.

He was right. It was almost like he’d punched in a code for unlimited continues without telling me.

When I was running Producers I Know and working as lead A&R of Left Of Center it was the perfect time to finally come down to the show and make the appearance that had been 5 years in the making—but it wasn’t to be. After all the times we went back & forth, passed messages through mutual friends in real life or finished each other’s Twitter stories, it hurts to know that I never got to shake this man’s hand and thank him for everything he’s done for not even me but the culture in general. People would come up to me and say “You’re Dart Adams? Reggie told me about you.” People I had no idea even knew I was alive, mind you. I take pride in repping Boston and rarely leaving its confines, but if there’s anything I regret it’s not chopping it up with Reggie Ossé face to face over our 12 years of mutual history.

I wanted to tell him face to face about how incredible “Mogul” was. I wanted to tell him about how I knew he was the lawyer that handled by boy Joey & KT’s deal with Clark Kent back in the days. I wanted to talk to him about the time we both shut down B.Dot when he said DOOM was “boring.” I wanted to discuss how crazy it was back in 2006 when we all communicated through multiple blog comment sections and maintained a running dialogue sharing history going on years.

That’s why it hit me so hard when I got the news that he was no longer with us. He was a constant. Reggie Ossé. Combat Jack. He was one of our pillars. One of the guys who was in the industry but started having second thoughts about it once he felt like the soul was missing. He needed to find that same passion he had for the music 15 years ago when he first arrived at 298 Elizabeth St. where Def Jam/RUSH Management used to be housed. He desired that same rush he got from his time representing clients with Ossé & Woods. He eventually found his passion and his voice again under a pen name, Combat Jack. And he never looked back.

As for me, I never got to say thank you. I never got to tell you what your support meant to me. I never got to thank you for always trying to bring me into the fold and championing my writing, supporting my endeavors, putting a good word for me—even at outlets that would never humor me otherwise. I will be retiring Knowledge Darts after this post and in Reggie Ossé’s honor I’m going to finally launch my podcast in 2018, Dart Against Humanity. The fact is that we don’t have all the time in the world, and like our mutual friend April Walker told me this Summer, “Dart, there’s no such thing as a perfect time. Do it NOW.”

I heard you, April. Rest in eternal peace to my friend, Reggie “Combat Jack” Ossé. My prayers and condolences go out to his immediate and extended family. Salute to the Internets & the entire Newmanati. This isn’t the end. It’s just time to begin the developmental process on a reboot.

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