On Monday, the Bay Area lost one of our all time greats — one whose music raised many of us. It’s hard to put into words exactly what The Jacka meant. In many ways he was the embodiment of what it means to be from Northern California. He was independent, unorthodox, rugged, intelligent, fearless, caring, insightful, and in your face. He held his tongue for no one, and could care less about copying others and following trends. He was a father, a devoutly religious man, and a member of the community. He sparked the careers of countless hip-hop artists, and gained the admiration and respect of those that came before him. Most importantly, he had the unconditional love of The Bay Area. It’s surreal to think that he’s gone, but his impact and legacy on rap music is permanent.
With a catalogue as vast as The Jacka’s, it’s particularly hard to make a list of his most important songs. But here’s a starter pack for anyone unfamiliar with what he brought to the game, and everyone else who wants to take some time to reminisce on his legacy.
The Jacka – “Barney (More Crime)”
2005. The peak of the Hyphy era. Every established and wannabe rapper in The Bay was going 18 dummy, riding the yellow bus, and getting stupid. Then The Jack Artist dropped. The now Bay Area classic was the exact opposite of hyphy, and generally was tremendously different from anything most Bay Area rap fans were used to. Haunting samples, a melodic delivery, and unadulterated tales of the many highs and lows of a life a crime, put The Jacka and this album ahead of their competition. At no point was there any attempt to try and do what everyone else was doing, or make a radio song for KMEL — which was largely proven by selecting “Barney (More Crime)” was the first single. To this day, it displays what so many love about The Jacka’s music: it’s brash and confident, yet reflective and thoughtful at the same time.
The Jacka – “Never Blink” ft. J Stalin and Dubb 20
A huge part of The Jacka’s legacy will be the number of careers that he sparked and supported. Not only did he record features for literally every artist in the Bay, do a ton collaborative albums with MC’s like Freeway, Berner, and Ampichino, host mixtapes and albums for others, guest perform at people’s shows, and start a record label to release music and promote new artists, but he let young artists shine on his own records. “Never Blink” was the first track on The Jack Artist, and might be the most ubiquitous Jacka song of them all. It also happens to be the first time most people heard J Stalin rap.
The Jacka – “Glamorous Lifestyle” ft. Andre Nickatina
When The Jacka dropped Teargas in 2009, it was a landmark moment in Bay Area rap history. For about a year and a half, you couldn’t go a day in The Bay without hearing someone knock that album at full volume. The entire Bay hadn’t supported and stood behind a project like that since E-40 dropped My Ghetto Report Card almost 5 years earlier. Long term fans loved it, the younger generation got hooked and became new Jacka fans, and it got The Bay paying attention to local artists in a way they hadn’t since Hyphy fizzled out. The Jacka was far from a radio artist, but Teargas featured the biggest radio hit of his career in “Glamorous Lifestyle”. Traxamillion produced an undeniable slap that was perfect for Bay Area radio, which allowed The Jacka and Andre Nickatina to craft a hit without having to sacrifice their content in any way.
Traxamillion – “I’m From The Hood” ft. Tha Jacka, Husalah, and San Quinn
The Jacka and The Husalah will go down next to E-40 and Too $hort as one of the best duos in Bay Area rap history. They’re The Bay’s Jada and Styles. They came up together in The Mob Figgaz, dropped a couple of joint projects, constantly guested on each other’s solo albums, and almost always performed together. When Husalah served time in clink, The Jacka kept his name buzzing. One of the most popular and memorable tracks from the duo was “I’m From The Hood.” It really built momentum after The Hus went away, but with the help of the Jacka, Traxamillion and San Quinn, the track stayed slapping until he got released a few years later.
The Jacka, Husalah, AP9, Cognito and Andre Nickatina – “My 15th Birthday”
This may not be the most famous Jacka track, but it’s one of those songs that always stood out to me. Every MC got busy and spit something meaningful. Jacka’s still-resonant verse encouraged others to take a different path than the one he walked. While the vast majority of his music was street-oriented, he was man enough to regularly discuss the downfalls and moral challenges caused from living that kind of a life. It’s a quality far too rare in hip-hop. This track also reminds us just how deep his catalog is. Mob Trial was a classic album to me, but received little to no promotion, and flew under the radar of most. For a man who recorded over 30 full length projects, there are more albums out there that never got the full attention and promotion that they deserved. The Jacka may be gone, but there’s a wealth of material and life lessons still waiting to be explored.