REVIEW | JUNGLE BROTHERS LIVE AT JAZZ CAFE FRIDAY 26TH AUGUST

Photo Cred­it: Dav­id Eat­well

“I got broth­ers in the Jungle, cous­ins on the Quest!”

Dres (Black Sheep) The Choice is yours (1991).

In 2012 I saw Ali Shaheed Muhammed of A Tribe Called Quest DJ with Nu-Mark from Jur­as­sic 5 at the Round­house in Cam­den. The next day I went to vari­ous record stores around Lon­don devour­ing every ATCQ CD I could find. This set me up in the early 2010s as a Hip Hop head, who although loved  Dr Dre and Wu-Tang, nev­er paid the genre much atten­tion bey­ond that. It was around this time that I also watched the 2011 doc­u­ment­ary Beats Rhymes and Life by Michael Rapa­port and it blew my mind.

I was intro­duced to not only the his­tory of A Tribe Called Quest but the broad­er his­tory of East Coast Hip Hop and the Nat­ive Tongues col­lect­ive, fea­tur­ing stal­warts like De La Soul, Queen Lati­fah, Monie Love, Black Sheep and of course Jungle Broth­ers. Formed in the late 80s, Nat­ive Tongues put peace, love and unity at the fore­front when gang­ster rap was begin­ning its ascend­ency. The vibe was dif­fer­ent and it was feel­good with themes of empower­ment and afro-cent­rism peppered around. The music was also light and upbeat with tracks by both De La Soul and Jungle Broth­ers being staples of night club dance­floors.

The Jungle Broth­ers con­sist of Afrika Baby Bam, Mike G and DJ Sammy B. Their 1988 debut album Straight Out the Jungle fea­tured the Hip-House track “I’ll House You” which became a cros­sov­er hit in both House and Hip Hop circles. The Hip-House pro­duc­tion con­tin­ued on their second album Done by the Forces of Nature from 1989.

Before com­ing to the gig review prop­er, I would also like to men­tion the third Jungle Broth­ers album J Beez wit the Rem­edy, from 1993, a col­lab­or­a­tion with World Music and exper­i­ment­al maes­tro Bill Laswell that was so out there, that the label deman­ded it be com­pletely re-recor­ded. A few tracks from the ori­gin­al pro­ject titled “Crazy Wis­dom Mas­ters” remained on the album, with oth­er tracks receiv­ing releases on vari­ous records and digit­al formats years later.

Sup­port for tonight’s show came from Bil­lie Sply­ff, RapX­change and DJ Drez (Hip Hop Back In The Day). Drez’s set was almost like a mix­tape with bril­liant edits and mix­ing of Hip Hop staples. ATCQ’s Can I Kick it brought the house down and was a nice call out to Nat­ive Tongues and the main event tonight.

RapX­change then took the stage with Drez remain­ing on DJ duty and at most I coun­ted 7 MCs on 5 mics. Their lyr­ics fea­tured ref­er­ences to Mar­vel com­ics and smoke, with a bottle being passed around the stage.

As Drez played on after, he was joined by DJ Sammy B who teased the audi­ence with a loop of the Jungle Broth­ers’ clas­sic Because I got it like that, over the end of Drez’s set. This was their second single from 1988 and was pro­duced by DJ Red Alert, an import­ant fig­ure in the his­tory of Hip Hop and who was also an uncle and ment­or to the Nat­ive Tongues.

Sammy B then went into the Phil Collins pop hit In the Air Tonight. I wondered why the hell am I bop­ping to Phil Collins? But it was fun and a remind­er that this would be a night of the 80s! Afrika Baby Bam and Mike G then took the stage and went into the Jungle Broth­ers clas­sic Feel­ing Alright. The skat singing dur­ing the track from Mike G was matched by Arfika’s dan­cing, this was feel good and there was some friendly spar­ring between the two artists, adding to the upbeat high energy of the even­ing.

Mike G asked the crowd “You ready to party tonight or what!”

What “U” Waitin’ “4”? from the same album was played next, inject­ing a House beat into the pro­ceed­ings, it was fun and funky and the vocal deliv­ery was on point.

Sun­shine was played next, anoth­er feel­good clas­sic. 40 Below Troop­er from J Beez wit the Rem­edy, sur­prised me as I didn’t real­ise it was a single, it was more than wel­come and had the crowd rock­ing.

Mike G then addressed the crowd and Lon­don in gen­er­al, “I don’t wanna call out anyone’s age but we been doing this for a while, look at Kings Cross now to when we were rock­ing it as some might say”, refer­ring to how much the area has improved in terms of aes­thet­ics.

This was then fol­lowed by Straight out the Jungle and Because I got it like that, with Mike G then say­ing “88 to now, only 3 days of sun in Lon­don!” to applause from the crowd, as our Sum­mer had been dampened by rain in recent days. The audi­ence was mainly made up of older heads who were prob­ably fans since then.

Con­sult­ing my notes, I wasn’t sure wheth­er the night then turned into an adlibbed mix­tape fea­tur­ing bits of their pre­vi­ously played songs or not, or were they just recyc­ling some lines over vari­ous beats?  The night became way more intense from this point as Bey­ond the World came next with some thun­der­ing drums. When Sammy B Scratched a sample of “It’s the Jungle Broth­ers” over the beat, we really saw him shine as a DJ, with Mike G remind­ing us “Sammy B was a DJ first!”.

This then transitioned into What “U” Waitin’ 4, which returned in a more beat heavy rendi­tion, The dance fan in me recog­nised the “Keep on Dan­cing”, lyr­ics sampled by The Prodigy on their 1992 single Jericho.

Tribe Vibes and Jim­browski came next and was a throw­back to the Old Skool. Jim­browski was their debut single from 1987, pro­duced and fea­tur­ing Red Alert, a clas­sic for all the Nat­ive Tongues heads. As expec­ted, I’ll House You brought the house down. Such was the intens­ity of the night at this point, It felt like I was rav­ing with Uni stu­dents but every­one was middle aged. The lyr­ics of “Round and round” were matched by a fren­zied cir­cu­lar dance from Afrika Baby Bam, the crowd was told to do waves and it was a beau­ti­ful exper­i­ence of feel­good and unity.

Then a Jungle break came in, lead­ing us into the D&B clas­sic Jungle Broth­er by Aph­rod­ite, which was a remix of The Jungle Broth­ers’ track True Blue. I was sur­prised as to how many songs and ori­gin­al samples I could recog­nise just from being a 90s music head. It’s easy to for­get how sem­in­al the Jungle Broth­ers were in a world that mostly talks about ATCQ and De La Soul.

VIP from 2000 was played next and Brain from 1997 was a more chilled out affair, part of the R&B turn that most Old Skool artists took in the 90s.

Buddy was also anoth­er sur­prise to hear, the third single from De La Soul, was part of the encore, a track which fea­tured the Jungle Broth­ers and oth­er mem­bers of the Nat­ive Tongues col­lect­ive and a staple from their back cata­logue.

The night was a magic­al fusion of Old Skool Hip Hop and House with some Jungle and R&B thrown in, I felt that it covered the whole spec­trum of 90s music. The strength of the Jungle Broth­ers lies in their USP of Hip-House and exper­i­ment­a­tion as well as their Old Skool Shell Toe vibes. This was pos­sibly the greatest Hip Hop show I have atten­ded and the Broth­ers are truly pion­eers who I feel are still rel­at­ively unsung. Tomor­row I will go to Lon­don and buy every Jungle Broth­ers CD I can find.

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.
DJ ISURU

DJ ISURU

DJ Isuru is a music journ­al­ist and broad­caster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series fea­tur­ing the best in Asi­an Under­ground, the next party will be on March 24th Ven­ue TBC. www.djisuru.com

About DJ ISURU

DJ ISURU
DJ Isuru is a music journalist and broadcaster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series featuring the best in Asian Underground, the next party will be on March 24th Venue TBC. www.djisuru.com