Following a year-end visit by Philadelphia's
The Roots, alternative rap is again the focus in a tour this
week by LA posse Jurassic 5. But where The Roots are a complete
live instrumental band, Jurassic 5 hang their rhymes on the
scratching of two of the best DJs in the business: Cut Chemist
In fact, the two DJs used to belong to separate crews that
combined forces into a kind of hip-hop supergroup in 1993.
MC Akil recalled the moment in an online interview. We
met at this spot called the Good Life where a lot of underground
MCs hang. They've got a talent showcase there on Thursday
nights. The Rebels of Rhythm (we) went down and performed
one night. The Unity Committee performed the same night, and
they came up to us after the show and was like Yo, we
liked your show,' and we were like We liked yours
too. Maybe we could hook up for a song.'
The resulting collaboration, the single Unified Rebelution,
took a year to be released, but when it was, its organic,
old school flow had the band being mentioned in the same breath
as The Roots, De La Soul, and other hip-hop units providing
a counterpoint to the prevailing gangsta sound of the day.
After years of unsuccessfully shopping demos around to record
companies, the two groupsnow officially dubbed Jurassic
5 (despite having six members)were now on a roll. Fed
up with being ignored by the music industry, they issued their
debut album, the Jurassic 5 EP, in 1997 on their own independent
Both Unity Committee and Rebels of Rhythm had been trying
to get signed for years, recalled Akil. We basically
got to that real b-boy point, like, fuck the record industry,
fuck everybody else, we'll put out a record on our own...then
you don't have to adjust to them, they gotta adjust to
The album was greeted as one of the freshest hip-hop debuts
in years, and sold tens of thousandsnotable for an independent
rap release. The major record labels finally took notice and
in 2000, J5 signed to Interscope for their first full-length,
Quality Control. The year also saw them reaching out beyond
the hip-hop community, demonstrating their crossover appeal
by touring with Fiona Apple and on the alt-rock Warped Festival.
Recorded over 18 months from 2001 to 2002, J5's follow
up, Power In Numbers, appeared at the end of last year. While
maintaining the group's old school leanings, the album
had a darker, harder edge to it, according to
MC Mark 7. It's a sign of the times. Things are
happening in the world and, of course, it affects us on an
artistic level. The album also featured many of the
band's admirers, including singer Nelly Furtado, and
guest MCs Percee P. and Big Daddy Kane.
Last summer, Jurassic 5 participated in the Smokin' Grooves
Tour with some of the other big hip-hop actsincluding
Outkast and The Rootsproviding a more conscious alternative
to the bling-bling ethic of P. Diddy and Jay-Z et. al. Concludes
Akil: Hopefully after us there will be more people coming
in [to hip-hop] to keep it in the heart of what rap really
is, instead of thinking it's about shooting kids, making
money and all that other shit.
Jurassic 5 play Shibuya AX on January
27-28. See listings for details.