interview by brian greenaway
If youre anything like me, then you probably really like Jurassic 5. Even if youre 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 didnt-Modern Fix proudly presents J5s Soup and Marc 7.
Greenaway: Alright, well start off with a question that I know is on all of Southern Californias mind: Whats 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 dont 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 dont know what theyre going to do…
Soup: You know, the Lakers are my team. I love the Lakers. Its the role-players man, they got to step up. Tyrone Lues no good. Ron Harper-Ive always liked Ron Harper but hes getting old and he cant give them too many minutes. Horace Grant has been pretty horrible, too. Robert Horry, hes not what he used to be and he has some of the worst entry passes Ive ever seen. I think Phil Jacksons 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 youre 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 dont know, man. Maybe Id rap with him, you know what Im 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 didnt 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, were working on that. We just spoke with our tour agent over at William Morris and were trying to do that. As soon as we can get up there, well be there.
Soup: I love Santa Barbara. Nice place.
G: Lotta white people, though.
Soup: Hey, thats cool. Theres a lotta white people everywhere. You know as long as people are cool to me, Im cool with them.
G: What should people know about Jurassic 5 who arent necessarily familiar with your work?
Marc 7: Just that we put a lot of care into what we do. Were real nitpicky about our music. Theres 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. Dont expect to see a lot of MCs just walking back and forth. Expect to get your moneys worth because thats one of our main concerns. We focus a lot on our live shows because thats actually gotten us to where we are today, aside from Quality Control. Our shows have been like our videos for a long time.
G: Its pretty clear from listening to Quality Control that religion and spirituality plays a pretty big role in your lives. How would you say its influenced your music?
Soup: Well, just getting to where weve got. As a Muslim its very spiritual for me, knowing that what weve accomplished is destiny, predestined by Allah. Hes already mapped out what were going to do and hes given us so many opportunities. Hes helped us make the choices and helped us deal with the things we dont 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. Its because of faith that everything worked out the way it did. You cant take it too seriously, you know? Music is not my only priority. I love the music and Im not about to jeopardize it or my health or my family by going out to clubs and parties and whatever. Im not doing that.
Marc 7: Im a strong believer in God and I just feel that it dont matter how you praise him, just as long as you do. Id 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 were just millionaires and were just livin the life. But it aint 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 todays 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 thats great. Theres definitely a breakdown of the family in America. Im a product of that myself, being raised by my grandmother.
Soup: Well, I would like to inspire some kind of change, but I dont want to just sit back and preach. We all do things that we arent proud of from time to time and its important to try and give people something to chew on.
Marc 7: Its 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 its up to us as artists to set the standard for what we can and cant do. We cant 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 dont, you dont.
Soup: I think Jurassic 5 has got the right formula, we know that you gotta be humble, because when youre not humble, it just doesnt work. You gotta take credit for things that you do and those that you dont do, you know.
G: Thats a refreshingly honest take on success, especially considering how long J5 has been doing what youve been doing. Its been what, seven years?
Soup: It doesnt seem like that long when youre in it, it goes by so fast. Ive got a problem with being patient, but thats what youve gotta be. I always felt that we could do it and when you look at what weve 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: Its just Gods 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 its 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 thats 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 didnt need my family to support me in being an MC. You know it would have been cool if they did, but its not something I really needed. I just wanted to let them know that what I was doing was no fluke. Now its like people see me on a video or on TV or their friends kids are saying, Oh man-I love J5! Theyre great! and its nice to be able to show my family that it wasnt just talk. I was serious, you know?
G: Whats that kind of attention like? Are you getting mobbed?
Soup: Well, its like anything, good and bad. Ive got an uncle that I hadnt seen in years. The minute J5 started getting visible he calls me up and acts like I got everything I need. But I dont, you know? People see you in a video or whatever and they think its all good. Naw man, its still a struggle. The day is coming when everyones arms will be open wide to J5-some people say we already there-but its coming soon.
Marc 7: We know all this hard work one day is going to pay off. We dont know exactly when, we still arent just where we want to be and I dont even think we know where we want to be. Were just striving for that day and were still workin.
G: The new videos going to help that, wont it?
Marc 7: Aw man, we just finished a new video for The Influence and I just got the next-to-final cut. Were working with this cat Marcos Siega who did the Blink 182 videos and trust me, hes a professional-he had incredible ideas and he knew exactly what he wanted to do. Its incredible and I cant wait for people to see it. I havent been this excited about a product coming out since the album [2000s Quality Control].
Soup: Its 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. Ill be glad when that ends. Thats 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 theyll play a song about getting high or a song with MCs bangin, and its like…shut up. Which one is it gonna be? Thats kind of wack. Its just the same old thing all the time. I cant even really blame the artist because its just the fickle fans out there, picking up whatevers hot for the moment. But at the same time Im really happy about this movement thats 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 its funky, Im not mad. If you do bling bling and youre terrible at it, then you need to stop. Theres nothing wrong with Jay Z showing what hes got, because hes worked hard for it. A lot of people always thought hed be a sidekick, but hes totally transformed himself into what he is now. Hes a good MC, so I respect him for his lyrics and when hes talking about what hes accomplished its easier to swallow than somebody whos nobody in particular. And you know when some of these other cats talking about bling bling get a gold record, thats 500,000 people who think theyre good. Theres no gun to their head forcing them to buy it. So who do you get upset at? The consumer or the artist?
G: Lets talk about Eminem.
Soup: My thing is that if a Brother says what hes saying, hes out on his ass and thats what pisses me off. Brothers made this music, man. I remember when the corporate White world wasnt even trying to check for hip-hop. I remember that shit. I remember when hip-hop blew up. I wasnt there in the beginning but Ive seen hip-hop go from the days of when me and my homies ran it to where its 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 didnt get no Grammies-shit, they didnt get NOTHIN. Then for a White guy to come out-and Im not gonna say hes not good, cause hes good you know? he can rhyme. But for him to come out and talk about the stuff hes talking about-gays, and whatever-a Brother says that and it gets pulled in a second. Now Eminems talking about killing his babys momma, and the kids are listening to it and theyre influenced by it you know? If I go and say shit like that on some TV program or something, Im 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 thats where the split between white and black began?
Soup: Its possible. Now I cant 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 dont like hip-hop, but I like Eminem. Now thats a kick in the ass. Thats like sayin, I dont like it when the Brothers do it, but when a person who looks like me and my homies does it, its cool. Eminem had the cover of Rolling Stone before his first album [Slim Shady EP] even came out. That doesnt happen the other way around. Now I look for Eminem to set that straight, and if he dont 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. Its 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 thats a stereotype, but whatever with that. Its not about being racial, its 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-thats 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 J5s same sound and style willing to sell themselves to the highest bidder?
Soup: Naw, Im 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-thats J5. And thats why were working on our new album right now, hopefully have it out by the end of the year. In this game you cant be gone for very long, because thats 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 its hard. Its just kind of a democracy. I dont really like it when somebody gets outvoted and they feel like they dont 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 weve all got faith in each other and we all got this silent voice telling us were 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 Joels Glass Houses. Thats a great album. Hes got a lot of soul. Another one that people might end up trippin on is John Lennon and Yoko Onos 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, Ive got Def Leppards 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, lets say youre 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, Im gonna get in trouble-techno man. I cant take it. I dont know what it is. I cant dance to that shit.
G: I dont think its 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: Lets see…I would give the boot to…theres so many different kinds of music. Probably folk music, Im 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: Whatd you think about Wyclef sampling The Gambler?
Marc 7: I thought it was funny. Just having the balls to do that-Ive 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 its not fun anymore. As long as the vibe is there I wanna keep doing it. Whenever we sit there at the table and its not fun and were just doing it to make an album to fulfill a contract-we got a problem. And thats not the case right now-its still a lot of fun. Were 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 well 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 theyd 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 Im like Dope! Now what makes people do what Run-DMC tells them to do? I wanna be like that, you know? Theyre my idols and theyre like two decades deep and people still know their shit. As long as youre having fun. You dont 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 thats dope, and that dont 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. Its 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 Im sure so well enjoy this while its still crecent fresh.