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