New & Cool: Jurassic 5's Old-School Rap

Crew pushes for a return to days of yore with debut EP showcasing individual talents.

Once upon a time, hip-hop had nothing to do with bi-coastal rivalries, guns

or big cars. In that not-so-distant day, hip-hop was about DJs and MCs

wowing crowds in parks and on playgrounds with breaks, beats and rhymes.

DJ Nu-Mark and his crew in Jurassic 5 -- though part of a different age --

see themselves as stewards of that tradition.

"We're picking up where old school left off, and not just old, old school,

not just Sugar Hill, but bands like Main Source," said DJ Nu-Mark, 26, who

dropped out of school only a couple units short of becoming a fully

qualified X-ray technician. "We try to reflect the different eras that felt

good to us."

Jurassic 5, of Los Angeles, recently released their first EP, bearing the

cryptic title EP, on their own Rumble/Pickininny label. Initially

two separate crews, the 5, who are actually six members, evolved from the

group Rebels of Rhythm and Unity Committee. The members, who go by their

rap pseudonyms, refused to give their real names.

"Akil and Zaakir were in Rebels of Rhythm, and I used to hang with Unity

but I wasn't in it. We all used to hang out at The Good Life, which is

like an open mic spot where you got to sign in to do raps. We used to trip

out on each other's styles and then we got together to do 'Unified

Rebelution,' " said Nu-Mark of the band's progression.

Building on the strengths of both bands, Jurassic 5 have developed a sound

as fun as it is unique.

One of the standout tracks on the EP is

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Jurassic_5/Concrete_Schoolyard.ram">"Concrete

Schoolyard" (RealAudio excerpt), a song designed to conjure a

nostalgia for swimming trunks and times spent sipping lemonade on the porch

out of even the greatest of sentimental misers. In keeping with the band's

participatory nature, each bandmember chimes in or drops a beat into the

kicked-back mix.

"Rap is engulfed in a negative state, with people talking about the crime

on the street. We try to display the flip side, like the energy from a

nice party, when you have fun. Then we sprinkle the stew with things that

are going on," said 27-year-old Chali 2na, so dubbed by his father after

observing Chali's excessive childhood interest in a Starfish Tuna

commercial featuring Charlie The Tuna.

Perhaps the most refreshing sonic element of the Jurassic 5 debut EP is the

crew's tendency to work as a solid unit. These tracks highlight the group's skills alone by taking time to showcase the talents of each member, whether it be Chali 2na's deep bass navigating through tricky rhyme waters -- "They call me tuna/ as in fish in sea/ self-efficiency/ that's my mission see" on

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Jurassic_5/In_The_Flesh.ram">"In The

Flesh" (RealAudio excerpt) -- or Cut Chemist's sample of a dowdy

professor droning his way through a list of the elements on

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Jurassic_5/Lesson_6.ram">"Lesson 6: The

Lecture" (RealAudio excerpt).

"Hip-hop's supposed to be about the party, establishing the good feeling of

the music," DJ Nu-Mark said. "We want people to get their day started to

our music, we want people eating Rice Chex in the morning to our music.

It's not for listening to before a drive-by." [Wed.,

Feb. 11, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]