On Sunday, The Daily Princetonian caught up with one of Jurassic 5's four MCs, Chali 2na, on the basketball court of the Quadrangle Club.
Jurassic 5, a hip-hop group from Los Angeles, headlined a series of concerts, jointly sponsored by USG and the Quadrangle Club, to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The Daily Princetonian: Jurassic 5 have been performing for a long time — what have been the best venues?
Chali 2na: We have been performing all over the place. I like colleges a lot when people are done their exams and just want to cut loose and have fun. It's a good audience.
DP: What is your impression of Princeton students and the University in general?
2na: I could go with the stereotype — you know, the all-Ivy prep, but I really don't know. It seems like there are some good people here.
DP: Take me through the process of writing a new song. Are the lyrics a collective process? Do the DJs (Cut Chemist and Nu Mark) come up with the beats or do the MCs help out?
2na: You know, it's collective. We all come up with the songs together. Sometimes, someone will come up with a beat, or we'll hear something like a hook in the record store and sample it. It's definitely a collective process. The method to our madness is that there is no method. We try to do whatever it takes to make the song good. For the individual MC, that might include compromising your own lyrics. I think we've written a song everyway possible.
DP: Who are you trying to appeal to when you write a new song?
2na: We're not trying to appeal to a specific audience, just people who like good music.
DP: I know that James Brown and Al Green are two of your influences. Are there any others?
2na: Yeah, James Brown and Al Green, those guys are the originals, but there are so many more. Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Cool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane ...
DP: Is gangster rap legitimate or simply a commercial tool?
2na: Some of these rappers are coming from a real personal experience, so I can't even say anything about them; it's what their life actually is. But there are definitely some that use it as a gimmick to make money.
DP: Are there any commercial rappers whose music you respect?
2na: Yeah, there are definitely some whose music I respect. Jay-Z — some of his early songs are just good music. He can definitely rap. I listened to "Dead Prez" and was like, "that's a hot song". I don't always condone what he's talking about, but he can rap, and he's coming from a hip-hop place.
DP: Are you working on an album right now?
2na: Yeah, we're just finishing up our new album. We have a single out right now called "Red Hot."
DP: Have you come up with a name yet?
2na: It's to be announced. We might even call it "To Be Announced."
DP: What do you see as the role of famous musicians and especially hip-hop artists with respect to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina?
2na: I don't think that there's a role just for hip-hop artists. It's more for every artist. Everybody needs to help out with that.
DP: In your last album, "Power in Numbers," your songs seemed to get a little more political, especially in the track "Freedom." Will your new album reflect that, or will it be more like the party style of your early music?
2na: You know, we write about what we're feeling at the time. That was a time when the world was changing on us, so we were trying to express ourselves through rap and trying to tell the world about it. Any new event or situation like that gets transferred into our music.
Jurassic Five was formed in 1993 as a collective between "The Unity Committee" and "The Rebels of Rhythm." Both groups had been active in the Los Angeles underground hip-hop scene, performing regularly at the Good Life Café, considered the epicenter of the movement.
In their twelve years of existence, the group has reached a national audience with their distinctive "old school" sound and clever lyrics. Uncluttered beats, simple melodies and rugged base lines — hallmarks of J-5's sound — put the group on the map in the mid-nineties and have sustained their success to this day.
The group consists of two DJ's, Cut Chemist and Nu Mark, and four MCs, Daakir, Akil, Chali 2na and Mark 7.