Reggie “Combat Jack” Ossé became an attorney for Def Jam in 1989 and was an attorney for many artists such as Jay Z and Damon Dash until 2001 when he retired from law. That’s when he began getting involved with creative endeavors like writing his book “Bling”, blogging and becoming the managing editor for The Source.
Eventually Ossé started “The Combat Jack Show” and co-founded the Loudspeakers Network, which is a podcast network that features such renown shows as “Angela Yee’s Lip Service”, “Tax Season” and “The Read”.
Ossé sat down with the Fullerton College Hornet at the inaugural Now Hear This Podcast Festival on October 29, 2016. Ossé began the interview by giving his views on what separates The Combat Jack Show from other podcasts.
“In this platform right now, you have all these emerging rap interview shows. Noreaga, Rap Radar, Too Short just launched one and Taxstone is really coming to such a high level of being an interviewer,” Ossé said, “but I think if anything that separates my show from the others is that I’ve really benefited by being a professional in the industry but I’m also a fan of the industry.”
Beyond just doing a podcast, this show shares a deeper connection to Ossé’s history in hip-hop.
“I really care about the culture and I’m really excited to see where it goes, even if it goes in a negative place or a positive place I’m just really excited to still be a part of it,” Ossé said, “without being preachy I’m like this elder statesman but I’m afforded the room to be as silly, and as controversial and sometimes negative. I’m able to make mistakes.”
Ossé has a true love for hip-hop, which sets his show apart from others.
“I just think I’m really honest with my love affair with the culture,” Ossé said. “I’m just always going to be a fan of it one way or another.”
Opposed to the practices of other media outlets, Ossé is not trying to make his guests look bad but instead trying to provide them a platform.
“Contrary to what a lot of media is right now, I’m not looking to entrap or like ‘aha I got you!’ I don’t want to do that to my guests. I really want to give them a platform,” Ossé said, “even if it’s a guest that’s controversial, even if it’s a guest that I’m not too fond of. I want to give them a platform to where it’s like ‘this is your chance to shine.’”
Ossé admires Howard Stern’s style of interviewing and believes that providing artists a platform can help build them up.
“I’m a fan of Howard Stern, and I listen to his interviews and nine times out of ten I don’t care about his subjects, but afterwards I realize that that was a really fascinating and concentrated effort. I really want to do the same thing,” Ossé said, “we’re too used to tearing people down in hip hop and I want to build them up.”
Ossé believes that Loudspeakers Network is coming with an entirely new era of podcasting which is bringing African-American listeners to the podcast world.
“I think we became the Def Jam of podcasting. We were the anti-public radio voice, anti NPR voice, we saw a space where traditionally we were rejected from “This American Life’s”, but we knew that our voices were valid and we knew that our audience was valid,” Ossé said, “in the past six years I’ve been able to build a solid urban audience that a lot of the mainstream podcasts are coming to us now like ‘wait a minute black people listen to podcasts?’”
Ossé is happy to be where he is, and while he was a lawyer and executive for years he now is a recognizable talent himself.
“I’m just very fortunate to wake up one day and be part owner and part talent of the network,” Ossé said, “it’s the closest to Jay Z I’ll ever be.”
Ossé feels that black culture is treated differently than white culture, even by its own people within black culture but that it needs to change.
“We’ve been trained to see black art as disposable and white art is always going to be revered. If anything American culture is black culture. It really is black culture and we have this love affair with the culture, but not the people,” Ossé explained, “so while I’m in this space, we really got to appreciate or revere. We got to get out of this ‘Oh, he’s was hot yesterday, but let’s get rid of him today’ because they’ll never get rid of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. I appreciate those artists but I also appreciate my artists.”
Beyond just being a podcaster, Ossé believes that there is a bigger impact to be made by broadcasting these stories.
“When the new generation is hearing these stories I think that’s the best way to cross the bridge between generations,” Ossé said, “but the fact that kids want to hear these stories first hand is crossing the bridge. Kool Herc doesn’t have to do a record, he doesn’t have to have a Snapchat, but if you can hear his story about how he created hip-hop, if he can paint a picture that’s engaging to 25-year-olds, then I’m doing my work of preserving the culture and preserving the art.”
Ossé has previously done a “TED Talk” on feeling like being an outsider in his own city due to his ethnicity.
“I’m not going to complain about it. I think for every challenge breeds different ability. Just knowing that my presence is seen as dangerous is just a weird place to be in,” Ossé said, “but at the same time, fuck it, if I’m going to be dangerous I’ll be dangerous with my mind. I’ll be dangerous with my work. I’ll be dangerous in terms of challenging.”
Ossé went into the fact that we need to fight back against white supremacy and racist ideas.
“I’m not going to rob you, but I’m definitely going to talk loudly about white privilege, about the industrial prison system, about white racist supremacy and how particularly in my work on social media we have to be relentless in terms of attacking that,” Ossé continued, “because white supremacy is relentless. It never stops. It just attacks our perspective all the time so we have just to be relentless at the same time, and I don’t want to alienate anyone but it just has to be done.”
Ossé then gave his advice for someone who wants to get into podcasting.
“Better be good. You better be good because it’s competitive. I mean, if you’re talking about the hip-hop realm it’s competitive. I might even take a swipe at you,” Ossé smiled, “but be original. That sounds cliche but be original.”
Ossé also stressed the importance of pushing the boundaries and experimenting in podcasting to make your podcast innovative.
“Better be good. Same thing,” Ossé stressed again, “better be good because life comes at you fast.”
Ossé finally went into advice he would give to someone trying to become a hip hop artist.
“Push the envelope. I think it’s just the best time to push the fucking envelope. If you have a unique story or if you’ve been picked on your whole life that should be the basis of your art.”