hile the sickle on Rawkus Records logo popped the jiggy balloon in 90s New York, Jurassic 5 led the charge out West. The six man crew combined harmonious choruses, sample-stacked beats, and tangible concepts to release the critically acclaimed Quality Control, followed by a respected Power in Numbers. However, in the three years since, Hip-Hop changed, and the group was forced to adapt.
For their third album, Feedback, Jurassic 5s production team split with Cut Chemist, who decided to focus on a solo career. A member lighter, the group evolved by utilizing outside beatmakers, as well as giving the complete reigns to DJ Nu-Mark. Still with Interscope, the South Central collective is using the Dave Matthews assisted first single, Work it Out to reach an untapped audience. Whether the outfit can match the commercial appeal of longtime peers Black Eyed Peas will soon be determined. Charli 2na and Nu-Mark believe that J5’s reputation for raw Hip-Hop wont be tarnished in the process.
AllHipHop.com: Quality Control really seemed to draw from Hip-Hops earliest days with the MC harmonies, the simple subject matter, and the fun. Then, Power in Numbers used guests like Big Daddy Kane, Percee P, and Juju to show its allegiance to the early 90s. With Feedback, does it follow this course?
Charli 2na: Man! Its your perspective. I think its something entirely different from where Im sitting. At the same time, on this Feedback album, weve got a song called In the House, which actually pulls from the underground, early old school Hip-Hop from Los Angeles. Things like that, we touched on, as well as trying to reach way outside of the box. Youve got to blend the two within one pot.
DJ Nu-Mark: Believe it or not, its an East Coast record I sampled. DJs know what it is. I think its one of those things that fit the group; they really honed in on that sound. The music led the path. When we talk about a project too much before we start it, it comes out stiff. This album, the only real talk that we had coming into the record was that we wanted to work with some outside producers and guest stars. I dont think it was blatant to sound old school or traditional. I think we more or less attacked each song with a specific topic and feel.
AllHipHop.com: Why did you choose to share the production after so long keeping it in-house?
DJ Nu-Mark: We worked on a song called Brown Girl with Scott Storch. Its a bold move on J5s part. We actually met Scott through The Roots years ago in France, when he was playing keys for [them]. Salaam Remy came in because we were just talking about whos dope. Salaam worked with Nas, hes worked with Fugees, he seemed really up our alley. The guys really hit it off with Salaam as far as getting along, and seeing things on a musical and artistic level. We actually recorded nine songs with [him] of the 35 we did. We just picked our best 15. Exile also came in; [having] worked with Mobb Deep and Slum Village and stuff. Hes just straight up dope.
AllHipHop.com: In the House brought a smile to my face. On that record, and throughout your career, youve really mastered the baritone delivery, while flowing very fast. All that said, how many takes does it usually require to get your verses right?
Charli 2na: Dog, studio and stage is two different things. On stage, you gotta be in the mind-state of a one-take type of thing. But in the studio, you can sit there and poke and pick at it til you feel its right. Or, sometimes its a one-take thing where youre like, Welp, thats it with a burst of energy. Its been all kind of ways.
AllHipHop.com: Weve all heard stories, like The Symphony with G Rap running off the reel, and the imperfections in there that we all come to adore. With a Jurassic 5, to keep that rawness and improvisational quality alive, whats the recent studio sessions like?
Charli 2na: Well come in the studio, and joke for about an hour laugh, giggle, and s**t. We just catch up with each other cause we havent seen each other cause two of us live on the East Coast and four of us live on the West. We chill out for a second, then get down to the task at hand.
AllHipHop.com: With the last album, MasterCard was running commercials promoting a contest to let a die-hard fan chill with Jurassic 5 in the studio. How was that when it happened?
Charli 2na: Yo, on the real, Im gonna sit here and put MasterCard on blast. It was some bogus bulls**t, for real! They worked out a deal between themselves and [Interscope]. It was like, Okay, were gonna have these kids competing to be your interns. Also, they was gonna sponsor us on tour. They never came through with that sponsorship s**t, so thats some bulls**t, but then the intern thing we met the last 30 dudes [in the contest], and never heard s**t again. Those dudes never came and kicked it with us, or nothin. So, MasterCard is Masta Card! [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: The Thin Line always blew me away as a well-written song with depth to it. Walk me through me the creation of the lyrical end of that song and its significance to you
Charli 2na: First and foremost, Thin Line, because we did it with Nelly Furtado before anybody heard it, we [posted the tracklisting] on our website. Our fans were s**tting on us: You guys suck! Why would you make songs with Nelly? Blah blah blah. So then, when people heard it, we heard all about how that song applied to peoples lives. That, to me, was amazing. Thin Line, for me there is a sista I grew up with in Chicago. Her mom and my aunt were childhood friends blah blah blah. Were around the same age. We knew each other like that friends, almost family. Her and her mom moved to California. Years later, me and my aunt moved to California. [laughs] Our friendship turned to something a lil weird, and we been walkin that thin line ever since. When we were talkin bout doin a song on love without it bein somethin corny for the radio, or something thats already been done before we said, Lets speak about an aspect of love that everybody went through it. Thats what we did.
AllHipHop.com: Thats an interesting point about fans being critical about Nelly Furtado. Personally, I was a little off-put to see you guys working with Dave Matthews on Work it Out. Do you feel you might catch flack for that?
Charli 2na: Fortunately, because of Thin Line, Ive developed a callused skin. People judge it before they listen to it. But after they hear it a few times me personally, thats one of my favorite songs on the album. It encompasses a lot of different things, and it reaches out to a set of individuals. Our modus for doing it was purely musical. When Nu-Mark created the music, we was like, Who do you see on this? I think it was Mark or Akil was like, You know whod be dope on this? Dave Matthews.
AllHipHop.com: How do you think an absence from Cut Chemist will affect the groups sound?
Charli 2na: With Cut gone, we missin our comrade, but were gaining room to do more stuff. If you come to see our show, youll know what Im talkin bout. Im not gonna give it away. As far as the sound, Cuts sound is gonna be missed. I think we just compensated with what would have been there. While we were workin on the album, Cut was workin on his solo album at the same time. I dont know if he was overwhelmed or what. It was just a bunch of different things. It basically came down to [him saying] I gotta focus. Go for it man. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: What about you Mark? You guys were a production duo like Erick and Parrish or Eric Sadler and Hank Shocklee
DJ Nu-Mark: Its hard to say what would happen if he was in the group and contributed to this album because he didnt contribute any beats. So its hard for me to say the record wouldve gone this direction or that direction. Cuts changing, hes changing quite a bit and the groups changing quite a bit. I will say that going into this record, it was mutual between all six members when Cut was in the group that we wanted to work with outside producers. With that said, this record wouldve still sounded the same [in that regard]. Its definitely a different dynamic in the group without Luke there.
AllHipHop.com: Interscope is the powerhouse label in many ways. They make dreams come true for their artists it seems. But from the time you spent growing up in California, Im sure Dr. Dre is a major influence. What have been the interactions between Dr. Dre and Jurassic 5 over there?
Charli 2na: Aw man, me and Dre were smokin some weed yesterday! Thats a big-ass joke. [laughs] Truthfully man, Ive seen Dre up at Interscope all of about two times since 98. I cant necessarily say weve had any interactions. I dont even know if the kid knows who the hell we are. I cant front. [laughs] Definitely, hes influenced 75 percent, if not more of the music thats come out of this place. Hes influenced a lot of my thinking when it comes to Los Angeles, and hes influenced a lot of s**t thats happened up at Interscope.
AllHipHop.com: In 2000, the label was very supportive of you all. But Capitol had Dilated Peoples, Common had gone Gold with Like Water For Chocolate, and Rawkus was peaking in sales. Do you still feel the labels behind you as G-Unit, Shady, and Aftermath have expanded, and become more of a priority?
DJ Nu-Mark: I cant answer it for this record because we havent gone through the cycle yet. I will say that in order for you to have a good relationship with a label, youve got to be around them. Youve gotta meet with them and talk to them and discuss problems. So far, so good with this record, because this is the most weve ever involved them and this is the most theyve ever wanted to be involved with a Jurassic 5 project. We opened up to Interscope and said, What do you guys think about this song? for the first time. Before, itd be like, Heres the record. Put it out. Well see you guys on tour. This time, it was different. We had an open line of communication with Jimmy [Iovine]. He said, Before you put it in the plastic, let me hear it. Let me tell you what I think.
AllHipHop.com: With the first single being the Dave Matthews-assisted Work it Out, will you be going to a harder, more fundamental second single to win back the skeptics?
DJ Nu-Mark: In the House is the B-side to that record, to answer your question. [Work it Out] is a commercial record. It is what it is. Every song has its place. Theres a whole other audience out there that we havent reached out to yet. Theres other singles on the way that are urban, and others that are underground. Our thing is – we never wanna make another underground record again, cause I dont even know what underground is right now. I cant tell you whos the king of the underground now. In 95-99, I could tell you Mos Def was the man, or Company Flow had it on lock. These days, I cant tell you. So for us to make that kind of record right now, people wouldnt understand it.