In 2012, the city of Stockton filed for bankruptcy. Debt had ballooned from $3 million in 2006 to $17.2 million. Housing got less affordable, and led to the Weston Ranch neighborhood being a magnet for foreclosures. Citizens living on government pensions soon lost their longtime residences. Then there was the high crime rate, which only a decade ago led Forbes to name Stockton the fifth most dangerous city in America. (Even if Forbes is in no place to examine the heart of the city.)
But by February 2015, Stockton successfully exited bankruptcy. Problems with housing, unemployment, and crime remain, but it was a win for a city that had been through immense pain. I say this all to point out that EBK Young Joc’s rough life reminds me of the rise of his home town. After the death of his older brother, who told him that rapping was the way that the family was going to rise, Joc started spitting. From there, it’s been an arduous but steady climb.
To hear the Stockton rapper’s music is to hear his lineage among the Bay Area legends, whose sound extends from Sacramento all the way down to south to Fresno and Stockton. After being sent to Juvenile Detention Center at 17, the Sacramento rapper Bris, hit Joc’s line to chop it up. He showed up to the studio in Stockton and they immediately started collaborating, creating an essential body of work that made them one of the best duos of their generation.
Like his comrade, the dearly departed Bris, Joc sounds casually menacing. There’s no time to waste by charming us. Where Bris had a whispery rasp, Joc has much more bark. He’s more straightforward. Bars hit as raw and clear as Nino Brown’s glass plate. Even if he’s relatively new at this (his first album, 21 Jump Street, dropped in December 2019), he already sounds like a veteran with multiple flows. The cadence might be the same, but the pace is different every time. He can go slow like a point guard sitting up the play and surveying where the defenders are. Take‘’Real Mafia’’, a standout track on his second effort, The Fresh Prince of Belair, where he sounds deliberate and controlled; whereas ‘’Get It Litty’’ is chaotic. He combines nihilism with the self medication of living in the hood, losing loved ones in his early life and disgust for his enemies.
There are many strong Bris and EBK Young Joc songs, but ‘’Dumb and Dumber’’ is the one that sticks with you the most. It’s a song that brings out exactly what made them a formidable duo. Bris is the quiet assassin who sounds like the leader in the duo. The Marlo Stanfield of Sacramento, giving out orders without raising his voice or breaking a sweat. He was always in control with his vocal tone, but still as deadly as his shooter. If Bris is Marlo, then Joc is Snoop Pearson with how he uses slang to intimidate. Their music was a combination of different rapping styles, but the same mentality. They both spit bars that are the equivalent of the M.E. saying a victim had blunt forced trauma.
Bris and Joc were building off of that with classic Bay Area piano production. The former was a clear-cut breakout phenom: He built tension with each bar like every line is building towards a main event that ends with Bris stomping you out in front of your parents house like Kendrick as a teenager. ‘’Dumb and Dumber’’ was just one song that the Bris and Joc had that turned heads with its weirdness and violent outbursts. Another one, ‘’Jokes Up’’, dropped on June 14th, 2020. It’s the last time we heard Bris alive and he was in rare form: Even though stacking paper is his meal, cookies still make him have the munchies. On June 21st, he was shot dead in Sacramento shortly after the clock hit midnight. He was pronounced dead at the scene. He was only 24.
Thankfully, Joc is still here to carry on that legacy. He’s not just carrying Stockton on his back, he’s bearing the torch for his brother and his late rap brethren. Like his city, he’s endured difficult times, but he also knows he is on the rise. He maintains a humor to him that is in his music, as well as his native land. In our conversation, we spoke about Bris, Stockton, the death of his brother, and the perils of clout chasing. — Jayson Buford
What was it like growing up in Stockton?
EBK Young Joc: Shit. It was kind of rough. Big ass city. Ain’t got much out here, so it was kind of rough as a kid. We had to really get it out of the mud.
Yeah. What was your neighborhood known for?
EBK Young Joc: Getting money, at first, until we came in.
You used to skateboard as a kid. But did you do anything else growing up? What did you do in school?
EBK Young Joc: Nah. I wasn’t good with the school shit. I dropped out when I was in 10th grade.
What was that like?
EBK Young Joc: Shit, it was cool. You know the bitches. Having fun at school.
Schooling is weird. Some people need it. Some people genuinely thrive without the restraints of American education.
EBK Young Joc: Sometimes a nigga do be thinking about going back. Sometimes a nigga think in the long run, I’ll probably go back.
You started rapping after your brother tragically passed away. First of all, I’m sorry for your loss.
EBK Young Joc: Good shit, good looking, man. I ain’t start rapping literally after. It took me a little time.
Do you remember the moment where you realized that it was go time for you? That you had to put the family on your back?
EBK Young Joc: Around when I was 18, 17. When I got out of juvie and my brother was like, “So, what you going to do?” “Nigga, We about to rap.”
What was being in juvie like?
EBK Young Joc: There were riots. Fights and shit, but other than that, it was smooth for juvenile. That’s like kindergarten or elementary and shit, and then comes high school.
Was that shit still wack though?
EBK Young Joc: Yeah, on my mama. That shit still trash. Still getting incarcerated.
I know that your brother was also your biggest influence as a rapper because you didn’t really listen to rap before then. What was his style like?
EBK Young Joc: He was older so he was more like an older, smooth rapper. Rapping to old school beats, real weird beats.
You got a little bit of a whisper flow. How have you perfected that?
EBK Young Joc: On my mama, I got some of his flow in me. If you can tell, most of my songs, I don’t really do hooks. I don’t do choruses and shit. That comes from him because he don’t do no hooks. He said fuck a hook, so I’m also saying fuck a hook. I’m going to keep that going from him.
I saw that Bris had first hit you when you got out. Do you remember what y’all talked about?
EBK Young Joc: Yeah, he was like, “What’s going on?” I’m said, “Shit.” I was a fan of him. Back then, we used to listen to all of the shit. We used to listen to everybody. So, once bro hit me, I was like, “Damn. Okay. We’re going crazy.” So, he hit me. He’s like, “Where y’all at?” We like, “In Stockton. We at our studio” because at that time, we had our own studio. Shit, I’m like, “Pull up.” He pulled up and shit by himself. He came out there, we just started shooting videos and shit. We shot a video like the next day after. We all went to the mall that day and bought clothes. Once we met each other we were like, all right, niggas understanding each other.
Why do you think you and Bris worked so well together?
EBK Young Joc: Because our minds were similar. We was head to head type shit.
What are some memories you have of making “Jokes Up”?
EBK Young Joc: The dude, Armani DePaul, that we got on the song, he had hit me like, boom, “What’s up, bro. I need a feature.” So, I’m like, “All right, it’s good.” Then, he hit Bris like, “Hey yo, what’s up, bro? I need a feature.” He didn’t really know we was boys. He hit me, I hit Bris, I screen shotted the shit like, “Who this dude?” He like, “I don’t know.” “He hit me for a feature and shit.” He’s like, “For real?” I’m like, “For real.” He’s like, “Yeah, he trying to put me on the same song.” So, boom. We go out there with Bris and shit. We’re brothers. So, we’re laughing and shit, we get to the little thing. Bruh got the studio in his house, the video, the camera right there ready. Everything. We’re laughing. We’re just really rolling. The song wasn’t meant to really blow up like that, but I’m glad it did though. With the Jokes Up and shit, I was on some other shit with it because I was just doing a feature. I wasn’t trying to go too hard, but everybody like, “You was going hella hard” and the reason that it really went up was because, mind you, Bris had went to jail. So, when he had got out, that was the first song we did together and once we got done, we got in the car like, “Bitch, we tripping.” I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Bruh, that’s the first song we just did together since I’ve been out, bro. We got to go to the studio right now before he drops that.” We went and made “Big Bloody.” That’s how that was and that motherfucker went up. Bruh dropped that motherfucker and we went from there.
What is something about him that we may not know?
EBK Young Joc: My brother was a goofy nigga but he don’t play. He was a real gangster, a real nigga, but he was a goofy. He was a cool nigga. My brother was cool, man.
That’s a fact. How has being a father affected your life?
EBK Young Joc: Shit, made a nigga really become a man. It’s time for a nigga to do something. Back then, when I didn’t have a kid, niggas could fooling around, like we ain’t really got any responsibility. A nigga spending money however he wants. Now a nigga got a kid, you can’t even do that.
So, you’ve dealt with a lot of loss in your life. How have you been able to overcome that?
EBK Young Joc: To be honest, I just put it in my music. That’s how overcome it. I sit and think a lot, so it’s really just the music. I’m not like the other rappers, you see how they are around other people and shit. I’m really out here. Me and my niggas. All of my niggas really in jail. I don’t fuck with a lot of people.
EBK stands for what?
EBK Young Joc: See, we got three meanings. Everybody Killer. Everybody Kount and Every Band Kount. All my brothers count. Yep. As long as you’re my brother, every brother counts. As long as we know … we’re brothers. That’s a different meaning from friend, or homie, or partner. Every brother counts, that’s real brother shit.
You have a small circle. Why is that?
EBK Young Joc: A lot of motherfuckers are really janky. And we’re janky too, so you can’t put two dogs in the same cage, they’re going to fight. It takes a snake to know a snake, so motherfuckers don’t really get along with us. And we don’t get along with them because niggas don’t click right. You can’t be harder than us, and we can’t be harder than y’all, so we stick with our side. Everybody is casual here and there, but we stick with our side.
You got anything dropping soon? What are you working on?
EBK Young Joc: Yep. I’m working on this next EP and shit, so on the next one that I’m about to do, I’ve got a new video coming soon and everything. It’s called “Get Litty.’’ That’s off the album. That’s a new video that’s about to drop. I got a couple of videos that’s in the vault that I still got to shoot off the album. I got “Greetings” too. I be working.
Hell yeah. All right, bonus question for you. What types of people in the streets piss you off the most?
EBK Young Joc: Shit. Nerds. Niggas who don’t know what they be talking about. Niggas that ain’t street smart or that be running around with their head cut off like a stupid chicken. A nigga that don’t know what the fuck he’s doing, don’t know what he talking about, just swear he wants to do it. For example, nigga, if you’re 18 years old and just now trying to play and perpetrate, niggas hard and shit, stop. Please stop. That ain’t it, you don’t know what you doing because you ain’t been out here. I started being outside when I was 13.
Why do you think niggas clout chase like that?
EBK Young Joc: They think that shit cool. I done been shot five times. That shit ain’t cool at all. That’s coming from a real gangster, nigga. This shit ain’t cool. We got to live like this.