I. Combat Jack, The Pioneer
Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins vividly remembers when the late Reggie “Combat Jack” Ossé asked him, “You listen to Mogul yet?” Jinx saw Ossé’s online promotion, but his answer was no, he hadn’t. “C’mon,” Ossé responds, “it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Only after binge-listening to the six-episode, Combat Jack-narrated podcast, Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty, could Jinx fully comprehend Ossé’s enthusiasm. In a profile published not long after its 2017 release, Sarah Larson of The New Yorker expressed it best:
“In telling his story, Mogul advances podcasting in a few important ways. It’s a big step in the evolution of the emerging genre of narrative biographical podcasts, which include S-Town, Missing Richard Simmons, the Dov Charney season of StartUp and, on some level, the first two seasons of Serial.”—Sarah Larson, “Mogul and the Rise of the Biographical Podcast”
Mogul was, in Larson’s words, the “first highly produced narrative podcast about hip-hop.” Mogul was Apollo 11, making Gimlet Media, the podcast production-company, NASA. Combat Jack was their Neil Armstrong.
As someone who documented stories of the past through present-day platforms like blogging and podcasts, no man was a better fit to peel-back the layers of Chris Lighty’s complicated life and his extraordinary impact on hip-hop history than Reggie Ossé.
Critical acclaim naturally followed; Mogul emerged as a new frontier for hip-hop podcasting led by one of its renowned originators. Four months after the show’s spring release, Combat Jack was diagnosed with colon cancer. Five days before Christmas, news spread of his untimely passing.
During his lifetime, a short but remarkable 53 years, the Brooklyn-native wandered through hip-hop with a Midas touch. There’s no replicating the gold standard he set. But someone can expand on the castles he built and continue documenting the culture with grace and vision. That’s precisely what Jinx does as the host of Mogul Season 2: Miami.
II. Jinx, the Storyteller
Changes in both host and geography make season two of Mogul a unique listening experience while maintaining the absorbing, illuminating spirit that made season one so exalted.
“If you’re like Kendrick [Lamar] and you have a good kid, m.A.A.d city, then, for your second act, you can go in a vastly different direction and push the boundaries of what people think you can do,” Jinx explains over the phone from his New York City apartment. “After that, you can fit anywhere in the spectrum.”
A Kendrick Lamar parallel is the type of thoughtful analogy we’ve come to expect from the State of The Culture co-host. State of The Culture, the discourse-driven talk show produced by Diddy’s Revolt, is one of many hip-hop-centric endeavors Jinx is known for. Before weekly debates with industry giants Joe Budden, Remy Ma, and formerly Scottie Beam, the Morehouse graduate was a news anchor, editorial producer, host, and journalist at Complex.
Even with years of reputable credentials, Jinx is an unexpected storyteller for a tale about the 305. When asked about choosing the season’s subject, the New Jersey-born cultural commentator responds: “I wanted to do Dipset.”
Laughing, Jinx explains the process of being selected as the host and the selection of this season’s theme:
“The conversation began in my last run at Complex. I was looking to make some career changes and I heard from a few friends my name was being thrown around. Then, Matthew Nelson, who is the senior producer of the show, reached out to me formally. That was about July or August of 2018.
“When we sat down to talk, it wasn’t like, ‘Hey, be the voice.’ It was like, ‘What do you think?’ Everyone made their own shortlist and we started to combine them. Then came the question: what are the stories we want to tell? I kept thinking of telling stories that were contemporary.
“When I listened to Chris Lighty, that felt like Reggie’s time. His evolution in hip-hop was parallel to the story he was telling. When I started thinking about mine, I thought Dipset, but we landed on Miami.”
For Jinx, one hurdle to overcome was doubt. Filling Combat Jack’s shoes is a tall order. “He’s someone a lot of us looked up to, someone that was a mentor and also a friend. It’s Combat Jack, Reggie Ossé,” Jinx says earnestly. “I remember there was one point where I needed to ask advice, and the only person I would’ve asked is Reggie. It’s nuts.”
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But the people around Jinx believed in him, and he internalized their faith. “I had to make up my mind,” Jinx says. “I felt like Reggie would rock with me doing this.”
III. 2 Black, 2 Strong, 2 Live
Unlike season one of Mogul, season two begins with an arrest in Miami, not a funeral in New York. This was Luther Campbell and 2 Live Crew, explicit lyrics and expensive lawsuits, an era of Miami rap putting freedom of speech at the forefront of hip-hop discourse.
Jinx opens season two with a disclaimer: “In this story, you’re going to hear a lot of curse words and references to sex acts…” It’s the parental advisory sticker for unsuspecting eardrums who haven’t listened to podcasts centered on outspoken outlaws and radio pirates.
“There’s sort of like this tendency towards the explicit, towards the shock; what you haven’t seen or heard before coming out of people’s mouths,” Jinx says. Speaking of Miami’s unique energy with the reverence of someone who felt their culture firsthand, he continues:
“Miami doesn’t make sense geographically, as far as the market goes. It’s like nine hours from Georgia. So it gives them a very do-it-yourself attitude. Whether it’s music, style, slang, food, just their culture is so unique. Hip-hop, especially now, owes Miami some due diligence and not just Uncle Luke, but the totality of Miami: the 2 Live Crew, Mr. Mixx, Trina, Trick Daddy...
“The blown-out bass comes from Miami. Look at how popular fast-tempo dance culture is, or party culture, I mean nobody parties like Miami. Once I got there, I saw so many things that parallel today. Just so many direct lines of lineage to the way in which our hip-hop culture looks that people may not know. It didn’t come from nowhere. Miami is overdue its respect."
The origin story of 2 Live Crew is imperative to the history of Miami hip-hop. They’re the beginning.
Luther Campbell, better known as Uncle Luke, is the Adam in their Book of Genesis. Some say he’s also the snake who prompted Eve to bite the forbidden apple, which is why their story is as complicated as it is controversial, and as genius as it is shocking. At its essence, the story is one of black expression against the world. What is more hip-hop than that?
“The research for this season was less about things that can be Googled,” Jinx remarks when asked about gathering the stories for the six-episode season. “These are people you have to find. The interviews we did were at people’s places of work or their home.”
“We’re in Liberty City; we’re in Wynwood. We’re all through corners of Miami, as well as the stuff we did in New York or stuff we did remotely. The research for this was very much about identifying the people we needed to speak to and then going and getting with them. There are some amazing stories and interviews and characters that aren’t ultimately included in the final production, but they are as deserving and as worthy as what you hear on the podcast.”—Jinx
In a 2017 interview, Combat Jack told CJR, “I make my show for people that are interested in hearing a great story.” When asked what episode from this season he believes Ossé would like best, Jinx’s took a few seconds before responding.
“My favorite is DJ Raw, that’s episode six,” he begins. “He’s such a great character. This dude was doing sound effects as he was telling stories! He becomes this infamous hip-hop aficionado and lobbyist in Miami, but also, at the same time, a very respected and intimidating character in the drug scene. His story has so much texture…”
“But!” Jinx continues, “If I think about what I think Reggie likes… he’d like episode two... how they started from the bottom. I feel like that’s Reggie’s bag.”
Although he isn’t here in the physical, the spirit of Combat Jack is alive and well. With season two, Mogul proves the series he started with Gimlet Media is in good hands.
By Yoh, aka Yoh, The Writer aka @Yoh31