R.I.P. The Jacka (1977-2015)

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Reader/friend,

A few days ago, the Bay Area lost one of its most beloved rappers.

His name was Dominic Newton. He was known better as The Jacka, and he was sadly killed in an East Oakland shooting on February 2nd, 2015.

I feel pretty weird about the whole thing, to be honest. It’s not like I ever knew him personally, but I’d like to say I knew his music pretty well.

I have a vivid memory of my brother and I talking about how ridiculous it would sound if we had heard The Jacka rapping a cappella, but his relatively high-pitched voice and slurred speech is one of the qualities of Jack that made him one of my favorite Bay Area rappers, along with his rough lyrics and tough delivery.

He is one of the cornerstones of Bay Area hip-hop. Often, you hear his name amongst the likes of Mac Dre, Too $hort, Andre Nickatina, E-40, and other pioneering Bay Area hip-hop artists. One of Oakland’s most prominent rappers and one of the Bay Area’s most admired, he was one of few who helped to keep Bay Area hip-hop relevant in the 2000’s.

A friend of mine had met The Jacka before at a show. At a later show, The Jacka recognized him from the previous show, and subsequently brought him over to Husalah, another Bay Area rapper, to take pictures with him. I never met him, but based on this hearsay, it seemed like he was a person who really cared for others, his fans included.

I’ll never forget the days of my adolescence, walking down the streets of San Francisco listening to his album Tear Gas as well as his collaboration with Andre Nickatina, My Middle Name Is Crime. I’ll never forget skating with my friends with the song “Aspen” blasting in my earbuds. I’ll never forget how his music made me, a kid lacking confidence, feel like one of the toughest people alive. He was a part of my childhood, and I have so many memories with this man’s music.

Ultimately, this is a tragic loss for the Bay Area and its hip-hop culture. Sadly, The Jacka is just another example of a good life brought to an early conclusion as a result of senseless violence. We need to bring the violence to an end and quit looking for ways to justify this violence; it’s not worth it. It is sad to hear about so much death on a regular basis. Rest in peace.


-J.S.T.

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I’m back! (A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio; 1965; Factory Records)

Reader/friend,

I felt really discouraged to continue writing.

Quite frankly, I’m lazy and pretty insecure about my ideas, and I get really anxious when it comes to writing or even sharing my ideas. I always fear the disapproval and judgment of others.

I didn’t have such a good winter break, emotionally speaking. I came down with a case of the winter doldrums. Feeling insignificant and detached from those once close to me, my motivation was at an all-time low.

I spent a lot of time by myself over the break. I read some works by J.D. Salinger (Franny and Zooey and a few of his short stories from his short story collection, Nine Stories), author of my favorite book, The Catcher in the Rye. I read that his famous and acclaimed short story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, was deemed incomprehensible by his editor upon first reading it.

But, Salinger didn’t quit when faced with criticism. He stuck with writing and ended up writing a book that changed my life when I read it. Never have I ever related so much to a book, nor have I ever experienced such intense emotion upon reading a book, and I am certainly one of many people that The Catcher in the Rye has moved. I hope to have this same effect on my readers. Imagine if he did call it quits! I truly believe my life would not be the same.

I put a lot of work into my post on One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, only for six people to view my post (three of those “people” being me viewing from my tablet, phone, and laptop). However, I was fortunate enough to receive some very flattering praise from those who did read it.

In short, I was working hard, but not many people were reading my posts, so I said “forget it.” But it’s very unreasonable for me to expect my blog to blow up after such a short amount of time, and giving up due to a lack of viewership is the wrong reason to quit. Who really cares about the quantity of readers that visit my page? I care more about the quality of my readers and the practice and the art of writing itself. I derive a lot of pleasure from doing this, and I can feel myself improving. Those who have read and responded to any of my blog posts have affirmed my belief that there are people who really enjoy what I write about.

And to be honest, I’m quite tired of keeping all of my thoughts to myself.


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A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio [1965; Factory Records]


You can view my Vince Guaraldi Trio listening stats here.

My 5 Favorite Tracks:

  1. “Christmas Time Is Here – Instrumental”
  2. “What Child Is This”
  3. “O Tannenbaum”
  4. “My Little Drum”
  5. “Skating”

Joe’s Rating: 5/5 (“Well, it’s perfect to me.”)


A Charlie Brown Christmas is a television special which originally aired on CBS in 1965 that has been highly acclaimed and regarded as one of the best television specials ever created, and its soundtrack, written and performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, is the best soundtrack of any kind that I have ever heard.

Let me preface this review by saying I’ve always hated Christmas carols—a lot.

But the Vince Guaraldi Trio espouses the musical qualities of the Christmas carol and jazz impeccably. Featuring smooth piano, bass, and drums, this soundtrack is a very well-crafted one. Classic carols such as “O Tannenbaum” are reimagined and covered in creative and pleasing ways. The soundtrack conjures up memories of the joy and fun of childhood, accompanied by the latent sadness of eventually having to grow up and move on from those things with which you grew up.

Songs like “Linus and Lucy” and “Christmas Time Is Here” immortalized the Peanuts franchise, giving it relevance even over 50 years after the series had begun, but other songs are often overlooked. The track “Skating” makes me imagine exactly what its title implies, and the vivid imagery that the song evokes, despite the fact that it lacks lyrics, is very fascinating. Imagine a cold winter day of ice skating with your friends, clad in snowhats, earmuffs, scarves, quilted and padded jackets, and multiple layers of socks, blithely gliding along the surface of an icy lake and living.

Am I a sap for shedding tears when I heard the beautiful track “Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental)”? Music in general and this soundtrack especially made things a bit easier for me during the break, along with hugs from Mom and petting the dog.

This soundtrack exemplifies the power of music and the capacity of human emotion. It is truly amazing how people can communicate messages and evoke such intense and real emotions using musical instruments, and it is even more amazing when they are able to do this without lyrics. The soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas makes me experience the same beautiful, bittersweet emotions that The Catcher in the Rye made me feel, and it leaves a similar, lasting impression on me. Allow it to dig you out of any rut you ever fall into, and revel in its beauty. This is music!


-J.S.T