Thursday's Pick: Mob Figaz Featuring the Jacka & Husalah at Slim's

Categories: What to Do
mob figaz.jpg
The Jacka

Mob Figaz featuring the Jacka & Husalah

Strong Arm Steady

DJ Quest
9 p.m., $21

You can't blame the Jacka, a Pittsburg, Calif., rapper whose group, Mob Figaz, is heading into its second decade, for getting a bit sentimental. "When we're all in the studio and I look at [the group's members] and realize ain't none of these fuckin' dudes on drugs, none of them have lost their lives, nobody's doing no real serious time to the point where they won't come home again ... it's a blessing," he says.

This relatively rosy state of affairs was far from assured for Mob Figaz, which counts the Jacka, Husalah, Rydah J. Clyde, Fed-X, and AP.9 among its members. Since the group was discovered by C-Bo, a legendary Sacramento rapper best known for recording with Tupac Shakur, Mob Figaz has seen its career occasionally derailed by legal problems and personal issues. Husalah was released from prison late last year, after serving three years on federal drug charges.

So when the Jacka sees his crew working together and comments that "it was meant to be," he might have a point. The larger perspective implied is certainly nothing new: Mob Figaz' music has always wrestled with the tension between living life on the streets and pursuing spirituality. (That is, under a veneer of well-produced beats and rhymes.) As practicing Muslims, the group's members know that struggle all too well.

Close listeners might even absorb some wisdom about how to handle the conflict between survival and morality -- an aspect that has helped the group's music appeal to an older audience since its members' teenage days. "I used to go outside, nigga, hustle in the rain," begins the hook on "Hustlin' in the Rain," from the group's 1999 debut. "I try to pray to repent on my sins/But the pain was so intense/I didn't think it would help/I'm still searching for the knowledge of self/Snatchin' my check up off the shelf."

"There's always a message," the Jacka says. "We're not rapping just to shoot the breeze, because when we're gone, we realize our music is still gonna be here. We've got a tongue, and we're blessed with speech. Some people can't even talk, so we've gotta use it for the right things. We don't want to lead people astray after we're gone, because all that is coming back on our soul."

Now, after years of playing word-of-mouth events and 21-and-up clubs, Mob Figaz' most visible members, the Jacka and Husalah, are bringing their message to an all-ages stage in San Francisco. "Very few people will be over the age of 25 at that show," he predicts of the Slim's concert, "so we'll probably play the stuff that they can relate to, stuff we did since about 2003. You don't want to go all the way too far back where only three to four people know the songs in there."

A new Mob Figaz album is also in the works -- its first original full-length in seven years. Like the group's previous works, the Jacka says it will likely be self-titled.

"We never title an album," he explains. "When you title an album, people want to know why you titled the album that. It might be superficial if you title an album. It's like if you go to buy a book: You see the title and you pretty much have an idea what the book's about, even if you haven't read it. [That] might shun you away from buying the book when the book probably has a lot more in it than what the title says."

He seems unconcerned by the confusion this might cause to distributors or in online stores. "It might [be confusing], but who cares?" he says. "It's music for the people -- and when they want something, they're gonna go get it."

Take that on a streetwise rapper's gut instinct, or on faith, if you prefer. Though he may have grown a bit sentimental, the Jacka still has a lot of the old gangsta in him.

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