This past Tuesday (November 11th), Decon Records released J5 Deluxe Re-issue, a CD/DVD offering from west coast underground legends Jurassic 5. Following Tuesday’s release, HipHopDX spoke to the burly baritone blessed former frontman of Jurassic, Chali 2na, to find out how this reissue came to be, if the release is a signal that J5 will be reuniting, and why Chali is finally free to unleash his long-delayed solo debut.
J5 Deluxe Re-issue is a unique package including the Los Angeles based sextet’s long out of print first full-length, along with 15 hard to find tracks (including Jurassic’s first 12”, “Unified Rebelution” b/w “Lesson Four”) recorded by J5 throughout their career that were either cut from the group’s albums or surfaced on compilation releases.
“It’s like the tenth anniversary,” said Chali 2na for the reason behind Jurassic’s decision to reissue their first release. “It’s a little bit more than 10 years actually. But also [we decided to do this] because the group is officially broken up, is officially done, and so we were trying to not leave everybody hangin’…And we wanted to put out some music that kinda was reminiscent and reflective of the end as well as the beginning.”
That beginning, Jurassic 5’s self-titled nine-song EP, was first released independently on the group’s own Rumble Records in 1997 (before being re-released the following year as the aforementioned 13-track full-length). The effort netted a gold plaque for the crew overseas thanks to a healthy European following J5 had cultivated during their brief tenure with Blunt/TVT Records during the mid-’90s, and became the launching pad for the group’s stateside success, setting off a bidding war between MCA, Virgin, Elektra, and the eventual winner of the war, Interscope Records, for the group’s services.
While the CD portion of J5 Deluxe Re-issue provides an audio account of Jurassic’s journey to Hip Hop immortality, the DVD inclusion features a 40-minute visual montage documenting the group’s early years entitled “The Jurassic Period,” which includes footage of Chali, Marc 7even, Cut Chemist, Zaakir, Akil and Nu-Mark clowning around on tour overseas in support of their initial EP, as well as some limited looks at J5’s early-’90s development at the famed South Central, Los Angeles health food store-turned-artist-hangout, The Good Life, where like-minded emcees Aceyalone, Ras Kass [click to read], Tha Alkaholiks [click to read] and The Pharcyde [click to read] convened to showcase their talents, and find artistic refuge apart from the jheri curl and Raiders cap dominated scene in their city.
“We was gonna put this out in the first place,” 2na told DX of the DVD. “That was our mission, was to put out [just the] DVD at first. But then we was like, ‘Let’s put all this other stuff with it.’”
The DVD boasts even more goodies including the video for “Concrete Schoolyard” from Jurassic’s debut, as well as their 25-minute long Brixton Academy performance in England early in the group’s career, which Chali acknowledged as one of J5’s “more amazing performances.”
The question remains on the mind’s of many Jurassic fans though: Will any more amazing performances be forthcoming from J5; does this reissue release mean the fellas are mending their split that followed the release of the group’s fourth and final full-length album, 2006’s Feedback [click to read]?
“I’m not no swami, Miss Cleo, none of that,” Chali replied when asked that very question. “But if I had to answer you just on straight facts, no it doesn’t. Like I said, we just tried to put something out there for the people so they could not feel like we just leaving cats hangin’, ‘cause that ain’t what we intended on doing.”
While questions continue to abound about the real root cause of J5’s demise, Chali hinted during his conversation with DX that it apparently had little to do with the critical panning Feedback received upon its release due to the album’s less “What’s Golden” boom-bap stylings, including an unorthodox union with laidback rockers the Dave Matthews Band.
“People will probably never actually understand what happened,” 2na confessed of the continued public confusion regarding the group’s split. “Because what broke us up wasn’t anything that had to do with…the music per se, it had to do with us as people, as friends. It was an internal thing that we were a party to for the 14 years that we existed as Jurassic 5, certain situations that maybe went unsaid but should not have eventually is what ate up the group from an inside out perspective. To not necessarily expose people’s dirty laundry, it was more like being in a relationship with a woman for a long period of time and both of y’all know it’s over but nobody said nothing.”
Speculation regarding individual members solo aspirations (including Cut Chemist who left the group to pursue his own projects prior to the release of Feedback) also fueled rumors of the real reasoning behind J5 calling it a day. The most prominent member of the group to declare his intent to do his own thing being Chali, whose solo debut, Fish Outta Water, was first slated for release by Interscope in 2005.
According to Chali, the label’s demand for a 2na solo project was motivated mainly by his membership in both Jurassic and another onetime Interscope-funded group, Afro-Latin Hip Hop band Ozomatli.
“I believe that Jimmy Iovine and his cohorts were like, ‘Yo, let’s keep this dude ‘cause he’s a writer. He writes in both groups. He’s doing his thing. Let’s keep that guy,’” said Chali.
However, according to 2na, every time he attempted to move on the label’s seeming interest in his project and get his first solo effort out to the public he was told that the concentration should remain on getting out J5 group efforts. Chali claims he was content with the decision by the label to focus on Feedback rather than his solo, but regardless of whether or not he harbored any animosity about that move his plans to release his own album on Interscope proved to be short-lived.
“Jurassic broke up, and directly after that Interscope dropped Jurassic,” explained Chali. “And when they did that I was like, ‘Okay, if you didn’t care about the group like that you really don’t care about me.’”
Chali subsequently sought his release from the house that Jimmy Iovine built, a removal he claims was made easy once the label had breached his contract. And while Chali remains mum on just how they did that, he was then freed from the label with masters (and a little bit of money) in hand.
And so now one of Hip Hop’s most slept-on lyricists plans to finally unleash his long overdue solo debut in February via Decon. The album is a mix of some of the original recordings he did for the intended Interscope release, as well as new songs he has recorded over the course of the past few years to keep Fish fresh.
With cuts courtesy of Scott Storch, Nick Fury (who’s produced for T.I., Lil Kim, Fat Joe, etc), DJ Babu (who helmed a track featuring Reggae star Beenie Man), Slum Village’s DJ Dez, Damian and Stephen Marley (who also appear on the album), and Jurassic cohort Nu-Mark, as well as additional collaborations with soulful crooner Anthony Hamilton and a possible union of “the verbal Herman Munster” with Hip Hop’s most distinctive booming voice, Chuck D, the solo is sure to be an alt-rap fans dream album. That is, if the effects of roughly four years worth of label delays haven’t caused Fish to sit for too long and spoil.
“I did tunes that I think are phenomenal, but just in the context of all these other songs may not work,” Chali confessed of his still in progress work. “Like I did a song called ‘What Dudes Do’ with Raphael Saadiq [click to read] that came out crazy, but I don’t think it’ll work amongst all the rest of these songs.”
Whatever the final lineup of 2na’s tunes ends up as on the effort, his longtime fans will surely be satisfied. And Chali plans to make sure they get enough 2na in 2009 by serving an additional course to their musical meal with another long-overdue offering, the second installment of his Fish Market mixtape series, which was just completed with the assistance of DJ Dez. 2na plans to have the mix trail the release of Fish Outta Water so as not to confuse those long starving for his first full-length that the mixtape is the album.
For now though, Chali’s solo debut is as close to new J5 material as fans will get, which has now lead to 2na being able to aptly summarize the group’s legacy in Hip Hop.
“We were able to exist in the mainstream without actually becoming mainstream,” he said of Jurassic’s standing in the game. “We were able to bring back a sound that helped create Hip Hop…paying homage as well as like returning the favor so to speak to those people who participate in Hip Hop now. ‘Cause I really feel like if you don’t know your past you won’t know your future [and] you won’t know or respect exactly where this genre is going if you’re not understanding where it came from, and all of the obstacles it took [for the culture to get here].”
“We [also] were able to sit amongst all this fuckery so to speak and be pure,” continued 2na. “And try to keep it as pure as we possibly could, as pure as we saw, without trying to be preachers or purists. We just was doing how we thought Hip Hop should be done. And I’m glad that people were able to accept it in that way.”
While being a worthy eulogy for his group, Chali did seem to hold out hope that J5 is still alive when asked if this CD/DVD offering from the group is the final planned released of archived Jurassic material.
“As far as I know, this is the only [one],” he replied. “But there may, you never [know]…Like I said, I’m not no swami, man. I don’t know what’s going on in the future. We might decide to do something [else]. We might decide to get back together, you never know.”