“Let’s take it back to the concrete streets,/ Original beats with real, live MCs./ Playground tactics, no rabbit-in-a-hat tricks/ Just that classic rap shit from Jurassic.”
The first time I heard “Concrete Schoolyard,” it was on a tape that my brother made for me something like a decade ago. Even now, that song fills me with memories of toasty New York sidewalks and suffocating subway platforms. See, Jurassic 5 was always about taking it back to carefree times when Hip-Hop culture was infatuated with artistry rather than gangster swagger. When J5 was coming up in the context of LA’s The Good Life cafe alongside acts like the Pharcyde and Freestyle Fellowship, they were reacting to the surge in violent subject matter catalyzed by N.W.A. Then, their eponymous EP first dropped in 1997, and it became a white flag of peace in the wake of the murders of 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G. Therefore, when their undeniable talents as a group left them on the brink of mainstream success, their efforts to update their sound produced questionable results.
Before Jurassic 5 split up two years ago, Chali 2na always stood out from the other three emcees, both live and on record, due to his stature, natural charisma, baritone vocals, and staccato flow. Having kept a low profile in the last couple years, 2na proved that his apparent skills weren’t simply a matter of juxtaposition when he took the stage at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica two nights ago. It was really dope to witness an emcee of his pedigree just having fun jamming with a live band (one that featured key members from LA’s own House of Vibe All-Stars), and it carried over to the fifty or so people packed into the back of the venue. 2na previewed the solo set that he will be performing this summer on the Rock the Bells tour, which is dominated by songs from his forthcoming album, Fish Outta Water. Both the set and the album ostensibly showcase sides of the “Verbal Herman Munster,” creatively, musically and lyrically, that were suppressed during his stint with J5 and Ozomatli.
Following his performance, 2na was cool enough to talk with us about his new album, his experiences with J Dilla, and the Jurassic 5 break-up. Peep the interview below. Chali 2na will be performing on the Rock the Bells tour throughout the summer, and Fish Outta Water drops on July 7th. Go out and support artists holding it down in the underground.
BONUS: Hit the jump to peep the “Climax” video that 2na was talking about in part 1