It’s eight o’clock on a cold October night in Toronto. I’m at a small downtown club called the Reverb, where the Word of Mouth tour stops in tonight. Jurassic Five are in the middle of their sound check. Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark, J5’s two spinsters, are playing around with the Doo-wop instrumental while the M.C.s clown around. Chali 2na is lying on the floor, and Zaakir is dancing around.
That’s what it’s all about for J5.
They love what they do, and it shows in their music. They do have a message: Keep your mind open. But they are careful not to sound preachy. They just want to keep on making good music, which is something they’re damn good at.
The L.A. group is actually made up of six members- Marc 7, Chali 2na, Zaakir, Akil, Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark- but they decided that Jurassic Five just sounded better than Six. They formed when two groups- Rebels of Rhythm and Unity Committee- merged together. Their first single as a group was Unified Rebellion, in 1995. This was followed by 1997’s self-titled J5 EP, which has stood up over time and become an underground classic. With the current success of their first major-label LP Quality Control, J5 are enjoying the attention and always looking to the future.
Cut Chemist isn’t surprised by the group’s success. He says that Quality Control is done in the same style as J5’s popular EP, it’s just done at a higher level, so fans knew what to expect, and were definitely not disappointed.
The style that he refers to is what is seen as a blend of the old and new schools. J5 made a deliberate attempt to have their vocal harmonies, and some production sound old school. At the same time, they balanced this out with new school themes and sounds, to create a sound that would please any hip-hop purist. Cut Chemist says that this wouldn’t have worked in New York, where the true old school had been experienced before, but that L.A. was a good nurturing environment for the J5 sound.
He also explains the group dynamic of Jurassic Five and the LP’s title in one breath. He says that compromise is both the best and worst thing about being in a group. One member’s ideas may not get the attention he would like, but at the same time this helps to keep ideas from getting too far-fetched and wacked-out. This, he explains, is the meaning of “Quality Control.”
J5 always try to bring something new to their shows every night; be it a new freestyle game, song, or scratch. They are now on tour with Dilated Peoples, the Beat Junkies, and the freestyle king MC Supernatural. Their show at the Reverb was slammin’, plain and simple, so check it if you get the chance. Also, be on the lookout for their new single- W.O.E. is me, with the new b-side Long Road to Glory, and the W.O.E. video.
Jurassic Five only asks of their fans that they not expect them to answer for hip-hop music in general. While they don’t want to be type-cast as old-school, they also don’t want to constantly defend themselves as not being flossin’, big-ballin’ gangstas to those that don’t know enough about hip-hop. Basically, they just want a chance to prove themselves. Given this chance, I can’t think of anyone that they couldn’t impress.