Jurassic 5: What's Goin' On?

"We're creative, we're conscious, and we persevere" - Marc 7

Feature by Dave Kerr | 13 Sep 2006
  • Jurassic 5

There's been a puzzling misconception at play in the popular press lately… something about Jurassic 5 no longer existing as we know them. Ignorance assumes there's a new member in the fold (Soup, in actual fact is just another alias for Zaakir) and that Cut Chemist left the group in acrimonious circumstances when, in fact, he's merely gone on sabbatical to create 'The Audience's Listening'. So who wants the truth?

The reality is that it's business as usual for J5, "We're about to tear the stage down…" Marc 7 tells The Skinny, speaking to us from Seattle on the first night of their first tour without the presence of one of their key beat technicians. But before they do, Marc clears things up on interpersonal relationships within the group, "Since we've been the Unity Committee which was just me, Charlie and Cut Chemist, he's always wanted to do his own record, our advice was to seize the opportunity. I told him, 'don't trip, I'll see you on the next record or whenever'. We've been friends since high school so it goes way beyond the music, he's Jurassic 5 like us, he's in the brotherhood."

Cut Chemist's departure has brought about the formation of new recording partnerships for the four MCs and one DJ, as Marc accounts, "The process for this record was that we really wanted to go outside of what J5 fans would be comfortable with and anticipate us to do, as with every record. We got a chance to work with different producers which was something we wanted to do, given that we'd worked with Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark our whole careers and that was it. So we had a chance to go in the studio with Scott Storch [hit producer and keyboardist for The Roots and G.Love] and Salaam Remi who produced Nas and The Fugees."

Four albums deep into their career, it may seem dangerous to mess with the formula beset by the scratch production partnership of Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark, but this potential doesn't concern Marc 7; "I think that's the problem that our fans may have, because they probably expect a certain type of record and, you know, once you start expecting stuff you set yourself up for disappointment," he declares, before continuing, "I don't want to get pigeonholed by my fans into what I should be creating and what I shouldn't, because when that happens B, I'm going to lose, I'm not going to be a real artist. Some of our fans, they hate it, but at the same time I've got to do it. You know what I'm saying?"

Video: Jurassic 5 - Work It Out

Indeed, on the surface it seems as though it's all change onboard the SS J5 on recent album, 'Feedback,' with an unlikely appearance from one of the West Coast's favourite exponents of MOR radio friendlies on flagship single Work It Out. Marc explains, "Nu-Mark brought the beat and we said 'Yo, who do we hear on that?' and thought 'I can here Dave on that, Dave Matthews' so we made the call, went out to Seattle and we vibed."

Despite the initial appearance of their comeback marking a swift leaning toward the laidback stylings of neo-folk gurus DMB, 'Feedback' retains a distinctive stamp as well as boasting a refreshed eclecticism which recalls the chunky electronic beats of Stetsasonic and the squelching grooves of Tha Alkaholiks; more than enough to maintain the worldwide standard of J5 shirts being worn like an incorruptible S stretched across the chest.

Having originally risen to prominence from the underground backpacker scene which featured Company Flow and Mos Def's Black Star, Marc now cites The Roots and Common ("real family based units, we've got a lot of respect for them") among their contemporaries and old favourites like Boogie Down Productions, Eric B & Rakim and current Stateside touring buddies X-Clan as their inspiration. True, there's a solid base of credibility that future history books will surely suggest is synonymous with J5, but to what do they attribute their ability to evolve as well as a tantamount requirement to 'keep it real?' "Communication, definitely," Marc offers, "being honest with each other and never losing that vibe, the vibe is still there and that's what keeps us going. Once the vibe is gone, Jurassic 5 will be gone."

So, before the inevitable knee jerk scream of 'Sellouts!' and the inquisition over whether 'Feedback' really 'could be J5's stab at commercial success', the answer is 'not really'. As the robotic Barry White-a-like murmur on the intro to new track Radio insists; 'Many many moons ago, Jurassic 5 began their quest to put real hip hop on the radio'. An underground group with such mass cross-appeal were always destined to populate the airwaves, hence their success at the resurrection of Lollapolooza, the Vans Warped tour and their appearance on the Vote For Change campaign, "You're sharing a stage with Bruce Springsteen, Babyface, Eddie Vedder…" Marc relates, "…I'm sitting around looking, like, 'these people are fucking multi-platinum huge stars and we're barely gold'. When you look at it from that aspect, especially being the only rap group there, I said to myself, 'Yo, we must be doing something right'."

Of course, the appearance of their own platinum album above the mantelpiece wouldn't go amiss either; Marc won't lie, "For our whole career, we've been keeping our heads above water, we're not rich men. We've never had a quest to be millionaires in this, that's never been our goal; it's more about the fulfilment of a good, solid record. But if it so happens that one of these records we slap up on the wall sticks, it happens, and it just is what it's gonna be." Rolling over for a Coca Cola commercial seems out of the question (take note Mr White), and J5 lives by a three word mantra: "We're creative, we're conscious, and we persevere."

Video: Jurassic 5 - The Influence

Perseverance has undoubtedly been key throughout the Jurassic 5 story so far. Following the notorious bus crash in 2000 that left the whole group injured (not least Chali 2na, who fractured his skull), amazingly, the band has too many fond memories of touring to be left jaded by the experience. Marc recounts one particular stop in Indiana; "It was hot as all hell on the bus and the air conditioning was broken. We were in front of a venue and it started raining hard, so Nu-Mark grabs a bar of soap, goes outside and takes off his shirt and pants. So he's just standing there with boxer shorts on and he starts taking a shower in front of the bus. It was raining so heavily that he lathered up! We couldn't find a camera to capture it… it's just one of those moments that's lost in time."

Off the record, Marc tells The Skinny who they've collared to provide support when they hit the Glasgow Academy in early October (seek out recent HipHop documentary 'Rock The Bells' for clues), and he forewarns, "As usual we've got some tricks up our sleeve, all I can say is the production on this tour is probably our best ever. By the time we get to Scotland, our show will be rock solid."

Jurassic 5 play Glasgow Academy on October 6, tickets are £17.50.
'Feedback' is out now on Interscope.