Jurassic 5 Founder Fails to Win Over Audience with Dreary Set


Courtesy of Dana Thomas

An animated Chali 2na attempts to liven up the ’Sco. Lackluster stage presence plagued the rap- per’s Valentine’s Eve performance.

Jack Reynolds

Hip-hop hearts were broken upon lauded lyricist and Jurassic 5 founder Chali 2na’s appearance at the ’Sco on Valentine’s Eve. 2na was phantasmal, retreating backstage for periods that reached 15 minutes in length. In his absence, electronic music duo and recent collaborators Funk Hunters did their best to fill the void 2na created, bringing a tightly mixed strain of high-energy dance music that had the crowd moving. For those who weren’t especially interested in 2na or hip-hop, the performance was enjoyable and hyperactive. However, 2na’s infrequent stage time inspired feelings of confusion and disappointment among ’Sco-goers; these feelings were epitomized by some dude in a beanie who repeatedly shouted, “Where are the bars?!”

2na’s indifference at the ’Sco was disheartening but perhaps unsurprising, given his history. The emcee spent his formative years in southern Los Angeles during hip-hop’s “Golden Age,” a period from the mid-’80s to the early ’90s characterized by its diversity in sound and subject matter. During the “Golden Age,” location often dictated differences in style. Collectives were formed in high school or through friendships. These factors played a role in starting Chali’s career. Along with classmate Lucas McFadden, who would later DJ under the name “Cut Chemist,” Chali 2na began performing at the Good Life Café in southern LA. This testing ground, which hosted the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lenny Kravitz and Ice Cube, also saw the conception of Jurassic 5.

Unfortunately, 2na and the rest of Jurassic 5 came into the scene too late. Though their eponymous 1998 debut record was certified gold, subsequent releases did not reach the ears of mainstream hip-hop listeners. The group did obtain a strong following in the underground scene, but, by the mid-2000s, it was clear: Its sound, inspired by idols of their adolescence, was dated. This was a shame, considering 2na’s individuality in the rap scene. His creamy baritone, rapid flow and complex internal rhyme schemes separated him from other rappers, but he never really reached the level of success he deserved.


2na has collaborated with other artists frequently in recent years. These collaborations range from brilliant to terrible to downright absurd. He has rapped under a dinosaur persona in a bizarre, strangely childish concept album, but has also recorded with respectable acts, including Fatlip and K’naan. When staying in his comfort zone, which includes thickly layered lyrics and minimal, nostalgic beats, Chali excels. However, in other efforts, particularly those that have delved in the electronic genre, Chali sounds out of place. “Gadget Go Go,” a 2010 collaboration with U.K. dub legend Rusko, and 2014’s “Do this For You” with the Funk Hunters both sound forced and gimmicky. In these tracks and others, Chali sounds as if he is using his pedigree from Jurassic 5 to stay barely relevant and continue making money.

With 2na’s history in mind, it makes sense that Chali 2na was so indifferent on Valentine’s Eve — he’s probably just trying to support himself. Although he danced about the stage when he was actually on it, he looked distinctly tired. Undoubtedly, the uninterested rapper will continue to ride out his lukewarm, 20-year-old successes for the foreseeable future.