Jurassic 5 just reissued the Jurassic 5 EP. Why did you feel this was so important to re-release?
For one, the ownership of the masters came back to us so we had control over the situation. So it was cool like that. Two, we had a DVD that we were working on that was just supposed to come out by itself. And three, the band broke up in the midst of all of this. So we wanted to put this together from the perspective of it starting from the beginning so anyone that’s just getting into it can be up on what we do like our antics that a lot of fans never got a chance to see us do. They can see us laugh and play around backstage. They never got to see us as people. They just saw us onstage. So it was really cool to start from the beginning and make it happen.
If fans are just getting into J5, didn’t they kind of miss the boat?
I mean, yeah, I would say that they missed the boat. I won’t say that they missed the boat but this particular situation gives them the opportunity to learn about us as artists. As far as performances are concerned, yeah, you missed the boat on that one.
From what I’ve read in other interviews, it doesn’t sound like you guys will be touring or doing anything together ever again.
You’re right. The band will never be touring again. As far as us touring and this and that, it’s over, for real. We’ve been doing stuff for 14 years and internal problems and disagreements that we didn’t necessarily deal with head-on as our career progressed, I think it’s what really killed the band. Instead of it just being a situation where we are trying to continue on and keep everyone happy and this, that and the third, that’s all over.
One question I always had when you broke up is how much did Cut Chemist leaving the group affect the chemistry of J5 and your last album Feedback?
Well, our sound was Cut Chemist and Numark. Although Numark, in my opinion, was able to pick up the slack, it did put a different sound out there. We did have to adjust to the loss. But I don’t think that that loss is a major reason why the group broke up. We had a lot of internal problems and without exposing people’s dirty laundry because I’m a firm believer that if I point a finger I’ll get three, four or five pointed back at me. It was just irreconcilable differences, so to speak.
How do you look back on the Jurassic 5 EP in relation to your three major label albums Quality Control, Power in Numbers and Feedback?
It’s progression. It’s something that we did as a hobby. The opportunity showed itself for us to use that hobby for our jobs. That’s a blessing in itself. A lot of people can’t say that they love their job or that their talents or hobbies becomes something that they can do. We were really, really excited with this EP that we even had an opportunity to be able to put this thing out.
As far as Quality Control, the experience was almost the same because we went from being really underground to signing a major deal and being one of the underground cats who was on a major label at the time. So that experience was new to us too and Quality Control was the name of that. Hence the name of the album, we were like, ‘Yo, we gotta pull out that quality stuff and we gotta control the way that our music is perceived now that we’re on this label.’ That’s why the name of the album existed.
Power in Numbers, to me, though, was one of my favorite adventures. I had fun with that one because it felt like we were kind of growing into our own. A lot of people fell in love with the vibe that the EP and Quality Control created and a lot of people were salty at Power in Numbers. I can understand because, you know, once you gain fans you lose some because some people may think that we ain’t what they want us to be anymore. Whatever. You have to accept that with a grain of salt.
With Feedback, to me, I could see that more with Feedback than I can with any of our other albums because that was the time when all of our internal things started to take hold of us and you started to be able to see that through our music.
I definitely agree with that. I loved the EP, Quality Control and Power in Numbers but I couldn’t even make it through Feedback.
I can respect that, man, because there were elements of that album that I didn’t even like at all. It was all of us in turmoil and a funk that the world didn’t see that we had no way to deal with but to break up.
A lot of fans didn’t like “Brown Girl,” which was produced by Scott Storch and really seemed like you guys were out of your element on that song. Was “Brown Girl” a mistake?
I don’t believe in mistakes, man, for sure. I believe in everything that happens to you happens for a reason. With “Brown Girl” as an artist, you kind of always want to challenge yourself. Knowing old school Caribbean roots, that’s a Boney James song and he had a Jamaican nursery rhyme. We thought it was cool what Brick and Lace had done on that and we were trying to do what we had never done before. You can tell our unification through our music and listening to Feedback, yo could tell that it wasn’t the same and you couldn’t listen to the album all the way through. Now here’s the crazy part – some people who were just getting hip to us with Power in Numbers loved Feedback. I was like, ‘Damn, for real?’ (laughs)
That’s crazy. You always stood out from the other J5 MCs in both your lyrics and baritone. Do you feel your band mates could have been jealous of you?
(laughs) I don’t mean to laugh but that just falls under the category of things within us and turmoil within us that basically broke the group up. I’m not one to point fingers and say this, that and the third. But what’s obvious to see is obvious to see and I’m not denying a thing at all. I’m just saying that people had to deal with their own inner demons and that’s just that.
The fact that you stood out to fans in a group of four MCs is hopefully a good sign for your solo career.
God willing. Aside from this rap shit, I’ve been a painter since I was like, four or five years-old. That’s what I do. I’m a visual artist. So I was able to apply all of the discipline that I’ve learned from my visual art to rap, whether it’s a detailed style or such and such.
Will the people like that more than the music from rest of the guys? That remains to be seen. I’m out here to do the best music that I can and also to changed myself. There’s a lot of people who may like me for a certain thing and that's cool.
But I got the solo album Fish Outta water that’s coming out next year. For real. I’m signed to Decon Records, the same label that just put out the Jurassic EP. I had to go through a lot of red tape with Interscope and so now that I’m free, Fish Outta Water will finally hit the streets. It’s a testimony to me and all of the different thoughts that go through my head and all of the different styles. My album sounds nothing like Jurassic 5, period. Hopefully when you hear it you’re not turned off by it because there’s a lot of shit that I’ve done within my range, from all of the collaborations that I do to different styles of music that I experiment with, all of those things are encompassed on this album. Hopefully you enjoy it.
How much new music did you record for Fish Outta water and how much old music that you recorded through the years did you keep?
My album was ready in 2005 but Interscope wasn’t ready. From that point to now, I probably recorded another 75 to 80 songs. I probably recorded 115 songs for Fish Outta water and the 15 best ones out of that made it. Some of those songs are songs that were on the album in the beginning and a lot of them aren’t. I had to kind of facelift the album. I picked a lot of songs that I thought could withstand the test of time and even more. With the listening of it now, I’m happy with it and it’s fun.
Will Cut Chemist and Numark be on there?
You know what? Numark is on there. Cut was too busy to finish the track. When I was working on it his album had released and he was on tour with Shakira and I couldn’t get at him. He did some scratches on my album but he didn’t do a track. But the crazy thing is he called me the other day and I think we’re going to be doing a bunch of touring next year.
You’re a native of Chicago but have spent your last 15 or so years in California. Does Fish Outta Water have a stronger vibe from one of those areas or is it a marriage of the two distinct styles?
It’s a marriage of the two plus you know it’s a little Caribbean vibe. I got some Caribbean people in my family. I think my whole existence in this rap thing, my career was spawned from the West Coast side but I always felt as though I would be a perpetrator had I been screaming out L.A. and I’m from L.A. I came out here when I was 17. I was a youngster. But I’ve never felt like I could pull off saying I’m from this place. I had to represent where I’m from and the place that made me.
When I was 17 I was probably a lot more advanced as far as mentally as the average dude in the Chi. Moving here and being able to acquire all of these opportunities, I had to represent from the perspective that I knew was Chicago. You could take the guy out of Chicago but you can’t take Chicago out the guy and that’s how I represented from day one with Jurassic and all of that. I think that’s one of the reasons I stood out too was because people couldn’t feel that West Coast feel out of me because that ain’t what I represent like that. That’s not me and I feel like I would be lying to the world.
Can you be recognized as an important figure in Chicago’s hip-hop scene today or is that not even an issue for you?
I’m not here to keep up with the Joneses, man, because if I was you would hear a lot of songs that sound like Lil’ Wayne and what’s popping now. I’m just here to make what I like and I hope that the people will be rocking with me. I can’t say that I want to be amongst the greats.
When Common came out with the “Take It Easy” song, I was out here rooting for the dude like he was Muhammad Ali because we had no rappers represented for the Chi at that time. I was like, ‘Yeah!’ I respect all of them dudes and I love all of them dudes. When I see Kanye or Common it’s all love. I got family who works for them. My cousin who passed away lived above Lupe. I’m just content with being able to be of it. If people recognize me as such, I appreciate it to the fullest but I’m not trying to keep up with the Joneses because I know that everybody’s destiny is different.
Are you saying we’ll never get a Chali 2na Auto Tune record?
Man, you know what? I’m that type of dude. I finally got a studio in the crib and I was recharging. I made a song called “Auto Tuner.” It’s not necessarily serious and if it comes out wack then nobody will hear it.
Do you feel that the music on the EP like “Concrete Schoolyard” is the most important music Jurassic 5 made?
I think it’s one of them. I think with Jurassic 5 you had the EP, Quality Control, Power in Numbers and Feedback. That was four stages of us and I think that each stage represented a different level of our careers and our lives. The EP, being it’s the foundation and the solid rock that started this shit, it’s definitely one of the most important parts that started this shit. For sure. I can’t deny that. There’s no way.
What’s your favorite music from the J5 days?
Wow. There’s a lot of shit on Power in Numbers that I had fun recording, man. All the early day shit we did was amazing on Quality Control and Power in Numbers and the EP. I used to like when we got chances to do songs with other people, which was rare. We did a remix with this dude Tech N9ne and that shit was fun to do. It might not sound all that dope today when I listen back to it but it was fun to do. I’m that type of dude. I like having fun in the studio and creating. The creative process is fun and I feel like it will come out dope regardless if you can hear it.
I think that music translates feeling and whatever feelings the artist is going through at the time, whether it’s a group or a solo artist, you can feel it. You can feel their pain or their joy. If you listen to these albums, the EP, Quality Control and Power in Numbers, you will hear our pains and our joys. Even in Feedback, you hear our pain. You hear it, in my opinion. (laughs) I’m happy with the legacy we left, if nothing else.
You had to have a good time recording with Percee P and Big Daddy Kane on “A Day at the Races.”
Yo, let me tell you something, man. I got it on videotape. I’m going to put together this documentary on myself. I put my video camera in the booth with Percee P and I just pressed Record and he didn’t even know it was on when he was recording his verse. I’m like, ‘Yo, I gotta come after that?’ right after he finished. I gotta come after that? How’s that going to work? And then when Kane walked in, I got it on tape when Numark is kind of coaching him through the song and you should see the look on his face because he’s like, ‘Yo, I’m telling Kane how to do his lyrics.’ It was tripping us out. That was some fun shit and I’m sure for all of us we can run into Big Daddy Kane and he’s like our big uncle. He treats us as such. Big Daddy Kane forever. And Percee. Percee’s my family.
When are we gonna get some new Chali 2na music?
In the next couple of months, man, stuff’s gonna start leaking. It’s coming out springtime, like late February or early March. I’m trying to put everything together. I don’t want to come out and be premature. I want it to come to and everybody enjoys it. I’m going to do what it takes. Definitely things are going to start leaking on my MySpace pages and everywhere.