On Dec. 20, 2017, Reggie “Combat Jack” Ossé died of colon cancer. It’s difficult, and also feels unfair, to give him a single title. He was so many things to so many people. Not only was he a prolific entertainment attorney, but he was also the founding partner of the Loud Speakers Podcast Network and creator-host of The Combat Jack Show.
Long before the world was paying attention to podcasting, he was featuring the hottest artists in hip-hop, academia and media. Some of his past guests included J. Cole, Cardi B, Michael Eric Dyson, yasiin bey (formerly Mos Def), Russell Simmons, Jamilah Lemieux and Kierna Mayo. Before going public with his cancer diagnosis, Ossé launched the audio documentary Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty, which shed light on yet another mogul gone too soon.
Ossé’s professional accomplishments speak volumes about him, yet for those of us who knew him beyond the “internets,” there is so much more to tell. He was insightful, compassionate, brilliant, hilarious, genuine and always willing to do what he called “challenging his own isms.”
Combat Jack shook the podcast industry and left a mark that is impossible to replicate. Furthermore, he shifted the concept of what podcasting should look like and how thought-provoking they could be. According to Danielle Sykes, aka Berry, the creator of Podcasts in Color, “People are so used to white podcasts and podcasters they make it seem like all black ones are only for entertainment.” Combat helped to usher in a new wave of black podcasters that shattered that myth. He raised the bar, as he would say, and as a result, we all benefit from higher-quality podcasting.
He left a legacy that consists of a commitment to black culture, respect for his listeners, uplifting black-owned businesses, amplifying the voices of black women, providing relevant information that empowers the black community, producing high-quality content and being utterly groundbreaking. In honor of his legacy, The Root created a list of black podcasts that display some of the notable qualities The Combat Jack Show embodied.
Added for their commitment to elevating the voices of black women, Extraordinary Negroes makes the list. Jay Connor and Alexander Hardy co-host this smart and hilarious show that isn’t afraid to have the difficult conversations that are often ignored or downplayed. Don’t be surprised to hear the witty co-hosts effortlessly going from exchanging social commentary to sharing intimate stories about their own struggles with mental health.
Yet beyond the laughter, the show’s intentional about highlighting the voices of black women. Jay Connor stated: “We are very deliberate about using our platform to highlight and listen to the brilliant voices of black women. The contributions and wisdom of black women are immeasurable.” True to this statement, the show has featured powerhouse guests such as Luvvie Ajayi; DeShuna Spencer, founder of KwelitTV; and Demetria Lucas D’Oyley.
Connor is not shy about the influence The Combat Jack Show had on his show. “Without The Combat Jack Show, EN would not be possible and I would be miserable working at a job I hated,” he said. “Reggie Ossé single-handedly pioneered the black podcast business and opened up doors that made it possible for EN to launch. I say this all the time. He was literally a game changer. He made room for so many unique voices in this industry.”
Minding My Black Business, led by JaNaé Taylor, embodies a similar commitment to black business ownership as The Combat Jack Show. Minding My Black Business focuses on topics that help you understand when to delegate responsibilities, and offers strategies for performing the seemingly impossible task of managing a 9-to-5 while launching your own business. And because there is no healthy business without a healthy business owner, Taylor makes self-care a central theme. She understands the power of great balance and shares this wisdom on her show.
Hosted by Elliot Wilson and “B. Dot” Miller, Rap Radar has a pretty good mix of guests that would satisfy most hip-hop heads. The guests have included Common, Prodigy and Salaam Remi. Both hosts have a great interviewing style and keen journalistic style. It’s clear they conduct tremendous research before the interviews and have an ability to highlight different aspects of the guest they feature. This aspect of their show illustrates the seemingly large amount of respect they have for their listeners.
Who else can cover hip-hop and culture like hosts Kid Fury and Crissle? They throw epic levels of shade at anyone (except Beyoncé and Blue Ivy) and are unafraid of “calling a thing a thing,” as Iyanla Vanzant would say. The show is smart and witty, and if you go into 2018 without listening to them, you are doing yourself a disservice. Come on, now, they have an episode called “Ethnic Showers” with the ultratalented Jazmine Sullivan. How can you not adore them? In addition, what’s most notable about their show is the amount of high-quality content they produce.
Few things are more revolutionary than black joy. Black joy always seems to be under attack, and sustaining it on a regular is becoming increasingly difficult. Enter hosts Amber and Jazmine. Each week, they hit us with episodes like “If You’re Reading This, God Is a Black Mother,” where they wax poetic about the beauty of Solange’s hair. Listening to these two black women be their brilliant, hilarious selves, openly loving on other black women, is simply what you need in your life every week. They do it for the culture, as Combat would say. Their commitment to black culture is why this list would be incomplete without them.
Hosted by Marlon Peterson, Decarcerated is a perception-shifting show that shares the stories of the journey after incarceration. Life after incarceration can be difficult. Most of the 6 million people who are incarcerated cannot just walk out of an institution and resume life as they knew it. This podcast documents their journey and shares stories on the road to life after prison. It’s outstanding, and like The Combat Jack Show, it’s clearly groundbreaking.
Hosted by TK ( Keisha Dutes) and Conscious, TK in the AM is honored on this list for providing relevant information that empowers the black community. One of the more insightful episodes of the season featured Mary Pryor, a consultant who specializes in teaching black people how to break into the cannabis business. Dutes noted the ways in which Ossé personally influenced her and the show.
“Combat was always an inspiration to us as a person with multiple careers, people that are late bloomers, people starting networks, an adult that didn’t get beaten down by life,” she said. “Reggie was someone to look up to and was accessible—you could walk up to him at Afropunk. He even came to one of our house parties. I love radio people. It’s a very specific family to be a part of. Radio people don’t just die. They leave a traceable and tangible legacy. #CombatJackForever.”
In a world where black people aren’t monolithic, neither are our podcasts. And they vary from entertainment to political, from the mundane to the informative, and it’s time that the big and small podcasts were recognized. “Personally, I see the year 2018 as the year for black and people-of-color podcasts,” Sykes notes.
The void made by Ossé’s absence will not be filled, and in fact, attempting to do so would be a tall order. Black podcasters, the best you can do is to embody what his legacy stood for and honor his work by raising the bar on yours. Do it for the culture. For the rest of us, as Combat Jack would say, “Dream them dreams.”
For a comprehensive list of black and other POC podcasts, check out Podcasts in Color.