Interview: Jurassic 5

JURASSIC 5
interview by brian greenaway


If you’re anything like me, then you probably really like Jurassic 5. Even if you’re nothing like me-you probably still really like Jurassic 5. The near universal praise for the four MCs and two DJs from Los Angeles has earned J5 myriads of accolades and a dedicated, growing base of fans. Growing up in a small, mostly-white California town meant my ears were largely unaccustomed to the Black end of the music spectrum. Groups like De La Soul and Public Enemy often took a back seat to Operation Ivy and The Vandals. College life however, quickly expanded my world, adding color to my life (and my record collection) as I was introduced to acts like The Roots, Hieroglyphics, the Pharcyde and my favorite-J5. Their self-titled EP quickly became one of my favorite albums, only to be usurped by the follow-up smash “Quality Control”, available on Interscope Records.

The infectious beats of DJs Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark, coupled with the smooth rhymes, verbal skills, and tight melodies of Chali 2NA, Soup, Marc 7, and Akil have created something markedly different in the often cookie cutter world of hip-hop. Jurassic 5 has kept busy of late, working on a new album and shooting videos, as well as keeping the fans happy with their legendary live shows. So for those of you who shed a tear when A Tribe Called Quest broke up-and for those of you who didn’t-Modern Fix proudly presents J5’s Soup and Marc 7.

Greenaway: Alright, we’ll start off with a question that I know is on all of Southern California’s mind: What’s up with the Lakers?
Marc 7: The Lakers’ problem is that they just won a Championship and they still a little high on themselves right now. They may need to lose in the first round of the playoffs to get back to where they need to be. It would be a good reality check. I don’t think they should have got rid of Glen Rice and now that they have Rider they should run a three-guard offense and put in Horace Grant, who can rebound. I don’t know what they’re going to do…
Soup: You know, the Lakers are my team. I love the Lakers. It’s the role-players man, they got to step up. Tyrone Lue’s no good. Ron Harper-I’ve always liked Ron Harper but he’s getting old and he can’t give them too many minutes. Horace Grant has been pretty horrible, too. Robert Horry, he’s not what he used to be and he has some of the worst entry passes I’ve ever seen. I think Phil Jackson’s gotta slam the hammer down. I think they need to pick up somebody who can play. Give them a decent contract with incentives to come play on the Championship Team, you know? They got their problems and they need to get them sorted out. Kobe and Shaq have the whole world at their feet and they need to sort it out.

G: You sound like you’re lobbying for the GM job right now.
Soup: Well, they need help and they need to be able to deal with someone criticizing them.

G: Would you guys let Shaq rap with you?
Soup: I don’t know, man. Maybe I’d rap with him, you know what I’m saying? I think the MCs should stick to MCing and the basketball players should stick with basketball. It works both ways though. I mean Master P tried out, but they didn’t want him, you know?

G: Hey, why no love for Santa Barbara? When are you guys going to play up here?
Marc 7: You know what, we’re working on that. We just spoke with our tour agent over at William Morris and we’re trying to do that. As soon as we can get up there, we’ll be there.
Soup: I love Santa Barbara. Nice place.

G: Lotta white people, though.
Soup: Hey, that’s cool. There’s a lotta white people everywhere. You know as long as people are cool to me, I’m cool with them.

G: What should people know about Jurassic 5 who aren’t necessarily familiar with your work?
Marc 7: Just that we put a lot of care into what we do. We’re real nitpicky about our music. There’s definitely quality control going on. The pieces of music that we do we look at as an art. We attack every song with the intention of making something different than the last thing we made. We just have a real appreciation for what we do and we take it seriously as artists.

G: How about from a live show?
Marc 7: Expect a lot of energy and fan participation. Just showmanship. Expect a good show. Don’t expect to see a lot of MCs just walking back and forth. Expect to get your money’s worth because that’s one of our main concerns. We focus a lot on our live shows because that’s actually gotten us to where we are today, aside from “Quality Control”. Our shows have been like our videos for a long time.

G: It’s pretty clear from listening to Quality Control that religion and spirituality plays a pretty big role in your lives. How would you say it’s influenced your music?
Soup: Well, just getting to where we’ve got. As a Muslim it’s very spiritual for me, knowing that what we’ve accomplished is destiny, predestined by Allah. He’s already mapped out what we’re going to do and he’s given us so many opportunities. He’s helped us make the choices and helped us deal with the things we don’t have control over-both good and bad. I mean, if I had my choice I would have come out in 1984, at the height of hip-hop, when I was only 14. Eventually J5 got together and everything began to materialize. It’s because of faith that everything worked out the way it did. You can’t take it too seriously, you know? Music is not my only priority. I love the music and I’m not about to jeopardize it or my health or my family by going out to clubs and parties and whatever. I’m not doing that.
Marc 7: I’m a strong believer in God and I just feel that it don’t matter how you praise him, just as long as you do. I’d say faith in God definitely influences the group a lot and keeps us grounded. It keeps you humble. I mean there are times when it gets really rough, when people starting thinking that we’re just millionaires and we’re just livin the life. But it ain’t like that. You know sometimes we struggle just like everybody else.

G: What about social issues? “Contribution” off of Quality Control has some pretty heavy implications for individuals in today’s world.
Marc 7: You know, if you can relate to a lot of the issues that we talk about, like growing up in single-family homes and things of that nature, then that’s great. There’s definitely a breakdown of the family in America. I’m a product of that myself, being raised by my grandmother.
Soup: Well, I would like to inspire some kind of change, but I don’t want to just sit back and preach. We all do things that we aren’t proud of from time to time and it’s important to try and give people something to chew on.
Marc 7: It’s something we definitely wanted to touch on and we felt like we wanted to do something different from the first album. We knew it was a chance we were taking, but it’s up to us as artists to set the standard for what we can and can’t do. We can’t have the fans saying, “We expect this from you.” No, we expect this from us, and if you like it then you like it and if you don’t, you don’t.
Soup: I think Jurassic 5 has got the right formula, we know that you gotta be humble, because when you’re not humble, it just doesn’t work. You gotta take credit for things that you do and those that you don’t do, you know.

G: That’s a refreshingly honest take on success, especially considering how long J5 has been doing what you’ve been doing. It’s been what, seven years?
Soup: It doesn’t seem like that long when you’re in it, it goes by so fast. I’ve got a problem with being patient, but that’s what you’ve gotta be. I always felt that we could do it and when you look at what we’ve accomplished over the last couple of years…man, you gotta have faith. We all used to doubt a little bit, but we knew it would happen.
Marc 7: It’s just God’s gift. We were all supposed to be doing this for a reason because sometimes we all get together and we make songs and it comes out so effortlessly it’s scary. It might just start from someone improvising one line and then someone else says something and you end up with this crazy concoction and that’s just how it happens. Sometimes having no formula is the best formula.

G: Who helped you through those leaner first years? Did you have any support from your family?
Soup: I didn’t need my family to support me in being an MC. You know it would have been cool if they did, but it’s not something I really needed. I just wanted to let them know that what I was doing was no fluke. Now it’s like people see me on a video or on TV or their friends’ kids are saying, “Oh man-I love J5! They’re great!” and it’s nice to be able to show my family that it wasn’t just talk. I was serious, you know?

G: What’s that kind of attention like? Are you getting mobbed?
Soup: Well, it’s like anything, good and bad. I’ve got an uncle that I hadn’t seen in years. The minute J5 started getting visible he calls me up and acts like I got everything I need. But I don’t, you know? People see you in a video or whatever and they think it’s all good. Naw man, it’s still a struggle. The day is coming when everyone’s arms will be open wide to J5-some people say we already there-but it’s coming soon.
Marc 7: We know all this hard work one day is going to pay off. We don’t know exactly when, we still aren’t just where we want to be and I don’t even think we know where we want to be. We’re just striving for that day and we’re still workin.

G: The new video’s going to help that, won’t it?
Marc 7: Aw man, we just finished a new video for The Influence and I just got the next-to-final cut. We’re working with this cat Marcos Siega who did the Blink 182 videos and trust me, he’s a professional-he had incredible ideas and he knew exactly what he wanted to do. It’s incredible and I can’t wait for people to see it. I haven’t been this excited about a product coming out since the album [2000’s Quality Control].
Soup: It’s tight. Watch for it to drop in February.

G: Do you see any dangerous trends in hip-hop right now? Anything really bother you?
Soup: I think the thug element. Everybody wanna be tough. I’ll be glad when that ends. That’s getting tired.
Marc 7: For me, predictability is dangerous. A lot of stuff is still predictable. The radio is predictable. And what bothers me is the morning shows will push the anti-gang and anti-drug thing and then at the same time they’ll play a song about getting high or a song with MCs bangin, and it’s like…shut up. Which one is it gonna be? That’s kind of wack. It’s just the same old thing all the time. I can’t even really blame the artist because it’s just the fickle fans out there, picking up whatever’s hot for the moment. But at the same time I’m really happy about this movement that’s happening in music right now. Acts like Common, The Roots, Jill Scott, Mos Def, just people doing stuff from the heart and the acceptance of it.

G: What about bling bling?
Soup: If you make a bling bling song and it’s funky, I’m not mad. If you do bling bling and you’re terrible at it, then you need to stop. There’s nothing wrong with Jay Z showing what he’s got, because he’s worked hard for it. A lot of people always thought he’d be a sidekick, but he’s totally transformed himself into what he is now. He’s a good MC, so I respect him for his lyrics and when he’s talking about what he’s accomplished it’s easier to swallow than somebody who’s nobody in particular. And you know when some of these other cats talking about bling bling get a gold record, that’s 500,000 people who think they’re good. There’s no gun to their head forcing them to buy it. So who do you get upset at? The consumer or the artist?

G: Let’s talk about Eminem.
Soup: My thing is that if a Brother says what he’s saying, he’s out on his ass and that’s what pisses me off. Brothers made this music, man. I remember when the corporate White world wasn’t even trying to check for hip-hop. I remember that shit. I remember when hip-hop blew up. I wasn’t there in the beginning but I’ve seen hip-hop go from the days of when me and my homies ran it to where it’s like now-a lot of White people know more about it than Black people do. You look at what Eric B. & Rakim did-these guys didn’t get no Grammies-shit, they didn’t get NOTHIN. Then for a White guy to come out-and I’m not gonna say he’s not good, ‘cause he’s good you know? he can rhyme. But for him to come out and talk about the stuff he’s talking about-gays, and whatever-a Brother says that and it gets pulled in a second. Now Eminem’s talking about killing his baby’s momma, and the kids are listening to it and they’re influenced by it you know? If I go and say shit like that on some TV program or something, I’m gonna end up crucified and in jail. But he gets a Grammy.

G: A lot of people credit the Beastie Boys with bringing hip-hop to mainstream America-would you say that’s where the split between white and black began?
Soup: It’s possible. Now I can’t front, I dug License to Ill. I love it and I thought it was incredible. You know, it has been going on since the beginning of time-in music it goes all the way back to Elvis and probably even before that. I saw one kid on TV the other day sayin, “I don’t like hip-hop, but I like Eminem.” Now that’s a kick in the ass. That’s like sayin, ‘I don’t like it when the Brothers do it, but when a person who looks like me and my homies does it, it’s cool’. Eminem had the cover of Rolling Stone before his first album [Slim Shady EP] even came out. That doesn’t happen the other way around. Now I look for Eminem to set that straight, and if he don’t set it straight, then I got a problem with him.

G: I think a lot of White people who are really into hip-hop are pretty self-conscious about it. It’s sometimes tough to walk that line between appreciating Black culture and co-opting Black culture.
Soup: Hey, you know Black people are good at making music and entertaining. People try to say that’s a stereotype, but whatever with that. It’s not about being racial, it’s just about being good at something. Just accept that. The world has a vast amount of things that you can do. You can make a business out of anything. You know Black people just happen to be good at making music-that’s just the way it is. And you can like it whether you are Asian, White, Black, whatever-just give respect where respect is due.

G: Are you worried that six months or a year from now there will be a couple of guys with J5’s same sound and style willing to sell themselves to the highest bidder?
Soup: Naw, I’m not too worried about it. I was more worried about it before we came out, period. Back before Quality Control hit. We wanna have it to where anybody can just hear a song and go, “Aww-that’s J5.” And that’s why we’re working on our new album right now, hopefully have it out by the end of the year. In this game you can’t be gone for very long, because that’s when that group that sounds like you comes out and then you in trouble.

G: Is it ever tough dealing with all of the different personalities and egos within the group? I mean six individuals can want six different things all at the same time.
Soup: Sure, sometimes it’s hard. It’s just kind of a democracy. I don’t really like it when somebody gets outvoted and they feel like they don’t got a voice. You just gotta put those personal things behind you for the good of the group, you know?
Marc 7: It is hard, but I think we’ve all got faith in each other and we all got this silent voice telling us we’re going to make it and we all feel it and we all follow it.

G: What kind of records do you have in your collection that might surprise the rest of us?
Marc 7: Billy Joel’s Glass Houses. That’s a great album. He’s got a lot of soul. Another one that people might end up trippin on is John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy. There was a certain vibe about that album to where I can listen to it and it instantly takes me back, you know?
Soup: Well, I’ve got Def Leppard’s Pyromania. Is that the name of that CD? I got the Stray Cats, I love that one. I got the Blow Monkeys-you ever heard of them? I got Elvis, I got B.B. King, I got Nancy Sinatra. [Sings] These boots are made for walking…

G: All right, let’s say you’re on the Survivor island representing hip-hop. On this island are a bunch of other people representing all the other kinds of music. Who do you vote off at the tribal counsel?
Soup: Oh man, I’m gonna get in trouble-techno man. I can’t take it. I don’t know what it is. I can’t dance to that shit.

G: I don’t think it’s any coincidence that you have to do a lot of drugs to really enjoy that music.
Soup: I think so, man. Those two things just go hand in hand. I would really be tryin’ to vote that person off.
Marc 7: Let’s see…I would give the boot to…there’s so many different kinds of music. Probably folk music, I’m not really feeling that. I was thinking country music right off the bat, but it could probably stay because it might get you through one of those bad days. Might wanna hear some Kenny Rogers or something.

G: What’d you think about Wyclef sampling “The Gambler”?
Marc 7: I thought it was funny. Just having the balls to do that-I’ve got to give him props. I wish the Fugees would get back together. I love the Fugees. At The House of Blues a while ago I saw The Fugees, The Roots when they were just about blowin up, and Goody Mob-and just as a package they were so good.

G: How much longer do you want to make music for?
Marc 7: We should do it until it’s not fun anymore. As long as the vibe is there I wanna keep doing it. Whenever we sit there at the table and it’s not fun and we’re just doing it to make an album to fulfill a contract-we got a problem. And that’s not the case right now-it’s still a lot of fun. We’re gonna knock this album out and then tour it and see what happens. After that maybe some people wanna go and do some solo projects or whatever. Cut Chemist wants to do some solo stuff and maybe we’ll all just take a breath for a minute and then do a Wu-Tang and come back with another J5 album, you know?
Soup: You know, I used to go to Run-DMC shows back in the day and they’d say, “Put your hands up!” and I got my hands up and everybody else got their hands up, and they be playing their song and they mute a part of it out and everybody knows the lyrics. And I’m like “Dope!” Now what makes people do what Run-DMC tells them to do? I wanna be like that, you know? They’re my idols and they’re like two decades deep and people still know their shit. As long as you’re having fun. You don’t wanna just be jumpin through hoops. You wanna sell out a show and say “HO!” and everybody says “HO!” and it sounds like a million people…now that’s dope, and that don’t get old.

 

 

 

Keep your eyes peeled for the new J5 video, as well as the new album. Visit www.jurassic5.com for more info. We got the advance video of “The Influence” in the Modern Fix underground headquarters. It’s got a really dope intro that melds some old timers in the Barber shop reminiscing about a beat, and as they hum it together, the song pulls into the beat with J5 picking up the actual track. Be prepared for a heavy rotation on this one I’m sure so we’ll enjoy this while it’s still crecent fresh.