If you were at all tuned in to the radio during the 90s, then you know that big moves were being made on the hip-hop front. With the genre’s “golden age” coming to an end, a new and untapped corner of the market was being explored and exposed to the public, soon to be known as alternative hip-hop. What that title means exactly is somewhat abstract, seeing as it encapsulates a kind of fusion of various, often underground genres.
Funk, soul, jazz, R&B, and everything in between go into the make-up that is the alternative movement. Today that movement is led by acts like M.I.A. and Kanye West, but rewind the cassette to the mid-90s, we’ll see one band “beat-ing” the path for the rest to come. They are known as Jurassic 5, and yes, my friends, the boys are back.
Twenty years older, twenty years wiser, and twenty years funkier, the six—I know, it’s confusing—fellows that comprise Jurassic 5 are coming back to their hometown of Los Angeles to celebrate twenty years of groundbreaking beats. Akil, Chail 2na, Zaakir, Marc 7, DJ Nu-Mark, and Cut Chemist released their first single “Unified Rebelution” back in 1995, and now they have reformed to remind us of the foundation of an inexplicably crucial branch of the hip-hop genre. While they technically already had a reunion in 2013 at Coachella after their six-year hiatus, it’s important to realize that this isn’t just a celebration of a wickedly talented crew of musicians; this is a celebration of two decades worth of hip-hop evolution.
Simply by retracing their legacy via their numerous hit albums "Jurassic 5" (1998), "Quality Control" (2000), "Power in Numbers" (2002), and "Feedback" (2006), we can see how Jurassic 5 picked up on what others considered bizarre in accordance with hip-hop. They started producing music in Los Angeles at the precise time when the era of gangsta rap was fading and when indie music labels were snatching up musicians who took influence out of left field rather than from mainstream culture, something that would eventually end up mainstream in itself as bands like Outkast brought a wide accessibility to the alternative world.
If you weren’t lucky enough to have jammed to Jurassic 5 classics like “Quality Control,” “Concrete Schoolyard,” and “Thin Line” while cruising through the city on a sunny day with your windows hand-cranked all the way down, well, now might be a good time to reconsider that kind of funktastic delight. Not only will you be introduced to a high caliber of catchy lyric flow, but you’ll also gain insight into the trajectory of alt hip-hop’s progression over the years.
Many people might simply consider Jurassic 5 a matter of nostalgia, but that would be woefully dismissing. Instead, you should consider them as a vital piece of musical history, a history that has immeasurably influenced the course of the rap industry.
The true magic of their music lies in its seamless approachability that survives the harsh realities of time. It may define a specific era, but Jurassic 5 has become an engrained sound in this musical culture, and now’s the time to revisit and rediscover firsthand the people who created such noise.
So, do you consider yourself an eager fan? An oblivious novice perhaps? The beauty of Jurassic 5 is that it doesn’t matter where your aural allegiances lie, because their beats cross aisles, genres, and all barriers seeking to confine them to one market. And there’s never been a better occasion to get familiar with the boys themselves as they set out on tour. Consider this your hip-hop education.
Jurassic 5 will be playing at Club Nokia in Los Angeles on July 9. Get tickets here.
For all other cities, you can get tickets here.