Rappers the Jungle Brothers are putting the finishing touches on V.I.P., a new album
set for release in August. The group also is opening a handful of UK dates this month for the
Today is the 30th birthday of Jungle Brother rapper Mike G, who was born Michael Small in
Harlem, N.Y. While in high school in Brooklyn, N.Y., Small formed a rap group with Nathaniel
Hall and DJ Samuel Burwell (who later became Afrika Baby Bambaataa and Sammy B
The area's popular urban radio station WRKS-FM liked the trio's demo tape. One of the
station's DJs (Mike G's cousin Red Alert) helped the Jungle Brothers sign with the indie rap
label Idler Records. The group's first single was a double-sided hit. The intended A-side, "Jim
Browski," was popular among the burgeoning hip-hop community, while the B-side, "I'll
House You," gained the attention of critics.
The Brothers' 1988 debut LP, Straight out the Jungle, included tracks such as
Promo"(RealAudio excerpt). The album's Afrocentric themes placed the Jungle
Brothers in the Native Tongue Posse, a loose union of similar acts formed by hip-hop legend
Done by the Forces of Nature (1989) was the Jungle Brothers' first major label effort.
The LP made #46 on Billboard's R&B chart, and the group used its growing reputation
to become producers of artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and Fishbone. The Brothers
also appeared in and recorded a song for the 1991 comedy movie "Livin' Large!"
In 1993 the Jungle Brothers added new member Torture (born Colin Bobb) and issued J.
Beez With the Remedy, a minor soul hit like its predecessor. The LP also featured
Bootsy Collins, Gary "Mudbone" Cooper and Bernie Worrell.
It took four more years for another album to appear from the Jungle Brothers. In the interim,
Torture left the fold. Raw Deluxe appeared in 1997, with such cuts as "Jungle Brother
(True Blue)" and "Black Man on Track."
Last year the Brothers did a drum & bass remix of "Jungle Brother" for the soundtrack to the
Bambaataa said of the track: "It's the first successful rap record with drum & bass. We made
The Jungle Brothers, who have never experienced the level of popularity enjoyed by many
of their rap peers, performed at the 1998 CMJ Music Festival in New York. DJ Mike Loe
replaced Sammy B, who left the group to work with the Manhattan Transit Authority.
Mike G said the Jungle Brothers are completing their new album with production assistance
from Alex Gifford of electronica group the Propellerheads.
Even if the Jungle Brothers don't break new ground with future releases, their fusion of rap,
soul, jazz and house has been influential to the rap acts who have followed them.
Other birthdays: Fred Hellerman (Weavers), 72; Magic Dick (J. Geils Band), 54; Danny Klein
(J. Geils Band), 53; Peter "Overend" Watts (Mott the Hoople), 52; Danny Kirwan (ex-
Fleetwood Mac), 49; Stevie Wonder, 49; Paul Thompson (Roxy Music), 48; Darius Rucker
(Hootie & the Blowfish), 33; Ritchie Valens, 1941-1959; and Mary Wells, 1943-1992.