Listen to Austin 360 Radio

FFF review: Jurassic 5

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Chad Swiatecki

Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 11, 2013

After a weekend that saw just about every permutation of rap imaginable – bounce/twerking from Big Freedia, gangster from Ice-T, lyricism from Lupe Fiasco, outer space orchestral from Deltron 3030, etc. – perhaps the only fitting way to close out the Blue Stage at Fun Fun Fun Fest was with a group that held a mirror up to the best moments of the genre’s three-plus decades as the dominant form of urban expression.

That’s been the sort of mission statement of Los Angeles sextet Jurassic 5 since its formation in the mid ‘90s, with its four MCs and two DJs acting as mic-wielding, party-rocking tour guides through hip-hop history. And the great news is that after disbanding in 2007 and reforming earlier this year they’re locked in like they never left.

Walking on stage one by one as the piano-fueled beat of “Back 4 U” rang out, the four lyricists’ traded and overlapped lines with a familiar comfort from the very start, showing how their early mantra of “taking four MC’s and make ‘em sound like one” is still very much in effect.

The quick trade-offs leading to four-part verses and choruses have always been this group’s secret sauce and it’s a tactic that is especially impressive and pleasantly dizzying live, seeing the deep baritone of Chali 2na (the single most charismatic member) give way to the high-speed lyrics of Mark 7 before all four combine without the pace slacking.

Another benefit of the group’s live shows is that the circus-like atmosphere – including a battle between Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark that featured a turntable/guitar hybrid and a drum machine crafted into a breast plate made of touch-sensitive vinyl records – makes up for the fact that Golden Age nostalgia and makes up the bulk of J5’s subject matter. With the exception of the vaguely political “Freedom,” that backpacker trope of rapping about rapping is the group’s lyrical stock in trade.

Of course, this can be forgiven when they dust off the high-speed funk workout of “A Day At The Races” near set’s end, where the kinetic energy and lyrical gymnastics make its underlying message something of an afterthought.

More than almost any act out there, Jurassic 5 feed off of the energy of a crowd vibing off of a group of ninja-level lyricists playing off of each other for an hour that seems too loose and free flowing to be anywhere near as choreographed as it is.

That was exactly what they did as they wound down one of the most eclectic and successful rap weekends in Fun Fun Fun Fest’s eight years. It’s good to have them back.