At a time when gangsta rap dominated the airwaves and captured the hearts and minds of hip-hop fans, there was a lesser-known Los Angeles–based collective of emcees and DJs making a name for themselves in a scene that wasn’t as popular as that of their hardcore brethren. With four socially conscious microphone fiends rapping about everyday issues and two mixmasters who cultivated their soulful, funky, throwback sound, Jurassic 5 was part of the “other” LA hip-hop scene that spawned several other success stories, including eventual pop radio fixtures The Black Eyed Peas.
Initially two separate groups, Hollywood’s Unity Committee (emcees Chali 2na and Mark 7even with DJ Cut Chemist) and Rebels of Rhythm (Zaakir and Akil) joined together, soon adding DJ Nu-Mark, to create Jurassic 5. Beginning with first single “Unified Rebelution” in 1995, the group slowly began their march towards mainstream popularity.
Catching on first with European audiences thanks to that single and their energetic live show, J5 gradually built a strong underground following beginning with the legendary Jurassic 5 EP in 1997 before signing to Interscope (who reissued the EP and then put out the full-length debut Quality Control) and bubbling to the surface with 2002’s Power In Numbers. They played festivals around the world and toured relentlessly, their crossover appeal even giving them the opportunity to play stadiums with the Dave Matthews Band (they also collaborated on the song “Work It Out”). But when Cut Chemist left the group before the recording of their fourth album, 2006’s Feedback, the wheels quickly fell off and the collective split up not long after.
Nearly seven years after J5 dissolved, many fans were surprised to see the group’s name included on this year’s Coachella lineup, considering there hadn’t been any public acknowledgement of a potential reunion. Though the desert festival is the group’s only scheduled date as of now, there are tentative plans to turn the one-off appearance into a full-fledged tour.
Ahead of Coachella, the Guide caught up with Chali 2na, Zaakir and DJ Nu-Mark to look back at Jurassic 5’s formation, their original goals as a collective and why the time is right for them to reunite.