The US west coast has long been synonymous with some of hip-hop’s most exciting groups. Today, acts like OverDoz, the Odd Future crew and Black Hippy’s breakout successes, amongst them Kendrick Lamar, are inspiring future talents as well as generating ample column inches of their own.
But when gangsta rap was at its peak, stereotypical tropes becoming uncomfortably commonplace in west-coast lyricism, one act dared to stand out with a refreshingly different attitude. Jurassic 5 – Chali 2na, Cut Chemist, Akil, Mark 7even, Zaakir and DJ Nu-Mark (yes, there’s six of them) – developed one of the scene’s most varied and enjoyable live shows following their 1993 founding, earning a fine reputation from both on-stage and in-the-studio activity.
The sextet’s commercial breakthrough with their eponymous debut album of 1998 was richly deserved. Featuring instantly appealing and wickedly addictive cuts like ‘Jayou’ and ‘Concrete Schoolyard’ (video below), it carried the J5 brand – sunshine rhymes, sweetly soulful licks – across continents. But that was then, and the hip-hop world moves fast indeed, bound to technological progression as much as it is inventive wordplay.