Interview: Jurassic 5

Jurassic5 Logo

Thirteen years ago, on a blazing hot day in Piscataway, New Jersey, thousands of college students, who were awaiting a headlining performance from the rock band Fuel and just experienced two rather forgettable nu-metal acts, were treated to the presence of a hip-hop outfit from Los Angeles, California called Jurassic 5.

For the majority of the more than likely inebriated students they have never heard of this group. But as soon as the six-man collected finished their first song, the masses had been converted, this writer included. The absolute electricity that came off the stage and through the mic was infectious. Jurassic 5, was steeped in the rich tradition of old school hip-hop, but carried the swagger and immediacy of every modern and popular act. Don’t call them a throwback…call them amazing.

While the group never reached the commercial heights it should’ve, the lore and legend of Jurassic 5’s amazing live show, their intelligently sick lyrics and their wonderfully fat beats, that there was a constant demand for them to perform — even while they spent seven years on a hiatus.

When the group returned for Coachella in 2013, they reignited the passion and love that J5 fans across the nation had in the cockles of their musical heart. This summer Akil, Zaakir (Soup), Marc 7, DJ Nu-Mark, Chali 2na, and Cut Chemist decided to hit the road and take their talents across the nation that so passionately loves them.

Pop-Break recently had the chance to speak with Zaakir AKA Soup about the band’s ups and downs, Jack White, the reunion tour and people on the Internet.

Photo Credit:  Matsu Photography
Photo Credit: Matsu Photography

Pop-Break: It is very cool to be talking with you Soup. Thirteen years ago I was just a metal kid who had never heard of you. That is until I saw you at Rutgersfest 2001. You guys performed an amazing set and changed my musical perspective forever.

Soup: Thank you man, that’s a heavy compliment.

PB: Now, let’s talk about “The Way We Do It” your first single in forever which dropped in May. How did it feel after such a long lay-off to have a new song out there?

Soup: (laughs) I don’t know and I’m being totally honest with you. I think my expectations of it weren’t high because we’ve been gone for almost 10 years. It’s on YouTube right now and I got some e-mails and calls about how people loved the song, so I went on YouTube and read the comments, most of them were good, but the terrible ones stick out. People are crazy man! (laughs). People be like, ‘Oh man this sounds the same, it sounds like J5.’ And I’m all like, ‘Yeah man, we are J5!’ When we caught ourselves taking a different route, we got smashed for it. They were coming out with a lynch mob. Now we put out something else and it’s, “Oh it’s the same thing.” The Internet is a gift and a curse. Everyone feels like their opinion should matter. It’s like dude if you dig music, dig music. All that extra shit…come on man?

PB: Personally, I love the song. I’ve listened to it probably 20-25 times already. The one thing you could clarify for me is this — Heavy D is credited with the production on the song. I know he passed in 2011, so was this song something dusted off or was this a beat he had produced for you guys that laid dormant for years? Or was this something you guys put together, but it featured some sampling from his work?

Soup: It was something Heav did. We were in the studio [with him]…Heavy D came up with the whole thing, it was all Heavy D. It was a privilege to work with him. The beat was dope, so we like were like, let’s go with it. We didn’t know what could come out from it because of the Jack White/The White Stripes sample. If you know anything about him [Jack White] he ain’t checking as far as letting someone use his music, [at least] as far as hip hop let’s just say. We put it out, I don’t see a problem with it, but if there’s a problem with it, that’s beautiful too. We live in an age where if someone comes out and says something bad about you, you can literally use it to your advantage. So if anything comes out of it and Jack White’s mad and he wants to have a guitar battle or some shit, then that’s fine. (laughs)

PB: You said you didn’t have high expectations, but let’s talk about the fact you did put out a song this year, the first time in seven years. Let’s put aside what other people said, how do you feel to have new art out there?

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Soup: It’s coming from a point that we were out before and we were doing our thing. And I don’t think I took it for granted…but maybe I did. When you’re in the moment it’s hard to reflect because you’re in the moment. That’s what happens when you’re in the moment. I used to hate when people would ask me, “Where do you see things in five years” and I’d say, “Shit, I don’t know I’m in the moment.” At that time, I have may have took a lot of things for granted then we left and I fell into the spin cycle of regular work. I was working and not feeling the music thing. We’d always get work [offers]. People were always like, after we stopped, “We’ve got a show. Can you guys reunite?” A lot of people wanted us to reunite under their umbrella, but when Coachella came and said, “Yo, you guys can get on the main stage.” It was like, “Main stage? Seven years no music, no noise at all? And we’re on the main stage? At Coachella?” Sometimes you gotta swallow. Sometimes you have to do the pros and cons and it was a big a statement to J5. Not to music, not to the world, but to J5. So to be able to do that and now it’s a second opportunity for us. A lot of people don’t get second opportunities. I love that. I won’t front on that.

PB: You said something I don’t hear that often. When an athlete or musician walks away from the industry whether by choice or not, you never hear that they went off to a real job.

Soup: Man, I had a real job. I’m 43-years-old. I have grey in my beard and I have lived through something that a lot of people dreamed to do that don’t get the opportunity. And even though we weren’t successful as I wanted us to be, because if you asked me I wanted to be the biggest group ever. I love Run DMC but I wanted to overtake Run DMC to what they did and I wanted to be mentioned when people talked about “greatest groups.” I didn’t need to be number one, but I wanted to be mentioned. It didn’t pan out like that, but with that being said I come from a neighborhood in L.A. that dreams…you don’t know how to spell it because you didn’t know what it was. To be able to travel the world and meet people and have people like what you do, I can say nothing bad about that. To find out the music business and living your dream is cool, but to also know that it is a dream. Sometimes when you’re in dreams you can do all that magnificent shit — you can fly, run fast, eat trains and all that (laughs)…and that’s what the game is. It’s not real. It’s hard for me to explain. [And] This is what you’re doing for over 10 ten years and then you come into the real world and it’s crazy.

PB: So, would you guys ever consider producing a new, original album, whether it be with a label or something you guys just did on your own?

Soup: I can see us doing it. I don’t know about everybody else though. I think they’d want to. I wouldn’t be opposed to doing it, but I would want everyone to really want to do it. There’s no pressure but I’d want everyone to be 100%. I don’t know what everyone’s commitment would be.

PB: I totally get it, I mean this is a reunion tour, so there’s no expectations from the world that this is declaration of coming back full time. But, speaking of coming back and reuniting, can you talk about being with the guys once again and was there something you had missed about them during your time apart?

Soup: Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got till you don’t have it no more. It’s a cliche saying, but the reason why it’s a cliche is because it’s true as hell and a lot of people can relate to it. You miss that camaraderie. When you’re on stage smiling and laughing, I know people like we’re a happy group, we don’t have anything to be mad about. We’re six guys who came together from different areas to form a collective to do what we do. It’s good as far as that, on the bus, joking, talking about whatever we’re talking about. I did miss that and it’s good to have it back.

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PB: Also, it’s seven years later so you’re all a little older and wiser.

Soup: The older and wiser part is a good thing. That’s what I was saying about no pressure. Things don’t affect me the way they did when we were doing it in the beginning. The older and wiser thing comes to play in that. Some things that were said and done, you bypass that. It’s not an unspoken thing — if something’s not cool I can say it, but say it in a way that’s acceptable to everyone. So if you do get upset about it that’s more of a personal problem. I feel we can do that now without people getting offended out the gate before you finish what you can say.

PB: How’s the reception been from live audiences? Were you surprised at the reactions from crowds at Coachella and overseas?

Soup: Yeah, definitely. Coachella for sure. That was the first go around. Coachella was the springboard because once it happened and people see it, whether it’s on the Internet or the write-ups, people wanna come out and see the show. All those people there and when they said “main stage” I thought nobody wanted to come see us at the main stage. You put us in a tent and we might fill it a bit better. I mean there was a lot of people there — Katy Perry was on the side and so was Kristen Stewart and we saw Paul McCartney. Damn! Then when you go out there and you hear the buzz and then we walk out, it was 40,000-50000 people. Then when you tell them to raise their hands and they’re doing that shit and cheering…it’s like “Okay, I’m sorry for thinking otherwise.” (laughs). It blew our minds, so go do it again overseas and see the reception we got it was amazing.

I’m a little nervous about the U.S. dates. I just want do what we do best, man. We ain’t claiming to be the best, we’re just doing what we’re doing and I hope people come out and have a good time with us and check us out. We’re not trying to do nothing else!

Jurassic 5 performs at Penns Landing in Philadelphia on July 30, click here for tickets. They perform in New York City at The Best Buy Theater on August 2. Click here for tickets.

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Bill Bodkin is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. He can be read weekly on Trailer Tuesday and Singles Party, weekly reviews on Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Hannibal, Law & Order: SVU and regular contributions throughout the week with reviews and interviews. His goal is to write 500 stories this year. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English and currently works in the world of political polling. He’s the reason there’s so much wrestling on the site and is beyond excited to be a Dad this coming December. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites