Preach Jacobs is a busy man. Even during a pandemic, Jacobs has several different projects going on all at the same time.
He’s a DJ who’s taken to the web to perform during the ongoing pandemic, and he’s a rapper with a nimble, flexible flow and conscious lyrics. He’s a journalist and columnist who’s covered arts, culture and social issues for this publication, among others. He hosts “The Negro League Podcast,” discussing “issues concerning Black America, hip-hop culture, sports and more.”
Those are a lot of plates to keep spinning, but Jacobs has added one more project to the list. An in-depth onstage interview series called “With Preach Jacobs,” which debuts at Trustus Theatre this Friday. The free event (masks and social distancing required) will feature conversations with Charleston emcee and activist Benny Starr and Folami Geter, owner of the Columbia restaurant A Peace Of Soul Vegan Kitchen.
Jacobs actually tried to start the series last year, but COVID-19 got in the way.
“This is something I was planning on doing for 2020,” he said. “I did some interviews at my house. I was interviewing people, a politician, a really great visual artist, and the idea was that we were doing these one-on-one interviews at my crib. And things got derailed because of COVID. It was really difficult to say, ‘Just come to my house.’”
Luckily, Jacobs was able to resurrect the idea thanks to a meeting with Chad Henderson, the programming artistic director at Trustus Theatre.
“We were talking about possible events for 2021,” Jacobs recalled, “and were just talking about, ‘Is there anything we could possibly do that would make sense for early 2021 with COVID guidelines?’ And here’s an event that’s low overhead. It’s literally just two chairs and two people talking.”
There are plans to record the event and put it online later, for those who end up left out of the limited live audience or anyone uncomfortable attending with coronavirus still rampant in South Carolina.
Jacobs said he’s cautiously optimistic about making “With Preach Jacobs” into a series, even if he has to pause it again due to the pandemic.
Jacobs isn’t short on ideas. He said his multi-project approach was influenced by one of the great African-American Renaissance men of our age: photographer, musician, writer and film director Gordon Parks, best known for his work with Life magazine and for directing the 1971 Blaxploitation classic “Shaft.”
“He’s someone who did so many great things,” Jacobs says. “A lot of people know him primarily as a photographer for Life magazine, then he became a writer, he was a composer, he was the first Black director to get a big budget from a major studio. I always hate it when people say, ‘Stay in your lane.’ I always looked at being an artist as you want to take advantage of expressing yourself as much as possible.”
There’s a common thread in most of Jacobs’ work: storytelling. Specifically the stories of African Americans, whether it’s his own story or the stories of his interview subjects.
“I tell people that every time we communicate our stories, you’re writing love letters to your ancestors,” he explained. “I think that for so long, so many people didn’t have the opportunity to tell their own stories. They didn’t feel like anyone would care about it. There’s something poetic about being able to tell stories about people that look like you. Someone like Benny Starr, he’s involved with so many great things, he’s really fascinating, but there’s not many times that I’ve seen him be able to sit down and just tell his story.”
His other pursuits haven’t quelled his drive to make music. In the past could of years, he’s released a dazzling series of Afro-centric singles. 2019 gave us the lightning-quick “Gifted People,” the low-key, deep-funk of “The Black” and a dreamy duet with Georgia Anne Muldrow, “Winds (Ready to Fly).”
In 2020, he released the suave, full-on love song “Sweet Love” and a double-dose of old-school soul-funk in “Fantastic” and “Load Management,” along with a vinyl reissue of two older tracks from past project Analog.
Jacobs said that, as exhausting as it might sound to work in so many different areas, stamina isn’t the problem.
“I never think that something is lacking as far as energy is concerned,” he concluded. “If you talk to any artist around here, there’s never a lack of energy. The two things that are a necessity are money and a platform, especially coming from hip-hop culture in Columbia, where it is like, ‘I’m a performer, but no places want me to perform.’ It was never an issue of, ‘I have writer's block,’ it’s about having a platform and a way to finance it.”
"With Preach Jacobs"
Jan. 15. 8 p.m. Free (sold out). With Benny Starr, Folami Geter. trustus.org.