And nearly flush with the couch is skinny-ass Gunn Jakc, scribbling in a tattered notebook. He's always nearby when someone in the Kansas City rap scene is at the top of their game; he's watched his friends rise. Now it's his turn. After a decade or so of paying dues, Gunn Jakc finally has an album of his own.
"I can't front, I think it's beautiful," Gunn Jakc says, a signature sly smile plastered across his mug. "I love the way it looks. Some people were upset because they didn't get to come out the gate like that, the first time."
He's not lying. The album looks slick. Gunn Jakc's face graces the cover, framed by his dreadlocks emerging from a cloud of thick white smoke, blue-black collarbones rising from a crisp white shirt and blue jacket. It's not a CDR labeled with a Sharpie in a skinny jewel case. It's pro-fesh-on-al. He calls it 144 Killahurtz.
On the back of the album, Gunn Jakc lists all the monikers he's bestowed upon himself for his flawless blunt-rolling techniques: Dr. D.L. (Dark Leaf) Surgeon. Tuck N Roll Tech Sargent. Doobiest Maximus (he spells it Dubeest). "When it get to right here," he says, spreading his fingers apart 2 centimeters to indicate a roach, "and they put it out, that means I go doobie huntin', to put 'em all together and make a mosaic masterpiece."
Gunn Jakc, whose real name is Travion (three syllables: Tray-vee-on) Wallace, is 26 years old, but it's been a long, hard 26. Like he says on one of the final tracks on his album, If the shoe was on the other foot, you couldn't walk a mile/If you don't believe the shit I spit then you ain't checked my files.
He moved to KC from the LBC Long Beach, California in 1994 and started at Grandview High. His first run-in with the local scene was with rapper and producer James Christos. "I didn't realize that there were people who could make beats," says Gunn Jakc, who came to town listening to Southern California rap like Warren G and Snoop Dogg. He chose the name Jack Frost and took the stage for the first time ever with Christos at The Granada, freestyling at the age of 16. "That shit was so fresh!" he laughs. He was there when Christos opened for the Fugees twice and Goodie Mob once. He played ridiculously live shows opening for Tech N9ne in Warrensburg, Missouri, and pathetically wack shows in St. Joseph.
"Fuck it, I'm here to entertain myself," he says, remembering rapping in a hotel lobby for a handful of people. "I freestyled to the crowd. A girl in white pants walked across the room, and I addressed her, 'Hey lady in the white pants, wanna dance?' I was making something out of nothing."
Eventually he changed his name to Gunn Jakc. "The way you deliver your rhymes is your gun," he explains. "You got your .38 pistol, you got your .44 magnum, you got your automatic weapons, your AK-47, your Tech 9, and all your guns shoot different. And 'jack' is a slang term, like getting your stuff stolen. 'I got jacked for my car. I got jacked for my Nintendo.' Gun jack. I'll take [rhyme styles] from different people I listen to and customize it for my own thing, almost like a human sampler."
He hung tight with the Guild and CES Cru "back when there was a gang of 'em," around 1999 and 2000. With friends like these, it's no surprise that Gunn Jakc's album's got beats for days. Mr. Mafesto, SG, Miles Bonny, and Jaz from the 64111 Studio hell, even Joe Good tried his hand at producing tracks for Killahurtz.
The album's full of party tracks devoted to clinking glasses and getting blazed with friends. His song entitled "High Again" is the one he calls his Mona Lisa. It makes lots of sense to anyone who's watched Gunn Jakc make an entrance. It's like a Chappelle Show skit: a halo of smoke, a drink magically already in hand, a thousand-watt grin, draped in silver chains, long-lashed eyes at half-mast.
Not that partying is all he cares about.
"I do have an opinion and honestly, when I was younger, I used to be a little bit more political than what I am now," he explains. "Actually a lot more political, aware, my older rhymes. Yeah. I ain't gonna front, I used to be a lot pro-black."
This album is the first time that he's come to acknowledge his troubles in rhyme. One year and seven miles later, a hater took out my mama, Gunn Jakc raps on the track called "In My Shoes," alluding to the murder of his mother, shot three times before his eyes in 1997 by a jealous boyfriend.
"Shuffling around, dealing with girls, dealing with my family, I hadn't had time to think about it," Gunn Jakc admits. "The crazy thing, at the funeral, everyone who came recognized everyone but me, because I'd grown out my locks for so long, they didn't know it was me. So I kept quiet when people asked where I was, when I was right there. That's why right at the beginning, I let people know who my mama was, on the album. Wanda E. Coleman."
Gunn Jakc testified at the trial for his mother's murder; the perpetrator is still in jail.
Another big loss came last summer, when Gunn Jakc's friend Roc Gut, aka Rodney Sayles, became Kansas City's homicide number 66. "That was my dude," Gunn says, relating a story of how the previous Christmas, when he was broke, Sayles ran out and bought a doll for Gunn Jakc to give to his daughter, from Santa.
"Let's just say I got a couple gray strands in my locks," he says. He chopped them all off a year after his mother died, in line with what he considers to be a Rastafarian notion of cutting off dead weight and sadness carried around in hair.
"Now it's the longest it's ever been," he says, glancing down at the midnight-black ropes coiled at his shoulders. His hair is so thick in contrast with his thin frame that it looks like his hair sucks the nutrients from his body. "I love my hair."
Who twists it? "Various females," he smiles. "No consistent one. I'm not a playboy. If I could find someone who could handle and deal with me ... but I haven't run into that female."
He does have a ladies'-man persona that he dips into on the album, a character named Tra Diggs (rhymes with Taye Diggs, the pretty-boy actor). And he devotes a lot of time to the one that got away: a girl nicknamed Bucho, for whom he wrote "Bucho the Freak."
"She was my favorite. I used to sit and daydream about her. I wanted her to be the last one, you know. The one you marry." His lips part to flash a white, toothy smile like he just shared a secret.
"Aw, we recording like that?" he says, looking up from the couch suddenly as he hears Joe Good behind SG's door, his drum-tight rhymes suddenly unaccompanied by the beat. It's almost someone else's turn behind the mic. Gunn Jakc's got a new rhyme to finish. With his own album done, he's got time to be back building with his crew.
"They 'bout to do it," Gunn Jakc says.
"We 'bout to do it," Big Jack corrects him. "Because we is we."