Chali 2na (front, left) and Jurassic 5

Chali 2na (front, left) and Jurassic 5 (March 14, 2014)

On the first full song ("Influence") of Jurassic 5’s major label debut (2000’s “Quality Control”), the group claimed they could “rock shows with no rehearsal.” Recently, the L.A. hip-hop outfit—which fans know actually has six members—has taken that declaration to the extreme, reuniting after a six-year hiatus without missing a step.
 
“When we got back together, we booked four days of rehearsal,” Chicago native MC Chali 2na said by phone from Salt Lake City. “And it took us like four hours to get it all back together.”
 
2na, aka the verbal Herman Munster, aka the paragraph Bill Laimbeer, was always the group’s standout. His instantly identifiable baritone has been a highlight on tracks by Ozomatli, Galactic and Lyrics Born, as well as 2na’s solo album “Fish Outta Water.” But he’s first and foremost a key member of the ensemble, which hasn’t released an album since 2006’s disappointing “Feedback” but specializes in timeless hip-hop worth rediscovering or, for lucky newbies, discovering.
 
mpais@tribune.com, @mattpais
 
Jurassic 5, 7:30 p.m. July 25 at Riviera Theatre. $36.
 
How he was influenced by growing up on Chicago’s South and West sides, which he left as a teenager: “There’s a lot of things that I saw at an early age, that I experienced at an early age, that probably some kids shouldn’t, but it made me the man that I am today. And so I always felt like I needed to represent that more than anything, because I felt like no matter how long I lived in Los Angeles, which is more than half my life nowadays, I always felt like I would be a hypocrite if I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m from L.A.’ Because I’m not really from L.A.”

What goes through his mind: “Anything from extreme gang violence to deep-dish and Garrett’s popcorn.”

How often he comes back: “I used to try to come at least once a year, and more times than not it was because of work, but my father passed about two years ago, so I haven’t been really back since then. It’s been a hard transition for me. The streets remind me of him; it’s just hard. It is what it is. I still love the city.”

How things have changed for Jurassic 5 on the road: “Anything from hotel accommodations, transportation, promoters and some of the shady tactics that they use, 20-year-old us would be really trying to kick up sand about everything and nitpick when the older us, the 40-plus-year-old us, it’s easier for us to choose battles now. And to know what’s more important [rather] than [complain] about everything. We’re about solutions and trying to be as effective and successful as possible. To look at the big picture and see what it actually is, as opposed to being immersed in your own hype.”

If there’s anything he said on an album he’d like to take back: “I’m always trying to use this platform to make a person think about something. Not to get preachy, but just to make you think, make you question certain things. … I always want my lyrics to feel like an onion so you peel back layers and layers and layers until you get to the middle and find something new about it. That takes a lot of thought, and thinking like that you pretty much say what you mean and mean what you say as opposed to, ‘Damn, I shouldn’t have said that.’”

If his line “Baby MCs drink Pedialyte” (on “Quality Control”) came from feeding his son Pedialyte: “Yeah, it came from feeding my son Pedialyte when he was little, but it came also from me drinking Pedialyte myself after having the flu. Going, ‘Wow, this stuff is made for babies, but it works for older people!’”

If he, despite having an awesome voice, is like every other human and can’t stand hearing himself: “[Laughs.] It’s funny that you say that. It’s a trip. I don’t recognize it like that. I live with it. It’s all good; I’m not tripping. For the most part, I don’t mind the way I sound. I definitely love it for what we’re doing, as well as the little knickknack jobs that I get, like from voiceovers and things like that to collaborations on songs and such. I’m definitely pleased with how all the stuff came out and I’m definitely pleased with how much people like the way it sounds and the thing that I do. I can’t complain about that at all.”

On new Chicago rappers: “I’m pretty familiar with ‘em. I get a chance at least to listen to everybody’s stuff, because in the end I’m part of the community and it’s under that guise, so I gotta at least see what I’m up against. A lot of people complain about that music, but the music does what it needs to do for the different people and the different communities that exist. It reflects what’s going on. Chicago has a real bad gang, murder problem right now, and the music is reflecting that for sure.”

Why rapping about rapping is better than rock songs about rocking: “[Laughs] Oh, man, I don’t know, man. Back in the day, rappers wasn’t into the hard drugs and all that, but nowadays they are. Rock ‘n’ roll, it’s the girl, it’s the party, it’s the show, and it’s basically the same thing for rappers nowadays. [Laughs.] Rapping about rapping is more my generation than it is now. These dudes don’t be rappin’ about rappin. They rappin’ about women and what they can do to ‘em and how much drugs they can take, how many drinks they can buy. It’s different.”

How hip-hop has changed: “I just think hip-hop had such power to it. It changed the way people dressed. It changed the way people talked. It changed the way people saw the world … Hip-hop exists now for these kids in a way that it didn’t exist for the original batch of us that started [listening and creating]. Kids are born into the world not knowing what an encyclopedia is. It’s all about the Internet. And what’s going on on Facebook, Google; these are the end-all, be-all to knowledge nowadays. I feel like rap was like a ghetto CNN so to speak. It would talk about the things that you couldn’t talk about or that you didn’t know because it was going on in the ‘hood and a lot of people didn’t know.”

Something he’d say to veteran rappers who aren’t trying anymore: “I don’t want to be a man of many words telling somebody how they should be, moreso than for them to just look at my actions and say, ‘Man, that’s pretty cool. I’d love to do that too.’ I would really just say, ‘Appreciate what you have.’”

If anyone Jurassic 5 ever name-dropped (from Pam Grier to Martin Lawrence) ever said something about being mentioned: “I said, ‘I come verbally Hardison as if my name was Kadeem.’ And then I met Kadeem Hardison at an Ozomatli show and I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this song, but I shouted your name out.’ And he repeated the verse. And I was like, ‘Oh!’ So it was cool. It was really awesome ‘cause I used to watch ‘A Different World’ religiously, so it was really cool to be able to have affected somebody that I watched on TV so much just by a shout out.”

What the animation fan thinks an animated series called “The 2na Fish” would be like: “That could be two things: autobiographical, or it could be some fictional thing. If it was fictional, this is what it would be about: It would be about a mob boss who is actually a shark, literally. But he walks around with three piece-suits on, cigars and all these big-ass fish working for him. Then in the end you got the little man, schools of tuna, all these different schools of fish that are fighting against the [mob]. If we were doing autobiographical, it would be based on everyday things that happen with me.”

If that would be the fish version of him or the human version: “[Laughs] That would be pretty cool to do a fish version with the same problems happening, but it’s all happening underwater. That would be crazy.”

Watch Matt review the week's big new movies Fridays at noon on NBC.

mpais@tribune.com

 

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