The Jacka 

Tear Gas

Few rappers could ever match the Jacka's cult of personality: Roughest of the rough, hardest of the hard — with just enough humanity to be believed. For starters, he named himself to honor his talent for burglary. Then there's the cover art on his new album, Tear Gas, which depicts an army of young men with gas masks and bullet-proof vests. On the inside flap he sits at home brandishing a shotgun and watching his own "Wanted" ad flash across the TV screen, while a S.W.A.T. team tries to break down his door. Such imagery recalls an earlier era of hip-hop, when Ice Cube made political gangsta albums that were as much about his conflicts with the cops as his dissolute lifestyle. Had Jacka released Tear Gas a couple years ago, it might have seemed antiquated. Now, with the Oscar Grant prosecution well underway, he is right on point.

The first single on Tear Gas — a two-chord radio hit called "All Over Me" — has anomalous presence on an album that's more about feeling angry and disaffected. You ain't ready/Nah, you will never be, Jacka sneers on the hook to "Just a Celebrity," a song that reveals his reservations about fame and selling out. It's a political line he maintains for most of the album: on the poignant and painful "Summer," which is about wasting away the summer in jail; on "Heroes," which sounds like a cryptic homage to cop-killers; even on the Beastie Boys spin-off "Girls," on which Jacka declares himself a committed bachelor. Despite the acerbic content, there are a lot of things to praise about this album, from Jacka's distinctive, half-singing, half-snarling rap voice, to the cameos by Zion I and Devin the Dude, to the melodic beats, which shore up the sentiment in Jacka's tales of the 'hood.

The title Tear Gas combines a word for fuel with a word for heart-felt emotion, and alludes to a form of chemical warfare. It's apropos. (The Artist)

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