What a mouth
Jerk the Terrible’s journey from broken homes to broken teeth
Maybe it’s time to sit down with the guy—you know, to find out why he’s such a jerk.
“Your teeth are a necessity,” explains the lanky, squinty-eyed kid who looks more like a clerk at a comic-book store than an angry hip-hop emcee. “I’m very bitter about the teeth issue.”
Bad teeth: good start. And it’s certainly not a misdirected grievance—Jerk the Terrible’s teeth are really fucked up. I know, it’s not professional to say, but even as I scratch these notes, I can see his misaligned choppers jutting from the corners of his mouth, following their own interpretations on which direction to grow, which color to be. I can’t help but wonder if his nonconformist canines speak to more significant issues in Jerk’s life.
“Yeah, I’m from the gutter,” he says, slumping back in his chair like a wet dishrag. “I’ve lived in every shitty part of the city.” He lists them: “Grew up in south Sac, lived in Del Paso Heights, North Highlands … [I was] raised in Rancho Cordova—in the grimy parts. I don’t know where I fit in.”
Jerk’s list of past residences reads like a white-trash road map of Northern California. “Oh yeah, Rio Linda, I forgot that one,” he adds. Map complete.
So it should come as no surprise that a scan of Jerk’s lyrics from his Unbearable EP reveal some shocking dysfunction: “Rep the 916, home of violent crimes, / crooked cops, tweakers, hookers and drive-bys. I’m a wise guy / cramming white lines into my nasal, / I’m ready to flatline and I just signed to the label.”
Jerk can be a bit unbalanced and off-color. Now and again, though, an irreverent sweetness surfaces in him. “I hate people that hate on MySpace,” he says, hoping that everyone’s favorite friend Tom doesn’t take all the negative criticism to heart.
Sometimes he’s even Jerk the Loveable. But don’t say that to his face. He’s put up with enough bullshit. Especially for someone who’s only 23.
“I recently lost my best friend, and I became reclusive. It fucked with me a lot. He got clean—that’s the sad part. It was supposedly an abscessed tooth gone bad,” he says, cocking his head. “Rest in peace, Mikey.”
Jerk’s reclusive nature, past struggle with substances, loss of a good friend—and teeth, which seem to haunt every aspect of his life—have definitely not helped his jerkness, but as with most artists, struggle certainly has benefited his music.
He started rhyming before puberty and was busting freestyles by age 11, taking cues from golden-era greats like Gang Starr, Boogie Down Productions, and even Sacramento’s own Brotha Lynch Hung. “I tried to rap as fast as him, and I got to the point where I could finish his song by the time he was halfway through it,” he recalls.
By age 16, Jerk garnered several radio appearances; at 18 he entered KSFM 102.5’s Roc-A-Fella Records Roc the Mic contest, where the winners would battle at a Jay-Z and 50 Cent concert for a shot at $100,000 and a record deal. Jerk won that competition in front of a sold-out Sleep Train Amphitheater.
He never received any money. Nor the promised record deal.
“I got a plexiglass trophy,” he says. “It was a dick tease.”
But that’s all in the past, says Jerk. His ability to turn tragedy into tasteless, death-metal drug raps has landed him a deal with Pig Latin Productions, where he and his label-mates Guilty Smiles, Perfect Disaster, Worst, Absyrd, Codex P and O.V. seem to share a similar deranged take on the world, all for our demented pleasure.
Jerk grew up a broken kid, destined for a broken life. But somehow he’s managed to pick up the pieces and tell his broken story, a story that he still hasn’t fully expressed.
“I have broken teeth … my teeth are messed up … and I still can’t do what I want to do until I get them fixed,” he says.