In 2013, seminal L.A. hip-hop group Jurassic 5 united at Coachella. Founder Zaakir Muhammad had been working at Nordstrom.
In the year since, they've toured the world, playing headlining shows and festivals, and when we spoke to them not long ago at member Cut Chemist’s house in Glendale, their collective mood was bright.
They released their first song in seven years, “The Way We Do It” (below), to good reviews, and say they’re getting along fabulously.
Ahead of their show at the Greek on Saturday — and following a nearly five hour rehearsal — we spoke to the group members about their current state of affairs, old beef, and potential for more new material.
Tell us about why you decided to drop “The Way We Do It.”
Cut Chemist: Everybody has been bugging us about a new album or new music. Since we’re not ready to do that, we figured we could leak something that we do have that hasn’t come out. The first thing that came to mind was “The Way We Do It” because I knew it was ready to go and it was no sweat off our back to put it out. It was a good way to test the waters and see if there is a listening audience and to know where we’re at, like a litmus test. Besides, we’re independent now, so now we’re releasing things in the way we want to do without a machine behind us.
DJ Nu-Mark: We just wanted to put content out there, since it seemed like it’s what people wanted. Plus Heavy D (who died in 2011) produced it, which seemed like a real surprise to people, instead of a superstar producer.
Akil: We wanted to drop that at one time and couldn’t do it. But now we have that freedom where we’re not held down by nothing. There’s no pressure on us now.
How many unreleased tracks are floating around?
Akil: Enough for an album. It’s like groups create stuff and maybe it didn’t fit it or make a particular album for a number of reasons. Like, maybe it didn’t fit into that time or play out when you wrote it but, 10 years down the line, it’s like scrap metal in the sense that you can still use it.
Cut Chemist: We realize that there needs to be product out so people can come to the shows. You can do what we’re doing for a couple of years, but then at some point people are going to want to hear music and inevitably we’re going to have to feed that. We’ll do that with what we have in our arsenal and when that’s depleted, we’ll figure out the next step after that.
Is there any animosity harbored from the acrimony that caused the group to split?
Cut Chemist: Not at all. This is the most that we’ve communicated internally in the group’s history. When we were on the tour bus in Belgium, that was the talk and we all looked at each other and realized that we all grew up, not only as individuals but as a group.
Akil: You can live with your mother and you'd still need to take a break.
DJ Nu-Mark: Chuck D. once told me, ‘Groups don’t break up, they take a break.'
Do you think going into full touring mode has augmented your status as a classic hip hop group?
Soup: It’s funny to hear people say, “You guys are old school, you guys are legends.” For me, I bug out on it because it’s like, so where does that put people that I dug? Now we are those guys that people say have been in this for so long and because we’re still in the moment, it’s hard to sit and reflect on it. For me, it’s awkward because I’m glad people like what we’re doing, but there’s others that we dig that everyone should be up on.
Are you surprised that after a seven year break that the group is playing to its biggest crowds yet?
Chali 2na: It’s crazy, especially the Greek. We graduated high school there and I remember thinking to myself after the principal handed me my diploma and I told him I’d rock this stage one day, and I walked off thinking I was talking some shit. To know who has played there, and to have passed it so many times, and it’s crazy to think that now it’s our time to be there.
Marc 7even: If there’s a sports comparison, it’s like Michael Jordan coming back and getting to the top of his game. Hopefully, we're not the Wizards version.
Cut Chemist: Seeing young people into the music now, it trips me out, especially since we never sold platinum or anywhere like that.
DJ Nu-Mark: It also shows how important time is. The music was able to marinate in their minds and it had a good outcome. Sometimes you can go back and think that a group is really cheesy. But we had a different effect and I’m glad that it marinated in this kind of way.