Last night I witnessed hip hop royalty.
I watched Jurassic 5 transform a laid back, mixed-bunch of a crowd into a mass of sweat-dripping, arm-shaking, fast-talking, crazy dancers – infected with happiness.
J5 were well and truly in the house last night. These guys are the gods of rap music and their gig at Shed 6 in Wellington made that clear as day.
The crew got straight into the swing of things with much-loved tracks I Am Somebody and Jayou. The crowd was bouncing along in no time and you could see the group were rather impressed with the response. In what was probably a strategic comment, Chali 2na told us we were a far better audience than the ones they’ve had in their recent tour of Australia, obviously this went down well with fans and the energy in the crowd went up even further.
The American alternative rap group who hit the big time in the 90s, reunited in 2013 and have been wowing fans around the world ever since. Even though their beards are now a bit grey and they may have a few rounder tummies, the J5 guys have certainly still got it. MC’s Chali 2na, Akil, Soup and Marc 7 are as quick as ever with lyrics tumbling out of their mouths in an awe-inspiring speed and in perfect unison. DJ legends Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark do a stellar job producing those bouncy backing tracks we all love so much while mixing it up from time to time in show-stealing solo stints. Near the start of the set they came out from behind their turn-tables in true fashion. They leapt around the stage mixing up a track in a ridiculous manner by spinning the giant record prop in the middle of the stage and playing portable mixers. At more than one stage during the gig DJ Nu-Mark played percussion on a set of old LPs he hung from around his neck. It was quite a display.
From here we were lead back down memory lane through their oldest and most famous hits. Chali 2na, the unofficial lead of the group, told us “this is the part of the show when we take you back to where it all began” and that’s exactly what they did, in fantastic style. An energetic performance of Quality Control was a clear show highlight for many in the crowd while I particularly enjoyed hearing Gotta Understand, Thin Line and Freedom brought to life. Hey was dedicated to all the ladies in the house, with the men told to go and have a smoke or something. The MCs antics on stage during this slower track were hilarious and it was a fun singalong.
Each crew member in Jurassic 5 stands out in different phases throughout the gig, they could each hold their own on stage solo, but the magic of Jurassic 5 is the way they rap together. The songs sound quite remarkable with the strength of four strong male voices layered upon one-another working at a fast pace. Each song chorus showcases this superbly while the verses give the opportunity for the rappers to show off their own style – something the audience loves as they cheer on their favourite MC.
Of course, their biggest song Concrete Schoolyard was a highpoint. You could tell the J5 crew love the response they get to this and the crowd wasn’t holding back. Everyone sang every word whether instructed to or not, and cheered rapturously in the perfect moments like for Chali 2na’s spookily quick solo in the third verse. This was closely followed by a brilliant performance of In The House which brought the first set to a close. In this all six formed a line on stage and performed a hilarious dance routine I didn’t want to end. It was comedic gold and of course that was only one example of their humour, throughout the gig they had us acting out jumping on a motorcycle, fist-pumping, closing and opening our fingers in time with the beat and much more.
The boys came back on stage for the best kind of encore. They asked people in the front row to think of a more obscure song of theirs they’d like to hear then proceeded to take requests and perform a snippet of some of the lesser-known songs that we might not otherwise have heard. It was entertaining seeing what people came up with and even more interesting watching the crew try to remember how some of the raps started. Of course they always figured it out and performed them as if they played these tracks every show.
After this they performed their latest release The Way We Do It, which showed the group has still got it in every way. This song stands out for me in the set, it is just as good as their golden oldies and I loved watching the pride on their faces as they busted it out. From here they finished the concert off in a magnificent manner with a run of hits, Jurass Finish First, Verbal Gunfight and What’s Golden. What a note to end on.
Half the magic of Jurassic 5 is their PC approach to hip hop. Their songs aren’t interspersed with constant swearwords or controversial lyrics, they’re just about having fun and that’s certainly what they do on stage. All six group members are fantastic to watch, they are charismatic in every way and the fun they’re having on stage is contagious, it would be impossible not to grin your way through a gig by these guys. The other refreshing factor is that each of them seemed genuinely humbled by the response they were getting from their Wellington fans. At the end of the show the audience was so enthralled that they essentially refused to leave and kept clapping the crew well after they’d left the stage. In brilliant style, out came the MCs to shake hands and take photos with their fans.
J5 truly are a class above today’s rappers and last night’s concert is proof. If you’re in Auckland, find a way to get along to one of their gigs tonight or tomorrow. This is an experience too good to miss out on.