Review: The Jungle Brothers (@JungleBros4Life) Live @TheJazzCafe

Jungle Brothers Live @ Jazz Café
Still Doing it by the Forces of Nature.

 

jungle brothers

The Jungle, The Jungle. The Broth­ers, The Broth­ers.

Jungle Broth­ers are the least revered yet argu­ably most influ­en­tial of the Nat­ive Tongues col­lect­ive, a pan­theon that includes the ubi­quit­ous Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Those that recall the Tribe doc­u­ment­ary will remem­ber (Afrika Baby) Bam retell­ing the story of how the eld­er JBs ment­ored and gave A Tribe Called Quest their full group name when before they were simply known as ‘Quest’. Mod­ern pop music taste makers such as Phar­rell Wil­li­ams point to the Jungle Broth­ers as massive music spir­it guides, and the group’s sopho­more album “Done by the Forces of Nature” is a mar­vel in Hip-Hop party music with a Afro­centric and Black Power themed core.

Angus Batey’s ret­ro­spect­ive on the album is a defin­it­ive throw­back to the album’s incep­tion

“We wanted people to look at hip hop as some­thing that comes from Africa, that has its ori­gins in Africa,” Baby Bam said. “Let’s make this album like a col­lege piece, an intel­lec­tu­al piece. We had 20-some­thing songs for that album, but we wanted to make a body of work. ‘Let’s use some­thing from funk, some­thing from soul, some­thing from dis­co, some­thing from doo-wop, some­thing that reaches all the way back. Let’s make it poetry. Let’s do an album that encom­passes all of that!’ We was wear­in’ our Afric­an medal­lions and identi­fy­ing with that. We was going to a place in Har­lem called Africa House, burn­ing incense and read­ing books, drink­ing sor­rel and not eat­ing meat, and talk­ing with the eld­ers about Bob Mar­ley and Ghana and South Africa and apartheid. And tak­ing all of those exper­i­ences back into the stu­dio and mak­ing the stu­dio envir­on­ment almost like our vil­lage, our hut — just cre­at­ing that whole envir­on­ment. I had this red, gold and green flag with this kid on it who had dreads: I had that hanging up there in the stu­dio. I had all these beads that I made, some of ‘em had bells on, and you can hear them on the record­ing because I didn’t take ‘em off when I went in the booth. There was a set of tom drums in the booth that I played on ‘Good Newz Com­in”. It was just about a vil­lage, tri­bal, hut-type of envir­on­ment in the stu­dio.”

Step on Stage, Scream for More

If you have been to the Jazz Café, you would be famil­i­ar with the stairs that des­cend to the stage and the bal­cony above and behind the stage. As DJ Sammy B spun the open­ing beats for the JB, Mike Gee walked down calm and poised. Bam how­ever, stomped down the BAN­NIS­TERS of the afore­men­tioned stairs, leaped to the bal­cony and swung some 12 feet onto the stage to the rap­tur­ous audi­ence. For­get pyro­tech­nic and lazers — THIS was prob­ably the best show entrance I’ve ever seen. This set the tone for the night with Bam bring­ing big bang levels of energy and Mike Gee at the wheel for nav­ig­a­tion and stead­i­ness.

On “Straight Out the Jungle,” the JBs traded verses with the same verve you ima­gined they were three dec­ades ago for their first smash single as well. This also applied to the bounce of “Because I Got it Like That.”  A bulk of the night’s high­lights were provided by the thun­der­ous funk of ‘Done by the Forces of Nature’s songs. “Feel­ing Alright”s bass groove had the whole ven­ue dan­cing. “Bey­ond this World” came straight from out­er space and Plan­et Rock with a pulsat­ing rhythm and school­ing lyr­i­cism: “A whole lot of talk about the red, black and green… Afrika from the Zulu Nation.” On their early records, Jungle Broth­ers were implor­ing their Black fans to reach into their own selves and learn about their rich tra­di­tions and cul­tures of past; in lat­ter day Lon­don the lyr­i­cism to a major­ity white audi­ence evokes a call to learn about true world his­tory… which is Black his­tory. It’s not just about hav­ing a dance and head nod on a Thursday even­ing after work.  Des­pite their happy demean­ours, JBs are still not to be trifled with as they exclaim “fuck around, will get stomped.”

The Jungle Broth­ers then made a trans­ition into their “I’ll House You” style mater­i­al with drum & bass mak­ing an appear­ance from their later records that brought oth­er dance and elec­tron­ic gen­res back into Hip-Hop.

What made the show one of the most excit­ing and live­li­est I’ve ever been to was the sheer energy of the group. Mike Gee seemed like the hap­pi­est man on the plan­et rhym­ing to time­less clas­sics with Sammy B rev­el­ling in every cut and mix. And Bam can really flip­pin’ dance. He was pop­pin, lock­ing and win­in’, often at frantic breath tak­ing speeds and the hype­ness trans­ferred to the crowd in a metamusic­al way.

It’s a shame that the Jungle Broth­ers are in a more obscure realm than some of the peers and pro­geny but a good entry point would be study their sopho­more album, a record with depth unpar­alleled in most Hip-Hop music.

Check out our inter­view with the Jungle Broth­ers Below:

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By  Wasif Sayyed

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Wasif Sayyed

Wasif Sayyed

Wasif Sayyed’s many years as a writer, rap­per, pro­moter, ment­or and hip-hop pro­du­cer have shaped him into an enthu­si­ast­ic and insight­ful cul­tur­al cryp­to­grapher. He loves read­ing and cook­ing, and can hear the whis­per of an unsheathed liquid sword from 50 paces. Twit­ter @WasifScion

About Wasif Sayyed

Wasif Sayyed
Wasif Sayyed's many years as a writer, rapper, promoter, mentor and hip-hop producer have shaped him into an enthusiastic and insightful cultural cryptographer. He loves reading and cooking, and can hear the whisper of an unsheathed liquid sword from 50 paces. Twitter @WasifScion

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