Dusting Off… Jurassic 5’s Jurassic 5
What is it?
Released in 1998, Jurassic 5 is the eponymous debut album from the Los Angeles-based hip-hop outfit of the same name. Despite the moniker there are, confusingly, six members of Jurassic 5; DJs Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark provide the backdrop for rappers Chali 2na, Mark 7even, Akil and Zaakir.
Jurassic 5 were one of the leading lights of an alternative hip-hop scene that included the likes of Company Flow, Blackalicious and Kool Keith's bizarre alter-ego Dr. Octagon. Unlike many of their west coast peers though, Jurassic 5 were about as far from the ‘gangsta’ rap usually associated with L.A. is it’s possible to be. Instead their music was a deliberate attempt to resurrect the party vibe of the early hip-hop scene in places like New York’s South Bronx and Queensbridge neighbourhoods, where block parties were the medium of getting the music across to audiences.
Characterised in particular by the deep, bass-heavy voice of Chali 2na - one of the most unique sounding rappers the genre has ever produced - and the inventive production of Cut Chemist, Jurassic 5 was a breath of fresh air on the west coast scene. Having more in common sonically with the rap and production styles usually to be found further east, the album is packed with references to a wide range of cultural influences that included everything and everyone from legendary graffiti documentary Wild Style and east coast rap pioneers EPMD, to movies like Spinal Tap and the actor Yul Brynner.
Although the album was never really a mainstream crossover hit, several cuts from the LP have become established underground classics, particularly the distinctive flute sample from ‘Jayou’ and the Ike Turner-sampling ‘Concrete Schoolyard’. One of the real highlights of the record though is the track ‘Lesson 6: The Lecture’, an instrumental showcase for the DJing abilities of Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark that packs a myriad of musical styles into its 6:57 running time that provide a backdrop for a narration about chemistry, the elements and early vinyl recordings - an extended musical experiment that has become of of the most recognisable and unique tracks of its era.
Why should I revisit?
Jurassic 5 is a straight-up, old school, good vibe record that just begs to given a spin on a sunny day. There’s no over-production, no glamourising of gang culture and no diss tracks, just two DJs, four MCs and some well chosen samples to propel the album along.
Despite having split in 2007, citing ‘musical differences’, the group reunited last year for a live show at Coachella and last year and released their first unheard material for more than eight years, the White Stripes-sampling 'The Way We Do It'.
Who will enjoy it?
It probably goes without saying that this is one for the hip-hop heads, but we think the album has a much broader appeal particularly tracks like 'Lesson 6' which you really don’t need to be a hip-hop fan to appreciate.