Interview with The Jacka (RIP) — July 27th 2009

Dominick Newton aka The Jacka (August 12, 1977 — February 2, 2015)

As many of you will have heard, Bay Area rapper The Jacka died on February 2nd 2015. Our hearts go out to his family and friends, his manager PK and fellow Mob Figaz members Husalah, AP9 and Rydah J Klyde.

He was one of a kind, and nobody’s music quite touched us in the way that his did.

To commemorate the Oakland legend, below I have republished my 2009 interview with him, conducted just after the release of his SMC Recordings album ‘Tear Gas’.

I truly hope he rests in peace. #RIPTheJacka

Originally published July 27th 2009.

First off, congratulations on the success of Tear Gas, it feels like a long time coming, but the impact your album has had on the industry I guess makes it all worth it.

Yeah, it does man. I just try to stay working hard, even though they were anticipating Tear Gas I still had little projects coming out just to fend them off for a while. I just try to make sure that it’s some quality sounding shit, and it’s always a new fresh sound. Like everything I did, we was doing it for people who be in the struggle, like niggas in the penitentiary, people in the streets, motherfuckers who just need the music to take them away for a minute and help them out for that brief second. I really just try to breathe life into this rap shit and give people a breath of fresh air when they listen to the music, you know what I mean?

I’m a big music fan my damn self, so when I hear some good music I fuckin love it, you know what I mean? So yeah, I need that. And I’m just trying to give people that same feeling I get when I hear good music, you know?

Tear Gas, 2009 — SMC Recordings

What music did you listen to when you were growing up that made you want to make music yourself?

I grew up listening to what my parents listened to. My mum was a real big reggae tweeker, and she was big into funk, like old school 70s funk music and early 80s music. And all of that shit was an influence because the beats and shit that they used to come with was just so ill man, like shit, they singin’ songs over these beats — so they not even rappin’ over them. But it was still so dope that when rap hit the scene motherfuckers still loved those beats.

Were there any particular artists that stood out?

The list can go on and on as far as the artists that I was listening to in them days, but as far as rap artists I grew up listening to man, that I love, it was like Slick Rick, Special Ed, you know that was doing their thing in the early 90s and shit like that. Those were a couple of pioneers in the rap game who was really doin it, because I came in this shit when it was really real, you know? Like I was really born into this rap shit. That’s really all I knew outside of the fact that my mum and them was listening to reggae and shit back in the day, but I can only really remember the ones that was really ill, like Slick Rick, you know what I mean? Slick Rick was like, that’s all you damn near needed. You wanna be a hip-hop fan? It’s slapping Slick Rick shit on. He just had style, had swag, he was the first one who was doing all the dope shit. And motherfuckin niggas on the street looked up to him.

Now that you mention Slick Rick, I can sort of see similarities in both of your soft but hard raps, where you’re not aggressive on the mic — it’s smooth, but hard.

Thanks, exactly. You know, thanks. He paved the way for us to do whatever we want to do. He came from a whole nother country, entered the United States and destroyed everybody. If you say anything about hip-hop and you don’t mention Slick Rick at least in the top five, you haven’t been around long enough.

And can we talk about Mac Dre? I know he was a big influence as well.

Well yeah, Mac Dre was my boy. You know Mac Dre was a personal friend of mine. To everybody else he was Mac Dre. To me, he was a good friend. We did do music, but we hardly ever did music, we mostly just hung out and went places, and was just living life. He had did a lot of shit in his life, and to be able to come out of those situations and become the person he was, shit, he was like a great influence on us definitely. He will always be missed and shit definitely ain’t the same without him. Without his guidance.

You know, everybody just thought about Thizz and drugs and shit, and a lot of young motherfuckers when they listen to Mac Dre they don’t realise that this dude really been through some shit. I was listening to him way before Thizz. When I was listening to him, it was just straight on some real grimey shit, period. He’s never switched his shit up, but he started making more uptempo tracks and shit that you can just go dumb to. But back in the day, he was just making more like mob shit. Shit that can just make you think, and shit for niggas that’s like really out on these streets, you know what I’m sayin?

Even though he was such a close friend of yours, do you still feel like he was larger than life?

Man, definitely. I mean, at the time, we was ridin’ with him and shit, but he way bigger now that he’s dead. When he died, it actually really showed how big he really was. When he was alive man, I don’t really think nobody really knew. He was just so much of a genuine character; I guess you could call it humble. He was just so humble, you wouldn’t know what the fuck he had up. You wouldn’t know if he was a millionaire, but you knew he had nice shit. And he stayed with dope-ass cars and the best jewellery and the best shit, so you know he had something. But the way he act, he just let you know that it was nothing though. Like you supposed to have this shit, he was a fly dude. He’s definitely one of the greatest just because of the shit that he’s been through.

Andre Hicks aka Mac Dre

Like a lot of rappers, they lie about the kind of shit that motherfuckers out here really do, you know what I mean? But out here, everybody has a jail record or penitentiary record, or a long crazy rap sheet, and they really ride around really sick with the shit — but they still got a love for this music shit and still wanna let people feel em. And music is a good thing because it helps you, whatever’s going on, it helps you talk about it and put it in raps and it’s like a relief. Other than somebody who can’t rap, they just dealing with the shit day to day and they never get a chance to talk about it and release it. So being able to talk about those kind of things it helps people like that too. Yeah, that boy Dre man, he was amazing man.

And obviously you’ve inspired people as well. I’ve got a feeling that yourself and Mac Dre inspired people like J. Stalin to come up and work hard and put out a ton of good music. What’s your view on what Stalin’s doing with Livewire right now?

J. Stalin is really like, I’m proud of Stalin man, you know, because I remember when I first met him. We was in the studio. I had never heard of him, but my people knew who he was already. I just hadn’t met him yet. My boy Lev, his producer, Lev Berlak, he just said ‘Hit him off with some shit’. So I put him on. And he was a cool little dude — hella cool. I was like, ‘This is a lil real nigga. Let me just test it out and talk to him real fast before we do anything though’. So I just talked to him for about an hour, we smoked. I had a beat and I popped it on and he loved it, so we ended up doing a song that was on the ‘Jack Artist’ album, the first song on the album ‘Never Blink’.

Shit man, from there he just really just stayed hungry. Stayed aggressive in the studio and he just got a real big, solid fanbase in Oakland. You know Oakland is like a real tough market to grab. It’s hard as fuck to get an Oakland fanbase. You gotta be really with the shit and you definitely gotta be from Oakland. Oakland motherfuckers don’t really fuck with nobody outside of there unless you really with the shit and you really crazy for real. But you know, yeah man, I’m really proud of Stalin. He really stepped it up, he got his own record label Livewire; he got hella artists on his label and they all seem to be doing well, and they all got a name for themselves, so you know I don’t see nothing but bright things for them niggas. It’s looking good for them.

J. Stalin

Do you remember the point in your life when you decided to choose music as a path?

I probably always knew I was gonna do it. Probably since I was like six years old or something like that, because it was just so much of an influence, you know what I mean? I had very young parents. And I grew up watching them breakdance and all the shit that was out. Shit, it was just a part of my life. I always knew that I was gonna have something to do with it. And I used to fuck up at school all the time, I didn’t used to like going to school or nothing. I used to like going to school at first, but then I used to fuck up a lot when I really realised that I was going to rap. And I told my mum, ‘I’m wasting my fuckin time in school man’. I probably had to be like 11 years old around this time. And I was like ‘I’m wasting my fuckin time here. We poor. We need to make something happen right now’.

And she was like ‘What you gonna do?’ And at first I wouldn’t tell her what I was going to do because I didn’t want her to feel like I was full of shit or just dreaming, you know what I mean? Because I was really serious about it. So I just rather not say nothing at all and just take the ridicule and all the bullshit that she used to come at me with. And after a while I just took off on it. But it had to be around the time I was 11 when I really just put the mark down like ‘I’m gonna rap, fuck everything else in the world. I’m not getting a job, I’m not doing nothing I’m gonna do this rap shit, I’m gonna dedicate myself to it’. So I had to be around 11 years old when I made that decision.

What was the first track you ever recorded?

Man, I recorded tracks man, like right about now I don’t know, thousands of tracks. When I said I was gonna start rapping, like 12 or 13, I was in the studio like everyday, recording, you know? I had a young nigga who was my nig, my boy Rob-Lo. His parents bought him like a mini like studio, keyboard, just something to record on so we could record our vocals on, so we just probably went through like an A-track and a tape player or something. And motherfuckers at that time were still liking our shit better than the shit they was gonna go buy. And we didn’t have no quality, it wasn’t no high quality shit, it was just sounding good. So from them times we really just practiced up until like 18, 19, and by that time man we already knew how to do shows. Man we knew how to make beats, we really knew what motherfuckers liked, we knew what to talk about. We knew what was young, and we knew we couldn’t talk about no young kids’ bullshit. We had to talk about shit for these grown motherfuckers out here man. You know, we gotta get respect.

So we just started going hard from there man. The first song that I made I can’t really remember, but the first song that I did that had an impact on me and on everybody was called ‘Mack Hand Down’. It was a real song, with a real funky bassline and little crazy chorus. And I kinda remember that song and people kinda liked it. Then after that I did a song called ’Cause I’m The Mack’. You know being a mack was like Mac Mall was like big at the time, this nigga Mac Mall from Vallejo, Mac Dre was huge. Being a mack was like, a mack is like, he something like a pimp. He’s a mack, he’s a pimp, he sell dope, he do whatever he gotta do to make money. But he a fly nigga and the chicks like him. So it was big to be a mack back in those days. So I had my ‘Mack Hand Down’ song. ’Cause I’m The Mack’ was really the song that really just opened up doors for me. I ended up getting it on a compilation called ‘All About Cash’ and motherfuckers came and bought the song off me and I was like ‘Fuck I can’t believe this shit’. That was the first song that I did that I can remember that set me apart from all the other rappers that was doing it at the time.

Were you rapping under the name The Jacka back then?

No, my name was Ouniy. My nickname, my family real nickname was Ouniy. And I just threw the Mack at the end — Ouniy Mack. But I was just called by my nickname at the time. I didn’t have no rap name. I didn’t get no other nickname until I ended up getting in trouble and going to jail and shit. Around the time I was 18, they started calling me The Jacka. I got the name in jail because the reason why I went at that time was because I was just hitting and robbing hella niggas and shit.

One time, me and my boy, rest in peace, we were going on a little robbing spree. And we did so much shit I fuckin forgot what I was doing. We was going from Pittsburg to Oakland, everywhere just jumpin out on niggas, robbing the shit out of em. So we doing that all damn day and we drive back to Pittsburg and I forget that we had robbed somebody in Pittsburg that day. And the nigga we robbed, he called the police and told a description of the car and all that shit. We was just hella stupid, young and dumb. We get back into town and the police got a description, pulled us over and as soon as they yank us over I hopped out instantly, hit a couple of gates and tried to get away.

They got on me though. They ended up catching me and shit. When they caught me, hella motherfuckers had reported us. Once I got to the police station and they broke it down, man, it was like ‘Six motherfuckers called the police on y’all today’. You know what I mean? ‘They ready to come to court on y’all niggas man’. I’m like ‘Oh my god man’, and we just stuck with that. We young, we had to take that on the chin, you know? Wasn’t really much we could do about it. And me not knowing nothing about the law and shit, by the time I got in jail I was chilling with OG motherfuckers and I told em my rap sheet and they were like ‘Nigga, you robbing niggas and shit nigga, they take that shit seriously out here bruh, you might be going to the pen’.

It was my first adult offence, that was my first time getting in trouble as an adult and I was young and still in high school actually. I just made it seem like I was really trying to graduate and I really wanted to go to school and get my education and shit. So they released me on my own recognisance, it’s called OR. So they released me, but I was still fighting the case from the streets and they ended up giving me like 12 months in county. And I had to go lay it down man, that shit was fucking wack, but that’s where I got the name The Jacka from.

They were like ‘You a jackin-ass nigga man’. Ouniy Macka The Jacka. You know what I mean, Ouniy Macka The Jacka [laughs]. So it went from Ouniy Macka The Jacka to just The Jacka, to The Jack. And when you get a nickname motherfuckers just try to break it down as far as they can get.

So when did you meet Husalah?

Shit I met Husalah around the times I started going around the studio. I was about 13 or something, or 12. I was like in the seventh grade when I met Hus. And, you know, the nigga was cool. He’s always been the same motherfucker man since I first met him. Always been a fool, you know what I’m saying? He always carry a little protection on him, you know a ham sandwich, a little hammer on him. We call em ham sandwiches ’cause they bad for your health you know what I mean? He always had something on him so we always liked him for that. Like he was a real solid cat, and he gonna make sure nothing happen so I fucked with him. He was young as fuck but I still fucked with him because he was real. Shit, Husalah’s here right now. He’s in a halfway house right now, but you know they can come out ’til like 3pm or 4:30pm during the day time, so he’s actually here at my house right now.

What was the reunion like when he got out a few weeks ago?

Fuckin’ hilarious man, that nigga is fuckin’ hilarious. He’s a hilarious like real funny kinda guy. He’s a real good people person man, so when I first seen him, we actually went to the federal penitentiary where they had him. It was a real eerie looking place. A crazy looking place, Terminal Island in Long Beach. When they let this nigga out man, it was like the funniest shit I’ve ever seen [laughs]. You should have seen this boy, he was so happy when he came out them gates boy. It’s been great man, the response has been cool. Everybody know he’s in a halfway house and can’t really come fuck with us and shit, you know what I mean, at night when we be partying and shit. He got eight months in there and when they see him making any progress they’ll let him do what he wants to do and go home. We just trying to knock it down as short as possible so we can get back to what we normally do.

Are you guys able to record together at all?
Not yet, we will today though. I got a video shoot in the Oakland Hills right now and shit he gotta be back at 3:30 California time. Me and him haven’t been able to record but he’s recorded things since he’s been home though.

Do you think now he’s home there’s going to be a new dynamic that’s going to affect your music?

Man now he home he really trying to come up with a whole new, you know Hus is a real creative dude. So I can’t wait to fuckin see what he likes, I can’t wait to see what it is that he gon do. Because he’s crazy man, he really comes with some dope shit and it wasn’t really until he got locked up that I really realised how dope his albums and shit was that he was dropping. And how much of an influence they had on the streets and shit. Because I used to be the nigga in the background, just smoking hella weed on stage until my part came up and everybody usually just know my words so I just come out and everybody’s singing, the crowd’s participating with me and I’d just get back in the cut and smoke some weed and just chill out. And Hus, my boy Husalah and my boy Pretty Black, rest in peace, them boys just used to be really on the stage and getting it in. Really putting on a show and doing they thing and people were loving em you know what I mean? So when he had ended up leaving, going to prison, shit I had to step my game up and really like get out there. You know, because it was just me now.

My boy Pretty Black he ended up getting killed in Oakland and shit so it really wasn’t anybody else that I had. Everybody around was just young kids that was in our life and cool with us but they was young and now they grown so they were the ones who shut it down with me while Hus was locked up and shit and we just really started our own movement out here in these streets man and really just smash it everywhere we go just smash it hard. We gotta kick some nigga’s ass, we gon’ kick they ass. We gotta shoot it out, we gon’ shoot it out. We gotta do what we gotta do that makes motherfuckers respect us so that they know we doin this. This is what we do, we come from the same streets, we come from hardcore mean streets doing some mean things, we got a mean machine rolling so I ain’t got a problem with fucking a nigga up, period. You know what I mean, but I’m doing this music shit and I want y’all to respect that man and let’s do it bro. Help us push this shit nigga, so we just got all the crazy, mainy motherfuckers involved with us right now and helping us push this movement.

‘Cause we from the same place. We want every project, every fuckin ghetto, every slum in America promoting our shit. We don’t go to the radio station and sit up there with the promoters and just chill, we go really to the slums. We ain’t out there flossing in big ass chains, we got nice ass cars and shit but they respect that. We just really coming back and putting niggas on. We ain’t just talking about it, we putting niggas in the studio every night that ain’t really got shit and they really just trying to make it with this music. So we just opening the door for them and sending them down a good avenue.

Now he’s back we’re feeling the momentum shift to a whole nother elevation man, it feel real good.

You must be real happy with how Tear Gas has been received.

Yeah man, I’m hella happy man. I’m happy how it’s a big deal, people are making a big deal out of it you know what I mean but I still feel like it could do better. The music is exactly what I wanted it to be but as far as like the push on it and everything like that I feel like it could have been better. But I didn’t really just smash on the people I really needed to smash on and get it all the way out there like it should have been but it still did good enough by word of mouth that I really can’t complain.

What are your favourite tracks on Tear Gas?

Shit I like Dopest Forreal, I like Summer, Dream, I like really all the songs on there. I put em all on there for a different reason. I got a song with this cat Young Cellski called Won’t Be Right on the album and I did that because it’s a real authentic Bay Area sound. It’s a real authentic San Francisco, Hunter’s Point, Lakeview, the real slums of San Francisco though. Because when you think of San Francisco if you’ve never been there you probably think a whole nother thing but San Francisco is like one of the sickest cities in California as far as the crime rate. There’s like areas in Frisco where it’s just all blacks and they’re all fucking crazy on dope and selling dope and just straight thuggin. Like Hunter’s Point, Lakeview, Double Rock, Fillmoe, it’s just some crazy shit going on over there.

There’s a lot of substance on the album and a lot of shit, a lot of new sounding shit but they like that authentic Bay shit. They really pounding that song and the other shit right now, they still like our sound and they ain’t used to yet but they getting used to it. And they starting to love it. You know how we loved our parents music and our parents loved their parents music, they starting to love it, they starting to grow with it and not leave home without it and not take it out the deck. People come up to me and tell me ‘man I haven’t even taken the album out the deck since I bought it bro because every time I listen to it I hear something new every day and I’m still getting used to it, I gotta get used to that sound man because it’s been a long time since we heard good shit so I gotta soak it all up and let it stay in my brain. Like a lot of people tell me that and I really like that. I kinda like the fact that they don’t really get it in one listen or one sitting.

You knew what you were doing putting ‘Summer’ as the first track though right? You must have laughed about that, like ‘this is gonna kill ‘em’.

Yeah I had to put that as the first track just so I can wake everybody up fast, you know what I mean? I could put any song on there first, but I rather put that song on first because it’s slow and it’s just real music man. It’s like shit this is the shit y’all been waitin for. You been waiting for this album, this is the shit you waited on, so I’m gonna come out the gate with something that’s really gonna wake you up and open you up fast. And that’s why I did ‘Summer’ like that.

Did you get Andre Nickatina in the video for ‘Glamorous Lifestyle’?

Yeah, he in the video and it’s looking good. I just seen the video and it’s amazing man I can’t wait for it to come out man, it’s a real fun song and a real fun video. We had a lot of fun on that video.

You can’t get bored of that track, it’s a crazy beat by Traxamillion.

[Laughs] Right on, I appreciate that man, yeah shoutout to Traxamillion man, he went in on that beat. As soon as I heard it I just knew man, I just snuck it out. When I heard the beat I just took it and snuck the beat from him man. And I just went to the studio and just dropped my shit on it. And then he just ended up hearing it later. And I only had two verses on there and shit. The first two verses and then the chorus. And I was like ‘man I need to get a feature on this’. And the only thing I could hear was Andre Nickatina’s voice on that song for some reason. That’s the only thing I could hear. And there’s a lot of rappers that I could have fucked with for that song. How cool he is and the way he know how to ride a beat, I knew he’d murder that track. So I had to get him on it man. And he went out his way, he came way out of his way to come do that track, it was really like a fuckin honour to get him on that track. As real as he is and with the kind of shit he talks to me about, just trying to keep us doing our thing, I gotta have him around. I gotta fuck with him. Just because he’s so real. It’s hard to get a song with Andre Nickatina.

There’s so many motherfuckers that ask me, ‘How do I get him?’ and shit I don’t even wanna call him because I know he not fucking with em, you know? He got money, he don’t give a fuck about what you got, you gotta make him a real nice offer to get him to do a song with you. It was a real honour because he’s been doing this shit since the beginning of time, as far back as I can remember. He’s one of the first Bay Area rappers doing it on an underground level, you know? It was like too much man. When he was telling me he liked our music, and he fucked with us, and every time I’d see him he’d hit me off with one of my rhymes off one of my albums or one of my songs, man I’d be like this is so good. And I’m happy to have a nigga like that around, so definitely get him on my single, you know what I mean? Because he real.

Are there any plans for any more Mob Figaz albums?

We got plans to do it, but we just so tied up right now with solo shit, we just Mob Figaz, we just pushing the label and we all involved in that and we just pushing the Mob Figaz the movement, ’cause it’s big out here. Mob Figaz is like a crew, it’s huge. A lot of motherfuckers fuck with the Mob Figaz. It’s real out here with that. It’s bigger than music now, it’s more like an organisation. You know what I’m saying? So we just pushing the movement. We gon put an album out once Hus get on the street, once he get out the situation he’s in, we’re just gonna get it in. It’s a lot of labels waiting on us too to fuckin do that shit but we gotta stay out of trouble you know so first and foremost we gotta be around to promote an album. Everybody in the group to promote it. That’s why the Mob Figaz did so good when we first came out, as far as the underground scene goes, man we sold what I sold in two cities alone in the first week. When Mob Figaz first dropped, the first month or so we sold hella records. We did real, real good.

Motherfuckers is waiting on that unity and waiting to see that brotherhood man. They like that, you know? Because we always stuck together, we never had no problems with each other because it’s more than rap, it ain’t no rap shit with us. We been around with each other before all the music and shit so we stand for a lot more than just this music shit as far as the Mob go. We with each other everyday. My nigga Fed-X is here, my nigga motherfuckin Husalah’s here, AP9 come through all the time and Rydah J. Klyde is always just with him because they from Ohio and shit. So we fuck with each other constantly, so it’s just a matter of like trying to get this shit together. We gotta do something to generate some dough because we all working on our solo shit, we eating like this. We can’t just stop doing what we doing that’s putting food on our table to do something unless someone’s really got some serious dough. Come on, give us some of that serious money these motherfuckers got and let’s do it man. Let’s take this shit over. Everybody right now’s on some skinny jeans… what it is, is motherfuckers who are in the industry they want what’s gon’ make some money.

They don’t want what’s gon’ last forever. They want to make that quick wop, right there on the spot. And if it’s gotta be some bullshit, it’s gotta be some bullshit. But we ain’t trippin off none of that shit man, we know that motherfuckers respect us and we gon’ be around just like Pimp C and Bun B and 8Ball and MJG, all the dope dudes that stuck with each other and really didn’t fall off with each other and kept it lit. That’s how we gon’ do.

Mob Figaz are like the UGK of the Bay for sure.

We trying to be just like that. We definitely trying to be just how they are because they just kept it real with each other and kept it real with the people man, and stayed eating pie man. You know, you gotta eat pie man all the time. You can’t stop eating pie and then you fall off and now you eating pie — and I mean humble pie. Because a lot of times, motherfuckers don’t start eating that humble pie until they fall off and people quit fucking with them.