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 is a music journ­al­ist and broad­caster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series fea­tur­ing the best in Asi­an Under­ground.


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.