Combat Jack’s Friend Details His Bravery & Dignity In His Final Days
Combat Jack, known to his closest friends and acquaintances as Reggie Ossé, passed away on December 20, 2017, after a battle with colon cancer. During the Redman episode of his Combat Jack Show podcast, Ossé revealed to the public that he had been diagnosed and was fighting for his life. Two months after that announcement, the community mourned the man who was committed to the Hip-Hop culture. As tributes to the Hip-Hop attorney-turned-blogger-turned-author-turned-podcast pioneer were wide-ranging (including mention during the recent Grammys) details surrounding his last moments and cancer progression are more scarce.
Veteran journalist Paul Cantor, who was very close to Ossé, penned a detailed and thoughtful account of Combat’s time battling cancer and introspective on his life for Vulture. In the piece, Cantor reveals how the 25-plus-year Hip-Hop figure learned of his colon cancer diagnosis. During one particularly vivid passage, Ossé’s caring and bravery shined through while joined by his girlfriend Mika and a hospital resident.
Cancer would be a teachable moment, a way to raise awareness — but first, he needed to know his own status. ‘Stage 4,”’he’d heard, but there was no pathology, no real diagnosis.
Just then though, as if on cue, a hospital resident walked in. She had news. It was bad.
‘What’s the over-under?’ he asked.
The resident seemed unsure, gave him a number anyway. It was a better number than expected but still not great.
Mika’s eyes turned glassy and wet. Ossé looked on stoically, his eyes wide, his breath steady.
‘I mean, that’s dire,’ he said, his feet bouncing nervously beneath the blanket. ‘That’s dire, that’s what it is.’
He paused, considering things.
‘But that sounds great to me. A fighting chance.’
The resident stammered.
‘Glass half full, right — again, I’m sorry,’ she said, choking up.
‘No,’ he said. ‘Don’t be sorry.’
‘You’re a great patient though,’ she said.
‘Karen — listen.’
His voice was a whisper.
‘Don’t be sorry.’
Combat Jack’s rise from Def Jam intern to entertainment lawyer alongside Louise West, a heavily-established Black attorney known for working with R&B acts, is presented in great detail. He told Cantor about helping JAY-Z land his first record deal and setting up his own firm, Ossé-Woods, LLP. There, with partner Ed Woods (who tragically died just days ahead of Reggie Ossé) Combat negotiated on behalf of Bad Boy’s “Hitmen” production team (D-Dot, Stevie J., Nashiem Myrick, Amen-Ra, etc.) among others. Also specified was how Combat began the Combat Jack Show, a podcast that would become monumental for not only Hip-Hop, but the music industry as a whole.
“At first, the Combat Jack Show aired live over the Internet, late at night; if anyone was actually listening, nobody knew,” writes Cantor. “Dallas Penn, another blogger, served as co-host. It was loose and unscripted, more like friends in a barbershop than a choreographed interview show. Over time, a crew of regulars came onboard — Premium Pete, DJ BenHaMeen, A-King, and record producer Just Blaze (who would sometimes fly back to New York from various gigs via helicopter to record the show), among others.”
Finally, the story of Reggie Ossé’s last days are told to the public. Between the mixed and inconclusive news he received from doctors early on, technical issues stemming from his health insurance, and his own held beliefs that holistic healing (which he didn’t seek due to his preferred doctor passing away in 2016) would be a better alternative than chemotherapy, Ossé’s health declined sharply. The doctor who first performed surgery on his colon informed him that he had Stage 4 cancer. Cantor writes that it was after Mika began crying hysterically that Reggie decided to return to a hospital. At that point, he had been home for a month. Ossé reportedly returned for hospitalization by Uber, after passing out on his own building’s stoop. Shortly after his return, Reggie Ossé passed away in late December. His last moments described in a way ever so fitting for him.
“Periodically, he’d whisper to Mika, who had been there since he’d been diagnosed,” Cantor writes. “He laid flat, his head back, cradled in her hands. I wondered how long this would continue. I wondered if he knew I was there. Then his head went back further, he appeared unconscious, but was not. He wanted to say something. His eyes opened. His head lifted. He smiled, teeth showing, eyes bright. He put an outstretched arm in the air. Then he flashed a peace sign.”
The last episode of the Combat Jack Show aired on January 16, a reunion of Reggie Ossé’s staff throughout the years: