One of the highlights of last year’s Coachella music festival was the reunion of Jurassic 5, the well loved (and six-member) hip hop outfit that was totally West Coast in all the best ways: laid back yet totally tight and in control of their craft, individually as well as a team. They had cited artistic differences when they quit in 2007, but none of that was apparent when they got back together last year. Now they’re heading to the Santa Barbara Bowl this Sunday and they recently dropped an ace new single, “The Way We Do It,” which chops up the White Stripes’ “My Doorbell” to devastating effect.
But here’s the thing: they weren’t broken up that long, only by hip-hop standards. And the new single is really from 2006, part of a set of as-yet unreleased songs produced by Heavy D just before his death.
“I remember Heavy D saying, ‘Now I wanna make a hit for you guys,'” says Marc7, one of J5’s four vocalists, along with baritone Chali2na, Akil and Zaakir. “That’s the main thing he kept saying. That particular song was one of the last sessions we did. We had already recorded four or five songs with Heavy D. And on the last day of recording, he had that beat waiting for us. And we just wrote it right then and there … It was one of those songs that was just sitting in the vault.”
While on hiatus, Marc7 kept up with hip hop, as he is a fan, but he says 90 percent of it is “garbage. The landscape has changed a lot, man.”
On top of that, he says, the industry has become worse. Back in the day, there was the record deal and regardless of that being good or bad, artists could still make bank on tour and on the tour merchandise. But because of the collapse of physical album sales, Marc7 says, major labels now want “360” deals, where they own the whole thing, from the recordings to the t-shirts. “They want your soul. They want everything. You’re working for pennies. You’re a slave.”
“But the power of the artist is at an all-time high,” he counters. “Labels are begging for artists when it used to be the opposite … but we still need the fans to come out and support.”
The guys in J5 — including both their DJs Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark — are in their 40s now, so touring is a bit different than it used to be, with families involved. They are on tour for over two months solid — and when we talk, the group is in Bristol, UK — but they’ve gone back into “tour mode.”
“We’re 20 years deep, you know what I mean, so you just get in that mode,” he says. “It’s harder now. I have three girls and one boy now. You miss them more. But it’s work, you know? Daddy’s gotta go to work. And they know. I’m punching a clock, they know that.”
So are we looking at a new album? A live album? Rarities and outtakes?
“We’ve got a lot of stuff in the mix,” Marc7 says. “On this tour the other day we were talking about some stuff we wanted to do because after we finish this tour, I think we’re gonna take a bit of a break from touring. We have a couple of options. The music landscape is so different now. People aren’t into albums. They don’t have patience for them. But we’re still in the album or e.p. mode. We’re also working on a J5 documentary on the group that we filmed. It was first about the build up to us playing Coachella, but it turned into a lot more.”
When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Santa Barbara County Bowl, 1122 N Milpas St.
Cost: $34 -$49
Information: 962-7411, sbbowl.com