“Oakland rapper the Jacka’s new album suggests he should be recognized as one of the last decade’s strongest writers—both within and outside of hip-hop. He makes accessible music that could easily appeal to a wide audience, but What Happened to the World will most readily reach those who still value hip-hop as an art form of evocative lyricism.” – Pitchfork
“It was his talent for writing about the West Coast thug life with unflinching honesty, and a slightly wheezy, yet magnetic, voice, that made him a beloved artist.” – Rolling Stone
“Staunchly independent with commercial highlights in spite of that independence, The Jacka was regionally revered while remaining lightly indifferent to local trends. Throughout his voluminous discography, The Jacka regaled listeners with saccharine chorus hooks, while his wheezy yet stern flow dispatched nuanced, panoramic hustler scenes. Gangsta narratives were tempered by deep empathy — in this regard, The Jacka was an heir to 2Pac.” – East Bay Express
“One of the Bay Area’s most respected lyricists, The Jacka gave voice to the complexities and contradictions of following a spiritual path while doing what it took to survive.” – KQED
Shaheed Akbar, a.k.a. The Jacka (1977-2015), was a foundational figure in the Bay Area rap scene. A member of the legendary crew The Mob Figaz, he built a cult following in the Bay Area with releases such as The Jack Artist (2005) and Tear Gas (2009), which peaked at #93 on the Billboard 200. Known for his street wisdom and deep spirituality, The Jacka remained prolific throughout the 2010s, collaborating with the likes of Freeway, Berner, Andre Nickatina, and Ampichino on full-length albums, and releasing several acclaimed albums on his own. In 2015, The Jacka was assassinated by an unknown gunman, but his memory lives on through the love of his neighborhood and through the many tributes paid by his fellow rappers. Now, five years after his passing, The Jacka’s team will release Murder Weapon, a brand new album with appearances from the likes of Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, Berner, and each of his Mob Figaz associates, due February 28th.
The death of 2Pac in the mid 90’s ripped the heart out of West Coast Hip Hop. At the same time, the Jacka (1977-2015), born Dominick Newton, was honing his skills in the Bay Area rap game. Born to teenage parents, he was raised in the hip hop culture and exposed to break dancing, rap music and graffiti at an unusually young age. Growing up, he was a very serious fan of hip-hop and music of all genres. Always open minded, he was influenced by b-boys and thugs, pimps and Imams. The Jacka developed into an West Coast independent phenomenon, known around the rap community for his poetic lyricism and innate musicality.
Over his 15-year career, the Jacka appeared on hundreds of albums as a lead and guest artist. Some of his most notable work came as a member of influential collective Mob Figaz, founded by Sacramento rapper C-Bo, and including rappers Husalah, Rydah J Klyde, FedX & AP.9. The collective’s 1999 debut album, called C-Bo’s Mob Figaz, sold over 160,000 units in its first year of release, eventually earning a Gold certification from the RIAA. He toured with many artists including Mac Dre, Yukmouth (of the Luniz), C-Bo, and Keak da Sneak as well as by himself in order to create nationwide notoriety.
In 2002, the Jacka released his solo debut album (titled The Jacka). The album performed well, moving 20,000 units, many of which the Jacka sold himself, selling out of his trunk in the Bay Area and shipping copies to stores across the country. Though great support came from his home region, more than half of Jacka’s sales on The Jacka came from outside of California.
His sophomore album The Jack Artist (2005), was one of the higher selling albums to come out in the Bay Area during the Hyphy boom, though the music wasn’t hyphy. With hit singles such as “Barney (More Crime)” (ft. Cormega & Rydah J. Klyde) and “Girls Say,” along with dope album cuts like “Looking At It” (ft. Keak da Sneak & Yukmouth) and ‘Never Blink’, the album was an instant classic with the fans.
His dedication to music and hard work paid off when he received the BARS (Bay Area Rap Scene) Award for “Best Underground Artist” in 2006. He also beat out heavy competition to win the 2008 Ozone Award for up-and-coming California artists.
In 2008, the Jacka released The Street Album, which debuted at #91 on the Billboard 200, along with 12 other solo and collaborative albums that year. In June 2009, the Jacka released his 3rd solo, and most highly anticipated album Tear Gas. The album earned new highs for the Jacka on multiple Billboard Charts, reaching #4 on the Rap Albums chart, #12 on the R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart, #13 on the Indie Albums chart, and #93 on the Billboard 200 during its first week of release.
In the 2010s, the Jacka gracefully aged into an elder statesman, inspiring young Bay Area artists like Nef The Pharaoh, Philthy Rich, and many more. He was a ready and willing collaborator, collaborating with the likes of Freeway (2014’s Highway Robbery), Berner (2012’s Border Wars among others), Andre Nickatina (2010’s My Middle Name Is Crime), and Ampichino (Devilz Rejectz 2). His final release while alive was a street album entitled, What Happened to the World, released in Dec 2014 & earned an 8.0 score from Pitchfork.
Just as his career was ready to reach new heights, tragedy struck. On February 2nd, 2015, the Jacka was assassinated in Oakland by an unknown gunman, putting an end to one of Bay Area rap’s most celebrated lives. But the legacy of the Jacka lives on–his friends and collaborators are determined to keep his spirit alive through music, combing through Jacka’s vault of unreleased material and creating a new treasure trove of projects.
The Jacka’s lyrics embody the code of the streets and amplify the stories of everyday struggles. They bear a powerful message, emphasizing the importance of maintaining faith, growth, and determination in the midst of drug-addiction and murder. Though he is no longer with us, the Jacka’s unique presence lives on through his music and in the hearts and minds of those he inspired.