48. Tha Jacka, The Street Album (2008)
For many listeners nationally, the hyphy movement was a momentary flash in an ongoing regional trend chase by a headline hungry media class. It had a manic production style, an Ecstasy obsession, and something about kids being reckless with automobiles. But the Bay's musical renaissance went a lot deeper—and was more gangster.
The Jacka was one of the key members of the Mob Figaz, a crew that originated in Pittsburg, California, and was affiliated with Mac Dre and Cali gangster rap vet C-Bo. The Jacka's slick, laid-back delivery and slow-burner lyricism built a strong local buzz that reached an apex in the late '00s.
The Street Album was the highest-profile mixtape in the build-up to Jacka's ambitious Tear Gas LP. It nearly equals that album's diverse ambition, although it does so with a less polished, more hood-oriented sound. The Jacka's lyrical style is subtle, communicating its ideas through artful implication and cool reserve, rather than expressiveness or energy.
Opener "A Real Feeling" best expresses Jack's rugged mantra: "Niggas respect me, feel what's under my shirt/Hit a bank bare-faced, slid a note to the clerk." He also weighs in on his region's sound: "With the hyphy movement but I don't listen to clowns/If you ain't hyphy with a pistol you ain't hyphy for real."
The production, meanwhile, spans worlds: there's Jeffro's lush, chilling synthesizer peaks of "Aspen," the throwback theremins of "For the Mob," Young L's bittersweet opiate-drop "Addiction," and "Crown Me"'s complete reinvention of Sizzla's "Solid as a Rock." But underneath the record's street bluster and violent imagery is a record that retains a righteous heart, even at its most nihilistic. —David Drake