Every since 1997, Jurassic 5 has forever changed the hip-hop landscape. This is a crew that did it completely independent, got picked up by a major and has continued relevance nearly 10 years later. It’s the blueprint that every emcee/group would like to follow. It’s been 4 long years since the critically acclaimed “Power in Numbers” album and on July 25th the crew is opening a new chapter with “Feedback”. The album has some surprises and will hopefully help this crew to not only sell to hardcore hip-hop fanatics, but to also cross genres. I got a chance to sit down with 3 members of J5: Soup, Charli 2na, and Nu-Mark. They gave some insight into the upcoming album, the independent game, and some advice for the up and comers.
What up Soup?
Soup: I’m doing alright so far. I’m looking forward to the album dropping.
You guys don’t need any introduction, so let’s jump into it. It’s been 4 years since “Power in Numbers” dropped. Why the hiatus?
Soup: We have been touring and honestly just not doing what we need to be doing to make it happen. Nothing too extravagant, it’s real simple. We were touring and we just weren’t in the studio diligently like we should have been.
The album is called “Feedback” and drops July 25th; from the name would you say you are looking to garner some new fans with this album?
Soup: Oh yeah, every time we put a record out that’s what we are trying to do. It hasn’t changed with this situation. We are getting reacquainted with the people who know J5, because it’s been a while since we been out. They don’t really know what we have been up to or what we have been going through. We are trying to get people all the way around.
With the new single “Work It Out” which features The Dave Mathews Band you guys kept the J5 style while intermingling with something brand new. Would you say that your hardcore fans have embraced the single or shunned it?
Soup: Both really. I just read on itunes a guy made a review and said he used to be a J5 fan but since we did the song with Dave Mathews Band, he no longer likes us. That’s some of the most ignorant shit I’ve heard. We don’t expect our buyers to do the same thing they were doing 2 years ago. Why would you expect us to do that, we all have been growing and we have all gone through things. We need room to grow just like anybody else and do stuff that we like to do and grow.
Charli 2na: It’s cool whether they have embraced it or shunned it. I feel like for every fan we lose we are going to gain some more. There are a lot of new people out there who have never even heard of us because and now they are getting down with it. That song is a good song and that’s really the bottom line.
Personally, I think it’s a welcome change, if J5 steps out of the box a little bit, maybe other hip-hop groups will follow your lead. Thinking outside the box is something hip-hop needs. Scott Storch produced “Brown Girl”; he has been banging out hits for years now. Why did you decide to release “Work It Out” rather than a more traditional J5 record?
Soup: It’s about compromising with the label and trying to walk hand in hand with the label to where everybody is satisfied. When they heard “Brown Girl” and “Work It Out” they thought both of the singles were strong and could stand on their own, but they thought we could get more mileage off the Dave Mathews song. It didn’t matter to me either or. I like the fact they had some singles that they could work, and that’s cool.
Nu-Mark, you handled the majority of the production on “Feedback”, what equipment did you use in making the album?
Nu-Mark: I recorded and mixed the majority of the record at my studio (Log Cabin) with a Pro Tools HD rig. I used the MPC 2000 in conjunction with Reason, Korg Triton, Mo Phatt and Ivory. I use a Neuman 149 mic for the mc’s with an Avalon 737 pre amp. I did most of my cuts and scratches on the Vestax 07 and the Technics 1200 turntables.
What would you say the major difference production wise is between this album and the groups’ previous efforts?
Nu-Mark: We knew going into this record that we wanted to work with both other vocalist and producers. Our previous records really displayed J5 as a group establishing themselves. This is our 3rd major label release and our 4th release in total. It was time to branch out and move with the times. This album features production by Scott Storch, Salaam Remi (producer for Fugees and Nas), Exile (Mobb Deep, Slum Village) and myself (Nu-Mark). A lot of growth in this record!
Salaam Remi also contributes tracks, how did you guys meet him and make that collaboration happen?
Soup: We reached out to Salaam and he wanted to work with us. He knew about us and he respected what we did. We respected what he did and everybody was with it. We flew down to Miami to do some tracks and we were only supposed to only do 1 or 2 songs at the most. We ended up doing 9 songs with him because the working environment was so dope. It just worked; it worked well for us and worked well for him and hopefully we will get to work with him again.
But not all nine songs will make the album?
Soup: Naw, not all the songs will make it, we were really torn about what would make the album. There is a couple songs that we had done that I wish could have been on the record. You kind of have to compromise and do what is best for everybody so everybody is comfortable.
Aside from the single and the tour, this album has really been kept under wraps, any surprises that you can tell us about?
Charli 2na: It’s really not to be explained it’s more to just be listened to. The guest stars are Dave Mathews Band and Mos Def came through and did like an interlude type thing.
Soup: Yeah, Mos came through and did some talking but he didn’t end up rapping on the song “Where Ya At”. We had a new group, 2 females from Jamaica named Brick and Lace who did their thing on “Brown Girl” and they were really dope. We don’t have anybody real big, Dave is probably like the super big person that we have and Mos is definitely a noticeable person. Brick and Lace are fairly new but I think they are going to make a whole lot of noise. We are getting them where everybody latches on and wants to work with them. We kind of do stuff because we like the people. Like with Big Daddy Kane on the last record, Kane is an idol and with the opportunity I would pick him before I would pick anybody.
You haven’t had to have guest producers or 16 bars from the hottest rapper out, the music speaks for itself. Good music still speaks regardless of the downloading and bootlegging that is the prominent in 2006
Soup: Thank you man.
Charli 2na: Exactly.
You guys have seen the ups and downs of hip-hop; you got in when independent music was thriving and are still relevant today. What would be some advice you would give to groups or individuals trying to follow in your footsteps?
Charli 2na: Don’t be scared to grow up with it, like how we are doing it. Make sure you are yourself and don’t be scared to try new things and challenge yourself. Make the music you like to the fullest instead of trying to circum to the trend.
Soup: I agree, but when you say follow footsteps I wouldn’t say that. We followed a blueprint set by folks like Too Short, E-40, and Eazy E they were all independent and were doing it. You can follow the blueprint and not necessarily saying to follow how we do it, but follow that blueprint. Like 2na said it’s about making music that you like and that you want to make. When you do that it’s heartfelt as opposed to conforming and doing something that is trendy. When you are doing music that you know you love and you respect, it makes people want to come and see what it’s all about because they can feel it. We are spoon fed a whole lot, but at the same time people can still feel when something is real and passionate from the person they are listening to. Folks can read through what is real and what is not, they are just lazy, they don’t want to if they don’t have to. It’s all about finding your niche within independence.
You have been signed with a major for many years now, would you suggest for someone to sign with a major or stay independent at this point?
Soup: You have to do what best fits you. If you talk to everybody in the group you would probably get a different answer from everybody. You have to do what works for you. We did the independent thing and when we had the chance to sign with a major we had to literally sit down and go over the pros and cons of it. Even when you go over the pros and cons that initial time, those pros and cons will change. There comes a point when you have to ask yourself am I ready to this, am I really ready to go for or do I want to stay and do it the way I want to do it. At the same time, whichever way you choose you can’t complain. If you choose to stay independent and you don’t get your stuff playedâ€¦tough. Whichever one you choose you have to be very comfortable and really know what you want to do.
J5 really has nothing left to prove, what’s next for the group or you guys as individuals. We going to see an official solo album from anybody?
Soup: You always have stuff to prove. In life you are always proving yourself, I don’t think it ever gets to a point where you don’t have to prove yourself. I think you eventually get comfortable with who you are and you keep going. Everyday when you strive to get better you are constantly proving yourself. I’m going to say that now I’ll let 2na talk about projects.
Charli 2na: I’m working on my solo album right now; it supposed to come out next year. It’s called “Fish Out of Water” and it’s some crazy shit for real. The future for us right now is a day by day thing. It’s the promotion of this album. Marc Seven has been writing scripts for movies and such. There are going to be all kinds of different things that are going to come out from us, aside from just music.
Soup: Sky’s the limit, if you have opportunities you have to take them. When 50 dropped he never thought he would have his own mineral water. (Laughs)
Soup: When there are opportunities you seize them when you can.
Anything more you guys would like to say?
Charli 2na: Watch out…here we come. If you can come check out the show.
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