Chali 2na (Jurassic 5) - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman
Chali 2na (Jurassic 5)
Jurassic 5's most recognizable member, Chali 2na, is finally stepping out on his own as a solo artist. Chali is in no way leaving J5, but in his words, "There is a lot of different topics that I may want to speak on that I can't totally get out with the group. So my solo album became an outlet for that, and it also became my therapy session". With his solo debut "Fish Outta Water" set to drop first quarter next year, Chali is looking to build up some hype by releasing his "Fish Market" mixtape, a compilation of various songs Chali has done outside of J5 over the years. MVRemix recently caught up with the humble Chali 2na to speak about his new mixtape, as well as his highly anticipated debut album.
MVRemix: What's going on Chali, how you doing today?
Chali 2na: I can't complain man, I'm just walking around the mall with my manager, he's trying to buy a watch, so I said cool, I'll go with ya.
MVRemix: No doubt, so lets just start by talking about J5, then we'll move on from there. I have always been curious how the entire Jurassic 5 crew came together. So can you tell us how the group was formed?
Chali 2na: Basically there was two groups, Unity Committee and Rebels Of Rhythm. The Unity Committee was myself, Marc 7 and Cut Chemist, and we basically came together in Silver Lakes, California. When I moved to Cali, I went to Marshall High School and met Marc 7. And through Marc 7, I met a guy named Marv Skee, and he introduced me to Cut Chemist. So we started doing little demo tapes at his house, making mixtapes, as well as performing in my boy Fred Dog's back yard. So we were doing that, while at the same time trying to get a deal on the side, but it never really worked out. Then a friend of ours told us about The Good Life, which was like an open mic spot. It was like a café, and it had the open mic for poets, singers and rappers. But The Good Life was the spot, it was the place to be for all the college cats and people who weren't doing gangsta rap. Because at that time, gangsta rap was the only thing getting signed in Los Angeles. So there was a whole congregation of crazy dope emcees that were all of like minds. And one of the groups that was down there was the Rebels Of Rhythm, and that was Zaakir, Akil and a brother named Shawn, who passed away. So we liked their style and wanted to do a song with them, and eventually it happened. And the song came out so nice, that we decided to gather up some money and put it on a 12 inch, so we can give it out to as many DJ's as we possibly could. In doing that, we basically solidified our self a 12 inch deal with TVT Records, and they were asking us if we had a name. So I played the song to my son's mom and she got these corny little jokes all the time and was like, "Y'all think you sound like the Fantastic Five, but you sound more like the Jurassic 5". So the name and the group and everything else was born from there.
MVRemix: Is it tough being in such a big group with all different types of personalities and things of that nature?
Chali 2na: Well, its kind of the same principle as being in a big family. And I have been in a group bigger than this, Ozomatli has thirteen people in it. So I have training in how to deal with people and their personalities, as well as other people dealing with mine. But its cool, because as with any family, you may not like that one person one day, but you will always love them. So we just deal with it like that.
MVRemix: One thing I have always wondered about is, when that check comes for the album, and the money is split up between everybody, are you personally making any money, or is touring the only way you can really make some dough?
Chali 2na: Well, nobody really makes any money from album sales. Nobody, I don't care who you are. You really make your money off of publishing, which is getting your songs on the radio, or getting you on some soundtrack or movie. You also make money through your merchandise and shows. So that is where we really get our cheese from. We ain't no super duper commercially successful group, but we make a living, and we are able to take care of our families from the things we do. But we ain't making money from Interscope Records writing us a check for selling five hundred thousand records, or anything like that. Not at all.
MVRemix: Now let's move onto your album and solo career. So was going solo always something you had in mind?
Chali 2na: Well, just doing my solo project more so, than going solo. Because going solo to me was always like, "I'm going solo guys, fuck you, I'm out". (Laughter) But I have always had an interest in doing a solo project, because there is a lot of different topics that I may want to speak on that I can't totally get out with the group. So my solo album became an outlet for that. It also became my therapy session, because a lot of the songs that I put on this solo project are really personal to me. They are reflections of things that have happened in the past and things like that. So it was a real refreshing thing, it really cleared my palette. I feel like a new guy after getting all that shit out.
MVRemix: Tell us about the new mixtape, "Fish Market".
Chali 2na: Fish Market is basically a compilation that I put together of songs that I have done outside of the group on different peoples projects. But a lot of the times I felt that if your not into that particular persons music, then you won't necessarily ever get the chance to hear that song. So I was like, ok, I can accumulate all of those songs, plus some exclusives, and just put it out there as a little cliff note. Sort of like a Chali 2na study guide kind of thing. And I wanted to put it out right before the album, so it could warm people up.
MVRemix: For people who haven't heard the mixtape yet, can you just talk about some of the concepts and songs you have on there?
Chali 2na: Well on the mixtape, one of my favorite songs is "Who's To Blame", which is on some conscious level, talking about the world today type of thing. It felt real good to get that out. Also, another song that I really like is the song I did with Kardinal Offishal, "Please Believe". It was sort of a fluke how that came together, we were just playing around one day and the song came out cool. So I was happy we were able to put somewhere.
MVRemix: Let's talk about your official solo debut then. What is the title of the album?
Chali 2na: The debut album's title is called "Fish Outta Water".
MVRemix: Do you have a time period for when that is going to be released?
Chali 2na: Hopefully, it should be out in February.
MVRemix: Who's going to be producing on the album?
Chali 2na: I got production from Nu-Mark, Babu from Dilated Peoples, Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park, Dez, Vitamin B, and people like that.
MVRemix: What about guest appearances?
Chali 2na: I got Beanie Man, Rafael Sadiq, Anthony Hamilton, Supernatural, Rakka from Dilated Peoples, Ming from The Spooks, just to name a few.
MVRemix: A lot of Hip Hop heads feel you have one of the best flows in the entire game. So do you consider yourself as one of the best, flow wise?
Chali 2na: I appreciate anybody who feels like that, but I try to not get caught up in that level of competition. Because there is always somebody out there who is better than you. Like my little brother, who is on "MC Material" off of the Fish Market album. And he is creeping up on me, which is something scary, cause that little dude can rhyme! So for me, I never really buy into that whole, "I'm better than you" or "I got the best flow", because for me, that is a waste of time. My real goal is to use the talent that I got to make people think.
MVRemix: Do you feel any added pressure on you in regards to your debut album, considering a lot of people feel you are best emcee in J5?
Chali 2na: Man, that’s dope too (Laughter). I appreciate that! But there is pressure in the sense that, this solo album is really personal. It really talks about different things that have happened to me in my life, from betrayal to the different ways that I view my parents and my siblings. So this album is really a personal thing. So that pressure of exposing too much of yourself, is the type of pressure that I feel more so than anything else. But in the end, I am just happy to make music. Just being able to be an artist and let the things inside of me out is good enough for me. So that kind of diffuses the pressure.
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"Nobody really makes any money from album sales. Nobody, I don't care who you are. You really make your money off of publishing, which is getting your songs on the radio, or getting you on some soundtrack or movie. You also make money through your merchandise and shows. So that is where we really get our cheese from. We ain't no super duper commercially successful group, but we make a living..."