Words by Cosmo Baker—
Just as Mad Lion captivated New York’s Tri-State area in the mid ’90’s with the gruff and tuff raggamuffin rap of “Take It Easy,” Philly and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic region had their own equivalent of di Lion, in Jackal the Bear’s “For Real.” We knew world-renowned DJ and expert in all things Philly, Cosmo Baker, would have the story, and he did…for real.
Philly is the fifth largest city in the US, but it’s also two other things in my private mind garden: The Northernmost Southern city in the US, and the Largest Smalltown in the country, too. Definitively a working-class burg, like most places it has its share of regional “hits” (if you can call them hits) that blasted off there and pretty much nowhere else. One such hit came in the form of 1995’s “For Real” by Jackal The Bear. Not unlike his hip-hop reggae contemporary with whom he shares an affinity towards the animal spirit, Mad Lion, Jackal possesses a gruff, over-the top voice that fits perfectly over the aggressive and bouncy beat based off of Chuck Brown’s proto-gogo classic “Bustin’ Loose” from 1979.
This song kind of came out of nowhere and then blew up on the local nightclub circuit at places like The Fever, Sugarcube and Bobby Dances. It’s 105 BPMs so of course you can dance to it! Jackal then got picked up by Warlock where he released one more single (“Jackal So Good” where he chats over Cheryl Lynn’s “Encore”) and an LP, and quickly faded into obscurity. But due to the hip-hop / reggae hybrid that is “For Real” and the pretty universal appeal of the beat, “For Real” kind of stands the test of time… FOR REAL.
Just a side note—while this is pretty much considered a regional Philly record, Jackal was actually from Chester, PA. Chester is a rough and tough small place about 40 minutes south of Philly, and if Philly is the gutter, then Chester is the drain. No offense against all my Chesterians out there. But leave it up to Jackal to help continue the long rich musical history of a place that includes Bill Haley & The Comets as well as DJ Lowbee of Hollertronix fame.