Home » Interviews

Wojack – Criminal Nation then – today The Guerilla Factor


25 February 2004 No Comment

You might find yourself on I-5 rollin’ right through Seattle, the “O” or Tacoma and not think of any Hip Hop artists who laid it down for the Northwest culture back in the day besides Mix-A-Lot. If you are thinking in this limited box, you haven’t heard of Wojack.

When you see him you’re not trippin’ too hard, because “Wo” is one of those brothers who is like your playboy uncle – way laid back and fun to be around. At the same time you might see his sub-zero posture when some fool decides to run his mouth a little too loud. Don’t get it twisted. Wo is cool, but the former Criminal Nation pioneer lets it be known that T-Town is represented and to be reckoned, especially when it comes to his new offering – Guerilla Music

Aside from some shows in Pullman that “Wo” did back in ’97, I saw him at the 2001 Summer Jam at the Gorge. Wojack and his homeboy Neil of Kinfolk Productions held it down with the party of the summer. Everybody who was anybody was at camp – Ivory (of Ebony and Ivory), Big Kun Luv, Keek Loc and countless others were wildin’ out while Wojack played the navigator and thwarted the scurry security staff who tried to shut the spot down. That’s the laid back Wojack. 

As cool as he is, Wojack endured many problems after his early career as one of the members of the Def City Rockers took off back in ’84. “I started as a deejay,” explains Wojack. “I had one of those corny names – Icey Rock. Then I was MC Def.” Despite the throwback Hip Hop names, things were getting bigger and deffer for the Tacoma B-boy. Wojack was looking for a moment to shine with his DCR homeboys and all of their wishes would come true in 1985. In ’85 Wojack and his crew began to battle another group of Northwest Hip Hop pioneers. High Performance were more on the pop side of Hip Hop, but they were well respected and with the competition of HP and the help of his homeboy QuizSean D, Wojack would be propelled into Tacoma’s elite arena of MCs during his sophomore year of high school. The Hill Top is a neighborhood known from Los Angeles to New York, and before Wojack’s name would become as familiar as his neighborhood he would have to prove himself in the green and gold confines of Henry Foss High School. 

“In ’86 I became a rapper. We wasn’t athletes, we were beat boxers and rappers and we battled Lincoln, Mt. Tahoma and all other cats who showed up,” boasts a proud Wojack. It was after proving his lyrical dominance over his peers that Wo began to garner attention from record companies and respect from his associates Steve O. (current CEO of Ocean Records) and local legend Eugenius. “We were about to sign with Nastymix Records [Nasty Nes’s former label] and Eugenius and I came up with the group name of ‘Americas Most Wanted”, says Wojack. But that was a problem, because like Lee said in Beatstreat, “That’s the bitah!!!” 

America’s Most Wanted was the name of a proven click in Oakland, so they had to change their name. Rule number one in Hip Hop used to be: “Originality or death.” Within ten minutes, Wojack came up with the now classic name Criminal Nation

“We had the message of talkin’ about white folks, the flag…we were the artists in the Northwest representin’ like PE and NWA,” explains Wojack. This very testament was solidified when, years later, Big Gipp and Cee-Lo of The GoodieMOB thanked Wojack for sharing the music that they woke up to for school…in GEORGIA! But the benefits of being heard coast to coast did not decrease the space Criminal Nation’s pockets. “We went into the situation blindfolded with no lawyers – signing contracts,” shares an introspective Wojack. “Cats were telling me that they saw my records from L.A. to North Carolina, but Nastymix wasn’t giving no cheese…and was really keeping me in the dark about my goods.” 

After four years with Nastymix, Wojack was becoming depressed and stepped out of the music industry in 1995. Wojack, stepped away from music and took some steps to gather himself in the war zone that crack had created in Tacoma during the early to mid-nineties. Seeing friend rest in peace and avoiding the everyday death that once consumed the city Wojack contemplated his situation. Tired of being heard worldwide, but being laughed at in his own city and seeing no parts of the puddin’ Wojack went back to the drawing board. In ’96, after hooking up with Just Cash Records to promote a project he was working on, he had his second son Keilan. This new birth was accompanied by the soon to follow death of his relationship with Just Cash. “After the album was finished, I had a deal with SOLAR (Sounds of Los Angeles Records) in L.A., but the distribution deal fell through after my album made about $25,000.” Seemingly suspecting the label of foul play Wojack adds, “[The owner] acted like he wasn’t about getting the money.” 

After this episode, Wojack – dejected and upset left the arena of Hip Hop again. Feeling used like an old rag, Wojack left the game only to return with a vengeance to reclaim the crown he earned as a high school sophomore. “I started going to Canada and was immediately accepted. It’s a different country, we was havin’ lunch on Robson St. and hookin’ up with the local cats” says Wojack. Canada, commonly recognized by people of color for being more accepting of diverse ethnicities in contrast to the U.S., became Wojack’s base for recording his highly anticipated Guerilla Music album, but his stay would no be long. Wojack is not allowed in Canada due to undisclosed legal woes, and was confronted and detained at the border – but not for long. 

“I escaped from the holding room at the border by doing some McGuyver type shit,” smiles Wojack. “No joke, I got out and ran for a good one hundred yards and haven’t been back since.” In the time that Wojack did spend in Canada, he created what he considers to be “a blueprint of how this Armageddon is going down” in reference to the recent September 11th New York City trade tower bombings and subsequent attacks on Afghanistan. “I don’t expect everyone to feel me, I am speaking prophecy. These are Armageddon days,” suggests Wojack. “When they start stereotyping and lockin’ [cats] up, the youngsters will need some generals in the streets. I’ma be survivin’ – I’m a general.” 

When asked how he feels about the relevance of his album in 2001, Wojack lights up. “I’m impressed with my album. Look what I’ve done with a month and three thousand dollars. What if I had twenty-thousand and more time!” Wojack mentions the progress he has made during promotional tours in Los Angeles, but his goals now include his oldest son Mark, his 3 year-old girl Ahsha and his newborn boy Jaylen. As Dead Prez say, ‘It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop’ and Wo knows! 

Wojack is busy diversifying his craft with film deals, a project with Harley Davidson in the works and “other shit” as he puts it. In essence, Wojack is happy, but not satisfied and his motivation is to move his family to Africa eventually. However, if this Armageddon he mentioned pops off, you can probably catch him on the beaches of Rio in Brazil. That’s real! 

~Jose S. Gutierrez Jr

Submitted by: