Jurassic 5 holds onto what’s golden

 

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By Ashley Zlatopolsky

It’s been a little over twenty years since iconic ‘90s alternative hip-hop group Jurassic 5 first formed in Los Angeles’ Good Life club. Widely regarded as a pivotal influence in the decade’s underground hip-hop movement by critics and fans alike, the six-piece crew consisting of two DJs (Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark) and four MCs (Akil, Zaakir, Marc 7 and Chali 2na) were well on their way to becoming one of hip-hop’s greatest and most powerful acts of all time, ranking alongside names such as Public Enemy and N.W.A. with socially-conscious lyrics and smooth beats paired with smart sampling. But in 2004, Cut Chemist left the group to pursue a solo career, and in 2007 Jurassic 5 completely called it quits after nearly 15 years of music.

And that was it for the crew until 2013. After almost seven years apart (nine for Cut Chemist), Jurassic 5 reunited and re-emerged stronger than ever before with a new flair, seasoned attitude, and more vibrant energy at Coachella Music Festival, the group’s first show with the original six members since Cut Chemist split. During their performance, Jurassic 5 gave fans a memorable concert revisiting all the classic feel-good tracks like “Concrete Schoolyard” that paved the way for the group to develop a massive fan base and solidify their stance in the underground hip-hop scene nearly two decades earlier.

Cut Chemist, whose real name is Lucas MacFadden, takes us back to that fundamental moment in Jurassic 5’s history where the team of six put their differences aside and revived the hip-hop outfit (which has now embarked on the Word of Mouth 20th Reunion Tour), the groundbreaking Coachella performance that changed everything. Jurassic 5 play the Royal Oak Music Theatre on Saturday, July 26.

MT: This tour marks 20 years of Jurassic 5. That must be pretty special. What does it mean to you?

LM: It means we’re old (laughs). Actually, it means 20 years ago, we didn’t think we’d be doing this. You know, after a long hiatus and no product out, it’s pretty amazing that we can do something like this [tour]. It’s pretty special to all of us.

MT: Does the tour feel nostalgic?

LM: Well yeah, but it’s easier than I thought it would be. We’ve been so active playing shows and being in the studio together for so long that we just got right back on the bike and started riding. But then I thought about it, and it’s like

we’ve done a lot of shows and we’ve grown up together, so why wouldn’t it be easy? You just have to put aside all your differences and do the shows.

MT: Has the energy onstage changed at all?

LM: It’s better [than it was before]. Everybody up there is a more seasoned performer, because everyone went off on their own and did their own thing, so it makes a stronger performance when we all come together.

MT: What brought Jurassic 5 back together? Who reached out to who?

LM: I’ve always been talking to the guys about when would be an opportune time to do it [reunite]. I always thought it would be great if Coachella was the place where we would come together. It would have to be a high-profile event, you know? And then a year later, Coachella actually called us and asked us to do it, coincidentally, and it just so happened that everybody was free and the offer was good and it just seemed like the time was right.

MT: How long were you talking about getting back together?

LM: It wasn’t always a mutual conversation but it was between me and maybe like Marc 7 would talk, then I would talk with another member. It was always like

like trying to feel [reuniting] out. But we weren’t officially talking about it as a group until Coachella came on the table.

MT: How was the Coachella performance, anyways?

LM: Awesome! It was so awesome that we decided to keep going and doing more shows. There were 60,000 people and we were playing the outdoor theater stage [in a headlining slot], so it was a big deal.

MT: It sounds like even when the group was broken up, everyone was still on good terms.

LM: Yeah, I mean I’ve known Chali [2na] and Marc [7] since 1987 and we would do work together, so those kind of friendships are hard to look away from. Especially Marc [7] and I, being the two DJs [of Jurassic 5], we just remained friends. And whenever I’d see the other guys around, it wasn’t like we hated each other. It was amicable, you know. It was cool.

MT: Sometimes when groups break up and get back together, they reconnect and become stronger than ever before. Was that the case here?

LM: Definitely. We had more respect for one another — as people, as professionals, as musicians — all the way around.

MT: So it was a good thing then.

LM: I think so! Sometimes relationships need breaks.

MT: During those nine years you were apart from Jurassic 5, what changed?

LM: The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was to be a solo artist that wasn’t behind four other people, four vocalists

it was just me. So to own up and be responsible for the failures and the successes, that was the big thing that changed. When there’s no one to hide behind, it [performing] can be a scary place.

MT: Like what failures?

LM: Well, you know, when somebody boos you, you can’t blame it on one of the MCs. When I opened up for Shakira, the first show I did, I got booed by 15,000 people. And that was one of my life changing moments. Like oh wow, they’re booing me! I was on that tour for three months and I had to turn it around. And I did it—I figured out a way to entertain the people and still do what I was set on doing without compromising my artistic commitment. By the sixth or seventh show, people were applauding and it felt really good to overcome that.

MT: Every member of Jurassic 5 contributes something to the group. What is everyone’s role?

LM: With the MCs you get different political views, different voices. Akil is kind of the rebel. Chali 2na is the humanitarian and the diplomat. Marc 7 is like the business-savvy, tech guy

he has all this stuff, like, he talks on the phone on his watch and stuff, and I call him “Data.” Soup [Zaakir] is the comedian. DJ Nu-Mark is like the Iron Man Tony Stark. And I’m like the Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker.

MT: With six members, why didn’t you ever change the name to Jurassic 6?

LM: Nah, that sounds terrible.

MT: You just released “The Way We Do It” on YouTube, but I’m guessing this is an older song [since Heavy D produced it and passed away in 2011].

LM: Yeah, that was just a free download.

MT: Well, besides that, is Jurassic 5 working on new material [since reuniting]?

LM: Well, we’re trying to figure that out. We’ll probably be leaking more stuff than work our way up to putting out something more substantial by next year. I mean, I want to make something — I want to put out a new record. I’d like to continue making music and to continue doing shows.

MT: But are you going to be working on your solo material at the same time?

LM: Yeah, that’s where it gets interesting — to do Jurassic 5 and do my own thing, which is quite different.

MT: Would you ever mix your solo material into Jurassic 5 material?

LM: (Laughs) If the other guys let me! If there’s a place where I’m doing music and the [two] fit, I’ll bridge the two. It depends on what context it’s in and who’s there. Sometimes my fan base is very different from Jurassic 5’s and vice versa.

MT: Ideally, 10 years from now, where do you see Jurassic 5?

LM: To be one of the most entertaining live hip-hop groups that exists.

MT: Don’t you think you’ve reached that goal already?

LM: I don’t know. We’re pretty good!

Jurassic 5 play Saturday, July 26 at Royal Oak Music Theatre. Doors at 7:30 p.m.; 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-399-2980 ext. 3; royaloakmusictheatre.com; Tickets starting at $29.50.

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