Interview with Chali 2Na from Jurassic 5
by Nick Huff

Nick: First off lets start with the name, Jurassic 5; I think it’s fitting that you let us know how that name came about.

Chali: This is the most popular question asked of us as a group. Basically we were two groups; Rebels of Rhythm and Unity Committee and we met each other at a café in southern California called The Good Life. We liked each other’s style and wanted to do a song together. We did a song, it was called "Unified Rebelution", and we got a distribution deal through TVT for a 12-inch. We were like “yo man we should be a group”. I played the song to my son’s mother at the time and she was clowning us, saying you guys think you sound like the Fantastic 5 but you sound more like the Jurassic 5. It was the joke that actually made us who we are today cause we were like “whoa that fits perfectly with what we’re trying to do”. I came back to the fellas and said, “What do you guys think of Jurassic 5?” and everyone’s like whoa that’s hot. That was it.

Nick: How did you and Cut Chemist get involved with Ozomatli?

Chali: Ozomatli; the connection is slightly older than J5 but the entity itself is newer. The connection to Ozomatli is the bass player: Wil Dog. When I first moved to California, me and Wil dog’s big brother, were just graffiti kings basically, he was sick with it. I have been knowing Dog since he was 14 years old. When he called on us to do the Ozomatli thing I came running, no questions asked. He was trying to settle a labor dispute at his job that ended up in some type of big protest where they shut down the building and he won custody of the building through some type of litigation process but he lost his job. So he turned the building into a skate park, a squat area, a rehearsal studio, a party spot and he called all his musicians hommies so we could gig and make money to keep the place going, keep the lights on. He kept that shit going for like two years. But he finally couldn’t do it no more. But, in the process of doing all these shows and stuff, record labels started hollering at us, and clubs were like yo come play and we started getting gigs and it eventually evolved like that. It wasn’t ever a thing where we said you know what, we going to make a group and call it Ozomatli and this and the other. It just naturally came about.

Nick: Did you and Chemist leave Ozomatli because there were too many J5 obligations?

Chali: It was a little bit of that; but there was also a lot of red tape. They were going through a lot of things with their label at the time, before Interscope picked them up and dropped them. I had to throw that in there. Both groups became really popular in the show circuit. The shows were conflicting badly so we had to be like y’all deal with that and we’ll deal with the J5 priorities for now. But I just did a song with them the other day for my solo stuff and I’m hyped about that.

Nick: I heard that you guys actually chill with a lot of your fans after shows.

Chali: We ain’t them cats that be like after the show we got to run upstairs and get in the dressing room and chill. It’s a blessing to be able to do this and to be able to touch people with the music that we do. It also connects us to people who we never would have met before. So in that its definitely worth it to talk to as many people as you can, holla at them, make yourself accessible, make it so that they know that you are just a person; know what I’m saying. That’s the best to me. When you start separating yourself then your music becomes separated, then your social life becomes separated it just spill over, in my opinion.

Nick: Word, I got to put it out there, that you guys are the most accessible groups I have met. I mean all six of you where down to earth and just chill. And it’s not like I work for a big radio station. I’ve met groups that just ignore college radio because they only care about the mainstream stations that won’t even play their shit.

Chali: College radio is just as important, even more so sometimes. Some cats don’t enjoy commercial success but get love on the college circuit. To me y’all hold it down.

Nick: Let's speak on the new record, the sophomore release, it’s actually the second and a half cause you guys had the EP. What can we expect from Power in Numbers?

Chali: In my opinion it’s a more aggressive album. It basically shows other sides of us as Jurassic 5. We stepped it up a lot I believe, you know what I’m saying, the music is a lot tighter, the content, the lyrics, the melodies, the direction, everything is a lot tighter, in my opinion. I think that’s the change. But as far as who we are, we ain’t changed, a lot of people want to say that shit but Nah nah we just doing the music that we love and hopefully its better than the Quality Control and the rest of them things, just trying to continuously out do ourselves.

Nick: I definitely felt that this album is a lot more political. Are you guys being political on purpose due to September 11th and it’s aftermath or is it the environment around you that makes it natural to be more outspoken about politics?

Chali: I truly think that if September 11th didn’t happen, we would still have what we have on this Power in Numbers album. It didn’t really affect us like that. Hip Hop has been talking about September 11th since 90, 92 you know what I mean. So, a song like Freedom is maybe inspired by, but not about shit like the September 11th incident. It’s more so just touching on the fact that us as Americans are maybe obsessed with the word and not really putting it into motion with what it truly means, nah what I’m saying, using it for what it really is.

This it totally off the subject but I was watching CNN and they were trying to do a comparison between the ideals of America and the ideals of Saudi Arabia, it was a trip. Everything was the same, it was all the same except when it got to shit like morals; the category of faith for Americans, the bar was like that big [really small] but for in Saudi Arabia the shit was off the scale. Obedience; Americans where like whatever, they [Saudi Arabia] was like off the scale again. The shit that was most important to us was freedom, individuality and having fun, and sometimes that in itself, in my opinion, can be the poison, if you get too caught in trying to be different and having fun and all that shit then you lose track of what’s really right. That’s just my opinion; y’all can take that for what you want.

Nick: Actually, I thought it was important that you, Akil and Soup all gave praise to Allah in the album inserts. Has September 11th made you feel like you have to explain what being a Muslim is about? I mean the media has been really ignorant in its portrayals of Muslims, going as far as saying it’s a barbaric religion and so on. Do you feel that as an artist you have to help break those stereotypes?

Chali: I feel like the stereotypes have always been here in America. You have president up on top of presidents who are really trying to befoul the whole Middle Eastern situation. Not because of religion but more so because of political gain and oil and things of that nature.

I’m a Muslim, first and foremost, I love God and respect God and respect the fact that there is nothing without him. Finding myself having to explain that? I have never been one to try to push what I believe on somebody on that level; you know what I’m saying. My love is for God and God Only. For instance my wife and me got married and I didn’t even invite my momma or nobody to the wedding. It was about her, God and me. This is a promise that is made in front of him and to him not to nobody else, not for people, in my opinion; you know what I’m saying. In certain instances I do find myself having to explain things, but that is what I think is suppose to happen.

There is a word in Arabic its called da`wah, which is the spread of information, it’s the spread of information by example more so than by preaching or trying to shove it down a persons throat, you know what I’m saying. I just try to live by example man, if a person feels that their comfortable with how I am or if they’re attracted to a certain part of me, the explanations come forth. But other than that, its not a thing where I’m trying to be, or none of us for that matter, are trying to be these preachy guys, man, you can really see it in our music, that we ain’t necessarily trying to be preachy, we just trying to show you the things that we go through, you know what I’m saying. These are the reasons why I respect some of these gangsta rappers and stuff like that, they ain’t necessarily telling you to go kill cats or whatever, it might be something that they went through that they are trying to express, you know what I’m saying, I can respect that when its coming from a sincere point.

Nick: There are a couple songs on this album, “What’s Golden” and “One of Them”, that go against the main views that MTV, BET and mainstream radio portray as hip hop; the bling blingin and all that. Is that something you guys are trying to focus on as far as, yo we want to show a different side of Hip Hop or is that who you are and what you were raised with.

Chali: Once again it’s who we are. But “One Of Them” is one of them songs man, where we were lashing out at all of those people, who I want to say wrongfully accused us of being something that we wasn’t. Catz be trying to scream that we this underground backpack this and the other. And its cool, you know what I’m saying; I respect everybody who’s about that scene or whatever. But to me underground and commercial, that line that separates them two is extremely blurry, when all of the things that are accepted as rap, stem from the culture called hip hop, say hip hop is that tree and the branches are all of these different styles of rap and graffiti and everything that came out of the hip hop aspect, I try my hardest to respect that more than anything.

Songs Like “If You Only Knew” and “One of them” are songs that kind of reflect that, like I said we try to lash out on “ One of them” to those catz who basically were telling us that we too soft or we need, like Soup said, an R&B track or catz who just be trying to be hard man, for the image, for the trend of it all and it ain’t really them and not know that later on in life they will be tested on that, whether it’s before you die or after, you going to be tested on that shit and what are you going to say then. So that’s where we are with that, we just wanted to put that shit out.

Nick: Fo sho. Actually one of the songs that I think catz might hate on is “Thin Line” with Nelly Furtado. I think the song is hot and it deals with relationship in a different way than we are used to seeing in mainstream hip hop but, then again catz might be like yo that’s soft; you guys are talking about relationships and not about big booty’s. You want to comment on that.

Chali: Once again man. Just being a crew that’s innovative and trying to be conscious of not trying to be like everybody else and stuff like that just being ourselves, as opposed to falling in to the whole bandwagonism thing. We wanted to do a song about women, our music has been devoid of women for a while, know what I mean [laughing], we wanted a song on the album about women in some aspect. The first stab at it, we were going to talk about that one woman in your life that affected you positively, it could be you wife, it could be your girl, it could be your momma, it could be your school teacher, whatever. That particular song is going to be pretty cool; we never finished it because we stumbled on this thin line thing.

Thin Line” just basically came about, we was like we can do a song about a relationship, but we got to do it in a way that will affect everybody, cause everybody, just like how them big booty’s and all that ole stuff, catz is all attracted to that, for us we was like ok, you done went through it, if you’re a guy, if your a heterosexual guy, even if you ain’t, you probably done went through this too and had a relationship with a person…you know I’m trying to be politically correct here…you had a relationship with a girl or a guy whatever and it’s a thing where you had a friendship with them first, and you respect that friendship more than you respect the lust you are feeling for that person, so you’re like, ok I’m not going to cross that line. We wrote the song, we was like this is tight, and at the same time somebody from Interscope was in the grocery store and ran into Nelly Furtado and asked her did she know us or know about us, and she was like hell yea and she knew our albums and was a big fan and we where like that shit is dope. It would be dope if we could get a female perspective on this song, lets ask her, and she said yea. And it took her a while to do it cause all the Grammy’s and all the shit she was winning but she came through and she came through like a champ man, she really did.

Nick: Her voice just harmonizes with y’alls.

Chali: She is a pro; man it’s just a trip. Cause she’ll come in there joking and laughing and shit but when its time to bust, she’s like, ok what y’all want me to do, but not just guide me but like I got a couple of ideas check that out, what do you think, or what about this one, what about that one, yea ok. It cool she’s not scared, I guess you can’t be scared to be in the position that she’s in.

Nick: Without going on too many tangents. I have always wondered how you guys come up with your rhymes since your always playing of each other. Do you just get in the studio, listen to the beat and just start flowing or what?

Chali: Like with anything, with practice you just find a way to do it. For us it’s not a set way. The fact that it’s not a set way; that’s our set way if I want to say it like that. Somebody will come with a verse and we’ll be like damn we should do a song around that verse or Cut or Nu might come with a beat or if we are working with someone else they might come with a beat that dictates the rhyme, we’d all sit around the table and write that, or Akil might have a chorus or I might have a chorus, there’s just no real method to the madness and I guess that’s the method.

Nick: Music videos…I’m feeling all the music videos so far. It definitely seems like you guys go out your way to be innovative and show a different kind of music video, cause we’ve all seen the Hype Williams shots. Do you guys usually work with the same directors or different directors or how do you come up with the concepts?

Chali: We’ve been blessed to work with different talented directors. We worked with the same directors on two videos, Jeff Richter, worked on “Quality Control” and “Worldly Entertainment”, but for the most part every other one has been different. We did a video for “Concrete Schoolyards”, a long time ago, that a friend of ours Delani directed, he’s amazing, and we just gave him a chance, cause he was on some grinding shit, you know. We worked with Marcos Siega, who won a BMA award for best video or best director, which was pretty cool, I guess that was a political move but dude is dope too so it was more based on his artistic skill than anything else, I mean it did help that he won an award or whatever but he did influence, so big respect to him for that. And this conglomerate of catz that do commercials and shit, if I’m not mistaken, they are called Logan, they did the last video we did [What’s Golden] and you know…

Nick: Yea, the video is definitely blazin…You brought up “Concrete Schoolyards”, kids seem to be prevalent throughout all the albums, there is at least one or two songs that either feature kids or are about school and education and I know you guy are also part of “The Funky Precedent”, which is a dope idea as far as hip hop artist giving back to the community by raising money for music programs at public schools. Is that something were you guys have kids and you’re like we have to show hip hop how to bring up these kids?

Chali: I think inadvertently it’s that. It ain’t really a thing where we are just consciously doing it. It just falls into these realms. Same way with the number thing, there is six of us but it’s Jurassic 5. This whole number thing kinda follows us around and we just play on it. Same way with the kids, catz want to call us old school, what’s the majority of things in a school beside books, it’s kids, right? And in the scheme of things we all just kids, bottom line. That be what attracts us to a lot of different things man, little sing songy shit, or something that makes you reminisce about your childhood and things of that nature. I feel like we all are connected to that in some form or fashion. I think that’s why we do it man. But at the same time we be trying not to pigeonhole ourselves into that but it falls like that you know, so we just embrace it.

Nick: Actually one of my favorite tracks on the album is the one with the little kid, I think it’s called After School Special, its starts with him saying, “Can I be on the album”?

Chali: He is here you might want to interview him.

Nick: He’s going to blow up I heard his little verse.

Chali: After he said that and we taped it, we where like you really want to be on the album? He was like yeaaaa. I said go over there and write a rhyme. He was like aight cool and he wrote that little piece and it was tight.

Nick: Aight before I let you go I want to talk about live shows. You guys ripped every show I have seen you in, from the flowing together to the dancing to the dj interludes to the live instruments; everything. And the crowd definitely feeds of the hype energy you guys bring to the stage. Sadly for someone who goes to a lot of shows I don’t see a lot of creativity in most acts. A lot of catz these days just stand in front of their dj, minidisck or dat and just rhyme with no charisma and you can tell they haven’t really put a lot of effort into rocking the crowd. Is that something you guys put a lot of work into?

Chali: I think it’s just more so being conscious of that, as far as the movement. I still think we still got a lot of work to do, I think [laughing]. The live show, if anyone calls us old school on any level, this is what more so we attach to about the old school, is the live show. The live show spoke for every aspect of hip hop bottom line. When nobody wanted to say anything…them fucking kids over there break dancing, rappin and beat boppin, when nobody was trying to look at them and give them any kind of love the live show is what spoke for everything.

You go back in New York, the Disco Fever or whatever, one of them clubs back in the day, Harlem World or whatever and you fittin to see some catz that you can’t see on video, and they don’t got major money behind them pushing them making their music sell or at least be in your face enough to where you get sick of them and go ok I’m going to check them out, they had none of that. All they had was the live show and when they did their live show you went home and you told your homie and the next time they did their live show you and your homie was there and then he went home and told his homies and then…That’s what we hold true to, that’s what’s golden to us, is to entertain to be visually entertaining to be entertaining to your audio to your touch and shit…we want to stimulate all your five senses and so live shows is the definite key to that and trying to make those tighter sometimes than the records themselves is the key for us, I think it will always be. Learnt that shit a lot from catz like The College Boys, to KRS-One to Santana, these catz who ain’t put out a album put can go do shows forever.

Nick: Any last words you would like to tell our readers, other than go cop the album.

Chali: Other than cop the album…Power in Numbers…Don’t give in to the numbers in power…also this interview took place in the bathroom of the House of Blues

c 2002 Nicolas R. Huff
No part may be reproduced without authors permission.

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