Not ballin’ or shot-callin’: Jurassic 5 holds on to what’s golden



Genevieve Leon

“Excuse me sir, could you tell me how to get to the Electric Factory?” I asked, shivering in my Halloween costume and anxious that I might miss the opening act of the next big thing springing from the underground music scene.

“Just keep going straight and you’ll see a run-down factory. Trust me, if you don’t see it, you’ll hear it.”

The man was right on target. Within a block of the factory-turned-performance club, I could already feel the head-bouncing bass-line thumps vibrating the concrete and shaking my body. Approaching the incognito entrance behind the factory, a mob of people vacillated in line; pushing eagerly to be the first one into the dense crowd and get a stellar spot inside the club to see hip-hop sensation Jurassic 5 rock the infectiously zealous crowd. Black lights welded a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd gyrating to the opening act, old-school tyrant Big Daddy Kane. The crowd was pumped, and stood fervently waiting for the main act to dominate the platform. With all the energy and animation of the predominantly college-student audience, this show was bound to lay down the beats with style.

As Big Daddy Kane threw out some of his concluding syncopated beats, I snuck backstage to get a glimpse of the stars of the night. Expecting to see the band living up its recently attained high-roller life style with diamond-studded cell phones and masseuses at whim, I was pleasantly shocked to walk into the dressing room and see a group of practical musicians, eyes half-closed, lounging in sweatshirts on the dressing room couches. DJ Cut Chemist confided to me that he had to keep his “all access” pass on whenever perusing the grounds because security could never distinguish him from the regular Joe’s in the crowd. That’s how down-to-earth these guys are about their image and their music.

When grabbing a quick word with DJ Numark before the show, he exposed more of the motivations and aspirations inside Jurassic 5’s music:

Genevieve: So, you’ve been known as Jurassic 5 for years … why five, when you have six members in the band?

NuMark: It all started with a bad L.A. district public school teacher (laughter). We had been playing together through high school and wanted to show off some of our music. So one day we decided to play this teacher some of our tunes and she thought it was a joke. She laughed at us and said we were like the “Fantastic 5.” I thought to myself, “Wait … more like the Jurassic 5.” The name stuck every since.

GL: What kind of music or new things inspired your new sound in “Power In Numbers”?

NuMark: Well, we wanted to combine two soulful beats in order to get a more rounded sound. Our last album [“Quality Control”] lacked a lot of the sound that, as a group, we were aiming to create. This album is more well-rounded in every way; there are more dynamic tempo changes.

GL: Basically, you feel “Power In Numbers” has developed your style beyond your initial sound?

NuMark: Definitely. The album is a lot more revealing and personal. We’re sharing ourselves with the world. The main theme, I’d say, is one of dynamics. We’ve played around with a lot of different sounds we never explored before, and it’s a good change.

GL: How do you feel about the image and sound that mainstream rappers today play up?

NuMark: (laughter) We grew up in a time with Run DMC when rappers and DJs created original music and produced things from the heart. Today’s image is all about whose chains are the iciest, the coldest. It’s the hard image of totin’ guns and smackin’ hoes (more laughter). They’re playing up a role for a label, not putting themselves out there like they really are. Today’s DJs aren’t really DJs – they’re program directors who recycle one sound over and over again. It’s frustrating because all the originality and genuine quality in hip-hop is gone. It’s all about what sells.

GL: With all this new exposure, how does it feel to be “Buzzworthy” on MTV, played on top 40 modern-rock stations and to get a gig on the Conan O’Brien show?

NuMark: It’s cool; I mean, I always wanted a fairtime swing at radio or TV. Man, I always wanted to be on “In Living Color” when I grew up! (laughter) But seriously, I just wanted to make it for a chance at a fair shot to be heard. Then people can decide whether they like it or not.

GL: So, what do you hope for years to come?

NuMark: Our goal is to just be us. We’re not trying to become something we’re not, we just come from the heart. The best music out there is truthful music that’s real-we say it how it is and aren’t afraid of speaking out the way we do. It’s all about going back to the truth.

After I was finished squeezing all I could from the band, I sat back and watched J5 bring its A-game to Philly. From crazy skits with portable turntables, to engaging the audience with synchronized lighting/music/hand motions – J5 is the real deal. The band performed both old and new hits with the same attitude and fresh sound that will only multiply its devoted following tenfold.