A few months before his untimely death, the revered wordsmith dropped What Happened to the World, a relatively somber effort that placed a scope on issues affecting the very city he would take his final breath in: Oakland.
The project also provided a worldwide introduction to Seattle-based spitter Carey Stacks. Despite being 6’2, 350 pounds, the 25-year-old artist attacks the beat in a fashion that’s more mellow than aggressive but still unapologetically street.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck before Carey Stacks was able to fully capitalize off the momentum he received from appearing on What Happened to the World. On February 2nd, The Jacka was shot once in the head in East Oakland. He was transported to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injury.
Losing a close friend and mentor had a profound effect on Carey Stacks, and it also inspired him to take music more seriously. The up-and-coming artist is prepping the release of his The Hiatus EP and highly anticipated third album, Child of the Night.
Carey Stacks chopped it up with me about his Seattle upbringing, past love for football, friendship with The Jacka, upcoming projects, and fatherhood.
You can get more familiar with him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
You’re representing Seattle. Aside from you, who are some people making dope music in that area?
We got a couple people up here that I fuck around with. It’s another cat up here named MDot 80. He’s known throughout the Midwest and the Bay Area. That same market that I’m in. There’s a couple other people. There’s another cat named Kai-1, he’s pretty dope. He’s got his own little group and shit. And me and my partners I fuck with. I got a dude, he’s not up under me, but I kind of brought him to this rap shit. His name’s Weez. He’s pretty dope.
You hail from Seattle's South Side. How does that area differ from other parts of the city?
The people are different. It looks different. The way our homes are, it’s a little more spread out opposed to the other side of town, the central. Those houses are, like, close together and older homes. It’s more closer to downtown Seattle, so it looks a lot different over there. The south is more like a neighborhood.
When I was growing up out there, it was the 'hood — for real, for real. Like, shit happening every second. But now they’re kind of trying to move everybody out of that thing. If your family don’t own the house or whatever, you’re pretty much gone. They’re trying to clean it up. I think it’s called gentrification.
Tell me about your upbringing out there.
Growing up, I didn’t have no problems really. It was just the normal. I didn’t grow up with my dad in my household, so my older brother and my grandfather kind of stood in for him. My mom did the best she could to take care of me. She was a hustler, so I kind of got that hunger for more just automatically in me without having to really go through nothing. It just came natural. I didn’t become no hustler because I needed to. I just wanted to be able to take care of myself. I had a pretty good upbringing. I went to the streets because I wanted to go to the streets, not because I was forced into it. It ain’t nothing to glorify. It is what it is.
I did. I played ‘ball. I just started growing up, becoming a man. I really kind of started growing toward shit I wasn’t really supposed to be fucking around with. I kind of quit going to school, so I quit playing ‘ball early on. But football was my passion.
Around what age range were you playing football?
Probably from about 12 to 15 years old. I played 'ball as a kid in Pop Warner. And then I played two years in high school, but I fell off. I wasn’t feeling it like that. I wasn’t as excited about it.
What position were you?
I played the defensive line. I was a defensive end.
Being from Seattle, I assume you’re a Seahawks fan.
Oh, yeah. Fasho. You already know.
What are your thoughts on them making that bonehead decision to not give Marshawn Lynch the ball in the final seconds of the Super Bowl?
You already know what I’m gonna say: That was the dumbest shit they could’ve ever did in their life by doing that at the last play. I know you seen that. I know you was probably tripping like, ‘Gotdamn, what was that about?’
Exactly. Let's switch lanes. How’d you get into rapping?
My older brother was always a musician. He rapped, and always had producers around and stuff like that. And I was just naturally attracted to it because I always liked music growing up. I always listened to music. It kind of came pretty easy to me, always being able to speak to people and shit. Rapping just came natural. I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid but I’ve never really been serious about it like how I am now. The first time I ever recorded, heard myself on a track, it was like 2004. I was in high school. My partner’s uncle had a studio, and everybody used to just go hang out over there. I was like, ‘Man, I can rap. I can do that shit.’ Nobody believed me. I got in there and I rapped, and I guess they started believing in me. After that, I really didn’t fuck around with it as seriously until probably about 2007 or so. I’ve been doing it seriously ever since ’07, but I didn’t put out my first project until probably like 2010.
Who are some of the people you listened to that grabbed your interest musically?
I think that’s why my rap style is the way it is, because I listened to a bunch of everything growing up. Growing up, when I didn’t have no choice, and I just had to listen to what was around, I listened to a lot of the Bay Area music — the West Coast. That’s where my family is originally from, the Bay Area. When I was a kid, they were really fresh up here. I used to listen to a lot of shit: C-Bo, Spice 1, and shit like that. And I got a little older, and I started listening to No Limit. I like Down South music a lot, so I know a lot about that Three 6 Mafia … I used to listen to them back in the day when people used to say they were devils and shit. I used to listen to them, Bone Thugs, of course Tupac, [and] Mac Dre. I’ve got a wide array of influences. That’s probably why my music is the way it is, because I just took it all in.
Yeah, I wanted to fuck with him. He died an untimely death. I was trying to fuck with him. I ain’t really got any music with anybody from the East Coast. That definitely would have been a person I would have been fucking with, for sure.
You revealed that your rap moniker is partially inspired by Stack Bundles in a 2014 interview. I thought that was cool. I used to be a heavy Stack Bundles fan. Yeah, I wanted to fuck with him. He died an untimely death. I was trying to fuck with him. I ain’t really got any music with anybody from the East Coast. That definitely would have been a person I would have been fucking with, for sure.
Your first album is Where I’m Goin. Can you reflect on recording that project?
That music actually was like years of work. A lot of those songs are from 2007 and 2008. It was kind of like a struggle to get that CD. It was my first CD. It was so much different music from so many different places. It wasn’t like one sound. It was kind of like patched together. I was young and a little bit more active than I am these days. It was kind of childish; I would say. Not childish, like, downing myself or whatever. But I know the music I make nowadays, a lot more people would be able to relate to. I was more or less a young boy trying to rap. Now, I’m actually rapping about life experiences.
You released your sophomore effort, Insta Grams, in 2013. How would you say you evolved musically from your debut up to that point?
The music from my first CD was from 2007 to 2009. That Insta Grams, that was more current, all recorded that year. That was the first time I had any features. My first CD, I think I had Reese on there once, but I didn’t really have any features. That Where I’m Goin was just me by myself. But that Insta Grams, I reached out to people and connected with people and started having features. That was a big difference. And it kind of flowed better.
I don’t believe it says it, but The Jacka pretty much hosted the project. How did you link up with him?
He was a friend of my family. Whenever he would come into town, he would be at my older cousin Za’s house. He was always with my cousins and brother. I would see him over there, but I would be starstruck. Like, damn, that’s The Jack right there. That’s like Tupac. I would be damn near nervous to even talk to him. That was when I was younger. When he started coming around and after he found out I rapped, he was like, ‘You rap now?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ He heard my shit, and he was always telling me, ‘Man, you dope.’ And I was just thinking, ‘Jack hella cool. He kind of nice to everybody, so he just saying I’m dope.’ But every time he would come to Seattle, he would come looking for me and find me, and we would just be together. Even when we weren’t doing any rap shit, I would be with Jack. We basically lived together for about a year. He would have hotel suites, $500 a night, $600 a night, [but] he would be at my momma’s house sleep on the couch. We’re on the computer all night making music. He ain’t even tripping. He was like a normal cat. That’s why he was loved so much by everybody because he was that mogul, but he was reachable. He wasn’t never no corny mufucka. He always was one way with everybody, and loved us up here, so we showed love back.
I remember the first song I ever recorded with Jack. The first song I ever recorded with Jack. What’s so cold is that song still never came out. It’s called “Beautiful Ugly.” It was for one of Reese’s albums. The first time we recorded for him, he had a show up here. I seen him at the show. We were smoking, and I was like, ‘Bro, I’m rapping for real now. I’m really doing this rap shit.’ He was like, ‘For real?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, we got a studio at my mom’s house. What’s up? You tryin' to come fuck with us?’ He was like, ‘Yeah.’ But I was like, ‘Yeah, he hella busy. Hella people on ‘em. Hella people want to spend money on and all that, buy verses and do videos. He ain’t coming.’ He really came. When my brother found out he was coming, he was like, ‘What song should we do?’ He was playing some beats, and he played me that song. He already had his verse on it. And I’m like, ‘You should get Jack on that. I can hear him on that.’ He played it for Jack, and Jack loved it. He sat down. Everybody got out the room and let him write his rap. I was still starstruck. I went in there with him when he was writing his rap. He knocked it out. He heard my verse, and he liked it so much, he didn’t want them to put the chorus in-between our verses. He wanted to come in right after me. It was dope. Hopefully, I can get a hold of that song, and put it on one of my upcoming projects. That was probably about 2010, late ’09.
You’re featured on several songs on What Happened to the World. How’d that come about?
Every day, he’d be in my house with me. He would be up here doing work with people, and have them drop him off to my house when they were done. I’d hear a hard ass knock on the door — 5, 4 o' clock in the morning. Boom! Boom! Boom! ‘I’m home!’ He’d always say that. ‘The bull is home!’ That’s when we started being together like that. We would be up all night, so we would record five or six songs a day. But it would be nothing because we would be chilling, doing what we do anyway. We would be like, ‘Fuck it. Let’s put the mic on. Let’s find a beat.’ We’ve got some music together. It’s going to eventually come out. I got so much music with Jack. We’re on the standstill right now. I’m just seeing what the situation is…not sure what people want to do with it. We want to make sure we do it the right way so his legacy lives on. We don’t just want to put out one album and give it all up. I kind of want to spread it out a little bit. Me and Jack got a whole album together. We had a plan, man. He told me, ‘Let me put out this mixtape and this album with Freeway. [Write My Wrongs and Highway Robbery]. Let me put out my album, What Happened to the World. You get an album ready for after What Happened to the World. And then we’re going to put out our album.' I had my album ready, but life happens. It’s just a slight curve ball. If it don’t kill you, it makes you stronger.
I feel like Jack was a soldier for us. He taught us everything he did and the timeframe he did, because God got it planned out for us before we’re even born. And everything’s in God’s will. I think he left us with the proper knowledge. You know how your parents teach you what you need to know and kick you out when you’re 18? It’s like that basically. He showed us how we could make money off music and turn it to a business. He lined us up. He built a lot of bridges, too. He introduced me to a lot of people that, ’til this day, they help me out and want to be a part of what I’ve got going all because they met me through Jack. He built a lot of relationships for us, and taught us a lot of stuff. We’ve just got to take what we learned from him and apply it and better ourselves.
But how those songs got on that album; I sent some of them back on a hard drive to California with him. He started letting people listen to it. I was like, ‘Man, why you letting people listen to it? It ain’t ready yet.’ They were so into it. He was like, ‘Is it okay if I put some of them songs on my new album?’ I was like, ‘Shit yeah. Put that shit out tomorrow.’ I knew the response it was going to get, but I definitely wasn’t expecting to be on that many songs on there. That was one of the last conversations me and him had. I got a screenshot of my text message on my Instagram right now. I said, ‘Thanks for putting me on that album, bruh. I appreciate it.’ He said, ‘Man, I did that because you deserve it.’ He see what a nigga go through on his day-to-day life. He was just like, ‘You deserve a shot.’ That was basically a jump-start. Even though I had albums out already, that kind of exposed me to worldwide. Jack was worldwide. They loved him in the U.K., Africa, and I just see the difference. Before that album was out, when I used to go to the Bay and fuck with Jack out in Oakland, he would be introducing me to people, like, ‘This is my boy Carey from Seattle.’ But when I went down there for his funeral, everybody knew who I was. There were owners of companies wanting me to have their product and take pictures for their Instagram and fans coming up. I was like, 'Damn, I ain’t never had this.' Not even in Seattle. I ain’t never had no love like that off of no music. And I know Jack looking down on me, like, ‘Bro, I told you.’ It made me feel good. It made me watch how I treated them. Jack always said, ‘No matter what you do, whether you’re a rapper, drug dealer, doctor, lawyer, McDonald’s worker, just make sure people love you. And don’t be no corny mufucka to nobody. Be one way with everybody.'
I was on my way to my mom’s house. I was on the freeway in the car with my lady. Street Knowledge called me and was like, ‘Man, you gotta get down here. Somebody done shot Jack in the head.’ And I’m like, ‘Maybe, he just going a little overboard with that. He wouldn’t play about that.' I’m thinking, 'Jack strong as hell. Maybe he did get shot, maybe he got grazed and it aint shit, or maybe he got shot and he’s going to survive. He’s just going to be a little different.’ But by the time I made it to my house and charged my phone, Street called me back and said he was gone. After that, it took a harder effect on me. I took it kind of hard because I know what kind of person Jack was. He didn’t deserve to get shot in the street. I always expected Jack to be old and [people] be like, ‘Wow, that’s Jack. He used to rap back in the day.’ I expected to see him like that before I seen him dead. It kind of threw a curve ball at me. But I think Jack’s death gave a lot of us power. He’s up in us now. We’ve got a different kind of guardian angel — someone that’s going to help us in all walks of life. He used to help me with so much. He would help me out with my son, when I’m having problems with my girl, [and] having problems with my mother. I used to be able to talk about anything with him. Music, Islam
I remember one time when it was around the holidays, and I was broke as hell. And Jack was like, ‘Want you ride to Spokane with me, so I can do this show. I’ll give you some money.’ I said, ‘Bruh, you ain’t gotta give me no money to ride with you.’ Spokane is like six hours from Seattle. It’s hella far. He was like, ‘Whatever they give me, I’ll give you half of it. Just come with me.’ I said, ‘You know what, fuck that. Come on. I’m coming right now.’ He gave me half of that. I did what I did wit it, and I ain’t been broke since.
Tell me about Shadow Company. I know you promote that label a lot on your records and in your visuals.
It’s a Seattle-based label — family ran and operated. I’m part owner of it with my brother Reese. It’s a family business. We’ve got an artist named Avatar. We’ve got me, my brother Reese, Weez … we’ve got a couple more cats that just need a little polishing. They’ll be ready.
Tell me about Shadow Company. I know you promote that label a lot on your records and in your visuals. It’s a Seattle-based label — family ran and operated. I’m part owner of it with my brother Reese. It’s a family business. We’ve got an artist named Avatar. We’ve got me, my brother Reese, Weez … we’ve got a couple more cats that just need a little polishing. They’ll be ready.
You rhyme about your son in your music. Can you talk a little about embracing fatherhood?
I do as much as I can. I’m there everyday for him. I live with him and his mom, so it’s not like how my situation was. We’re together as a family. People are humans. People have ups and down, but for the most part we try to keep everything on the up and up around here. I do my best to become a better man and a better father everyday. Everything I do for my son these days.
Before I let you go, can you provide an update on Child of the Night? Are you still recording it?
Yeah, I’m still working on it. And I’m about to let you in on some top-secret information, brother. I’ve got an EP coming out before the Child of the Night; it’s called The Hiatus. I’m going to put that out for free because I feel like I’ve been cheating everybody from this Child of the Night album. I’ve been taking so long. I had that on ice because I’ve been getting a lot of the music together. I’m putting The Hiatus out because everybody’s been waiting on the Child of the Night. With Child of the Night, I wanted to do it the right way. I didn’t want to just slap it all together. I wanted it to have a good flow to it. I lost a lot of the songs and had to redo a lot of the music. That took me a while to get it together. It’s all together now. I don’t have an exact release date, but it’s gonna be out before the summer this year, for sure. And that Hiatus is going to be out probably the end of March. It’s all new music. It’s pretty dope. I’ve got Jacka on there. I’ve got Jacka on the Child of the Night a couple times, too. The Child of the Night, I’ve got Joe Blow, Jack, Reese, Weez, Street Knowledge, A1...I really fuck with the niggas I fuck with in real life. A lot of people still don’t know me as a rapper. I don’t really be having a lot of features from people I don’t mess with like that. If I come across you, and we clicking up the right way, let’s do some music together. But as far as me reaching out to people to buy verses, I ain’t really did that. And I’m not trying to brag or nothing like that. Shit, I just was broke. I ain’t got enough money to be giving you $1,000, $500, [for a verse]. I can’t do that. But if you meet me, and you want to fuck wit me off of who I am, we can do that. Fasho.
By Louis Goggans