Jungle Brothers Biography
It's hard to believe it's been ten years since the Jungle Brothers and their Native Tongues movement swept hip-hop off its feet. Ten tumultuous years, some gloriously high, some depressingly low, but while others of their ilk have foundered and fallen by the wayside, the Jungle Brothers soldier on. In a genre where many talk of longevity, but few attain that level of durability, the Jungle Brothers have achieved just that without succumbing to passing fads that slide snake-like in and out of rap. They remain true to themselves and their beloved art.
If, as pundits claim, hip-hop is going through a creative crisis, the Jungle Brothers don't seem to have noticed and it certainly hasn't affected them in the slightest. As they step back into the rap arena with their newest album, the aptly named, Raw Deluxe, a twelve-cut smorgasbord of beats, rhymes and good vibes aplenty, there's much reason to celebrate. The JBs are back in full effect.
"The name is pretty much self-explanatory..." explains the amicable Mike." It's the sweetest of the seed. The purest of the pure.""We definitely wanted to produce hip- hop of the highest quality." Afrika Baby Bam interjects. "It took a while, but I think we achieved what we set out to do and I think the public is more than ready..."
The seeds that spawned the Jungle Brothers were formed during hip-hop's halcyon days. With the bright graffiti on the city's street corners, parks and trains as a surreal backdrop and Afrika Bambaataa, Treacherous Three and the Cold Crush Brothers prov iding the soundtrack, the JBs were religiously soaking up rap by osmosis. Rappers Nathaniel 'Afrika Baby Bam' Hall and Mike G met while attending Manhattan's Murray Bergtraum H.S. and often hit block parties together. When the two MCs decided to enter the school talent show, they enlisted the spinning services of Sammy B a/k/a Sweet Daddy and, to use a well-worn cliche, history was made.
"We knew Red Alert because he was Mike's Uncle. Red used to DJ at the Roxy and had just started doing a show on New York's KISS FM," Sammy explains. "He used to take us to all of his gigs and up to KISS FM with him." After watching him, Sammy hooked up some old mitch match turntables and started DJing. With Red's encouragement and support, Sammy became good enough to fill in when Red was out of town. Red eventually got them into the studio to record their first demo and brought them to Warlock Records where they got their first deal.
Paying their dues and proving themselves on New York's unmercifully hard talent circuit, as well as doing promos on mentor and longtime friend Red Alert's radio show, the trio amassed a respectable underground following. The JBs eventually decided to make the transition from talent show performers to recording artists. In a small studio tucked away in Coney Island, the Jungle Brothers produced Straight Out Of The Jungle which spawned the titillating jams "Jimbrowski," an affection ode to man's best friend, and "Because I like It Like That" as well as the seminal hip-house single, "I'll House You," a huge European hit, which resulted in their first trip to Europe, where they were promoted by Jon Baker's independent label Gee Street Records. On their triumphant return to the States, rather than rest on their laurels, the trio went back to the studio to record the groundbreaking Done By The Forces Of Nature (1990).
On the Warner Brothers imprint, this time they enlisted a group of friends that were on the same creative wavelength: De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Monie Love and Queen Latifah. The result was the loose, but influential collective known as the Native Tongues. While the album didn't rack up the sales units everyone expected, creatively it is still considered a hip-hop classic with its positive, highly inspirational pro-black messages.
After a three-year hiatus The Jungle Brothers released JBeez Wit Da Remedy, which marked a change in direction for the JBs. Though the album achieved some success with the rough and ready "40 Below Trooper," the NYC based trio decided to step away from the plate and rethink their strategy. The demise of the JBs was never an option.
"Initially, with Warner Brothers we jumped in because we saw gold. Getting there you realize the workings of a corporate label is nothing like an independent. We were four or five years with Warner, they spoiled us, then it was over. We made our mistakes, but we've learned from them." Mike G continues, "What we have, the reason we're still around comes from friendship. If we weren't friends and were just doing this for the money, we would have broken up by now. For us being in the Jungle Brothers is all about friendship, we just kept our heads together and looked forward."
Raw Deluxe marks the Jungle Brothers' return. It sees them a little older, much wiser and mature, something that reflected in their work. "We're family men now, which makes us more responsible about what we say and do. We realize what we do is consequential, so we watch what we say and do. We respect ourselves and others, but that doesn't mean we have softened, on the contrary!," Mike says. Afrika and Sammy nod in agreement.
And of their new home at Gee Street Records? "We're old friends, it feels like coming home." Afrika smiles. "When we deal with them it's business, but we know they'll work the project to the best of their ability."
Packed with veritable gems like "How You Want It," "Where You Wanna Go" and the JBs favorite "Moving Along," Raw Deluxe has a fresh, spontaneous feel to it. The album is mainly produced by the Jungle Brothers, with the exception of tracks produced by Roc Raider, Djinji Brown and The Roots.
"We're new, we're born again. That vibe, that feeling that's present on the album isn't forced, it's all totally natural." Afrika explains. "It runs right through us. On Raw Deluxe there's spontaneity, the moods, messages and beats all lock in together."
After ten years, the Jungle Brothers show no signs of slowing down, they can trounce their opponents and still rock a party with the freshness of their formative years and that's just how they like it.
"We've been through growing pains, but we've come through them constantly building our friendship, that's why we're still together after all these years. I'm happy with where I am and I believe that Mike and Sammy are too," says Afrika.
Mike continues, "When we're here another ten years from now, come see us. That's what we're working towards. We're in the middle of our careers, we still have a lot we want to do. We can think like that because we've come through a lot still standing, that comes from true friendship.
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