COURTESY INTERSCOPE RECORDS
"We live and we learn / we crash and we burn / Right now my only rhyme is this lesson I learned": Longtime Los Angeles crew Jurassic 5 drop it Saturday night at Pipeline Cafe. Pictured from left are: Mark 7, DJ Nu-Mark, Zaakir, Akil and Chali 2Na.
Breaking Jurassic 5 is hard work
After almost five years, the L.A. rappers return to Honolulu with mainstream dreams
FOR six years, Jurassic 5 has proven that strength in numbers is a viable concept both in the studio and within the hip-hop community.
On stage: 8 p.m. Saturday
Place: Pipeline Cafe
Starting with their 2000 debut album "Quality Control," MCs Akil, Chali 2Na, Mark 7 and Zaakir have blended their rapping styles with the skills of DJs Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark to bring listeners a sound that harkens back to hip-hop's early years. And although Cut Chemist left between the release of "Power in Numbers" in 2002 and "Feedback" earlier this year, the group's sound remains the same, walking a fine line between mainstream pop and backpack rap.
Formed in 1993 as a collaboration between members of the Rebels of Rhythm and Unity Committee, Jurassic 5 found a home at Los Angeles' The Good Life Cafe. The establishment on the corner of Crenshaw and Exposition was a haven for like-minded underground acts, many of whom emerged as mainstream stars over the ensuing decade. Relentless touring in Europe during the late '90s made J5 bigger stars internationally than at home, although they quickly attracted attention in the U.S.A. with singles such as "Quality Control" and "What's Golden."
It's been almost five years since the crew made its Hawaii debut with a performance at the now-defunct World Cafe, but Chali 2Na still has fond memories of the trip. The Star-Bulletin spoke with him via phone last weekend, where he had just finished sound check before a performance in Omaha, Neb.
Question: The last time Jurassic 5 played here was in 2002. What was your impression of the islands back then, and are you excited about coming back?
Answer: I'm super-hyped to come back. You guys do know how to party. I was amazed at that place ... and I can't wait to eat some malasadas!
Q: Can you do a little name-dropping from your days at Good Life? Who were some of the artists you came across during the freestyle battles?
A: Kurupt was there before Tha Dogg Pound was happening. Volume 10, who did that song "Pistol Grip Pump," they was there.
The Pharcyde, they used to have this house called the Pharcyde Manor, and they would call it "The Afterlife," so like whatever happened after Good Life, they did that at their house. The Alkaholiks was there, Ahmad ... and of course Freestyle Fellowship.
Fat Joe, when "Flow Joe" was out, that fool came up there thinking he was gonna be able to do "Flow Joe" on some a cappella (stuff) like nobody heard it before. There was just so many different people.
Q: What was it like blowing up in Europe, but not in the United States? Did you think the release of "Quality Control" in 2000 would wake everybody up to Jurassic 5's style of hip-hop back home?
A: We were realists. Once we got (back to the U.S.), we knew that we could go to the grocery store and chill, and nobody gonna know who the hell you are. But out there, you could be in the airport and mad dudes was like, "Jurassic 5, oh my God!"
We was hoping (success) would be instantaneous, but we knew that going over to the U.K., they was listening to different (stuff). And the whole industry just ran different over there than it does in the States.
Q: Let's talk about "Feedback" for a minute. After the single "Work it Out" got released in July, we haven't heard much else. Do you feel your label is having a hard time promoting the new album?
A: We stretch the boundaries, and for us that's an unfortunate thing. Our record label is faced with the challenge of trying to overcome (the backpacker stereotype) and really just do what they supposed to do.
At a label like an Interscope, they have all these super-duper success stories and they don't really have to work as hard at breaking acts. They gotta work hard to break us, you know what I'm saying, because we don't really fit into those molds.
Q: I've read that you were talking about a solo album, "Fish Out of Water," for a couple of years now. Why the delay in putting that out?
A: My solo album should be coming out next year. It was conscious decision to stop what I was working on.
I wanted to dive into what was going on with my group, because I realized that that's the foundation of what I'm doing in the first place. I felt it was slightly unfair to pursue a solo situation before first dealing with the group. Jurassic has been the foundation of everything I've done.
Q: The Black Eyed Peas were another Los Angeles-based group that emerged from the same underground scene as Jurassic 5. How does their road to pop superstardom compare to the path J5 has taken during the same period?
A: Well, you're talking about apples and oranges. (Will.i.am) basically made the conscious decision to shoot for the moon. He didn't have to prove to nobody that he could freestyle or produce. He just had a different outlook on how to do it. We look at it a different way.