Wednesday, April 2, 2014

CHALI’S ANGLES: An interview with Chali 2na of Jurassic 5

Jurassic 5 founder and prolific rapper CHALI 2NA returns to Australia for the second time this month, ANDY HAZEL discovers a man keen to leave his mark in more ways than one.
“Uh…I’m just getting out of the shower,” says a chuckling Chali 2na down the line from his home in Los Angeles. “I do apologise.”
Literally fresh from reunion shows as part of legendary hip-hop collective Jurassic 5, the self-styled baritone MC is keen to get back to Australia after an ecstatically received concert at last year’s Coachella Festival. “I felt like we picked up where we left off,” he says keenly, “like we never broke up. The show was amazing. Coachella is one of the more professional festivals in America, and it’s an honour to be part of it. We were one of the first rap groups to ever perform there, at the very first Coachella, so it was cool to bring it back round again.”

Their reunion marked the 20th anniversary of Jurassic 5’s formation, and 2na is keen to “rekindle some fires”, as they tour. “We’re out there performing as heavy as possible,” he explains. “There’s new music, shit that you haven’t heard before, some stuff we might make into a live album, basically we’re just celebrating 20 years of J5.”

Since the band’s split in 2007, 2na notable collaborations with acts like Rizzle Kicks, K’naan, Rusko, Slightly Stoopid and Hilltop Hoods, and long-time friends Ozomatli only hint at his true workload. However, 2009’s Fish Outta Water album, and recent EPs Against the Current parts1 and 2 are what bring 2na the greatest pride. “I call this whole series Against the Current because I’m not trying to compete,” he qualifies. “I mean, big up to people like Kendrick Lamar - I’ve got mad respect for him - but I’ve got to challenge myself. I just want to be the best me I can be, be better than the last thing I did.”

This attitude only partially explains 2na is so in demand however. “Respect is key in the hip hop game and respect is everything in the streets,” 2na says plainly. “I get what I give. I ain’t out here trying to beef and battle rap. I am a regular human being and I move like a regular human being on this earth. When I put myself out, I get back for the rest of my life; you treat people how you want to be treated.”

When it comes to collaborating on his own projects, 2na likens the process to another of his passions, graffiti. “I look at every endeavour, every project, everything I’m part of, like a painting. I have to pay attention to the detail and the construction of the picture, find the right angles. I have to figure what I need to do to help that picture come about…man, I can’t help but get so deep with these questions!”

Drawing a signature tuna fish mural in Fitzroy last time he was in town, 2na is keen to brighten some new walls. “Please let me know if there are any graff writers out there,” he asks keenly. “I want to paint as much as possible when I’m down that way.” You heard the man. Get busy.

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