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Coachella 2013: Jurassic 5 doesn’t know ‘how far’ reunion can go

The reunited L.A.-based hip-hop crew Jurassic 5 includes Akil, left, Soup, Chali 2na, Marc 7 and DJ NuMark, in the background.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Jurassic 5 called it quits in 2007, and if the hip-hop act’s catalog isn’t exactly old enough to be found encased in amber, there’s been little noise on the group since its breakup. It’s OK, for instance, to have been completely surprised to see Jurassic 5 near the top of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival lineup released last week.

The reunion -- or “rebirth” as DJ Nu-Mark is calling it -- is so new that Jurassic 5 has yet to even rehearse for its dates in the desert city of Indio. But no pressure, Jurassic 5 is only one of the top-billed hip-hop acts for the festival, set for the weekends of April 12 and April 19.

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“We talked about what’s going to transpire at Coachella,” says Nu-Mark, having just returned to L.A. after promoting his latest project, “Broken Sunlight.” “We’re slowly getting the gears turning. It’s one step at a time.”

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In the ‘90s and early 2000s, South Central’s Jurassic 5 were, in the then-words of rapper Chali 2na, “a misfit club going against the grain.” When the West Coast was celebrating studio-crafted beats and the images of gangsta rap, Jurassic 5 brought up more spiritual, everyday themes, and did so by refashioning hip-hop’s classic funk and soul roots.

A 2001 Times piece profiled Jurassic 5 and the pre-Fergie Black Eyed Peas as co-anchors of a more socially conscious L.A. hip-hop scene. Both were signed to Interscope Records, and clearly opted for different routes. While the Black Eyed Peas went on to stardom, including a gig at the 2011 Super Bowl halftime show, Jurassic 5 quietly slipped away after the 2006 album “Feedback.”

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But looking back, Nu-Mark says the band never felt the burden of chasing a hit.

“I’m sure there was pressure, but I never felt pressure from our label,” he says. “I wanted to make music that I could stand behind when I turned old and gray. I wanted to know we did our own thing. That was the mentality of the group. We knew there was a lot going on around us in the pop world, but we had something we wanted to convey to our audience.”

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The idea for reunion, says Nu-Mark, came together only in the last four months. The DJ says Jurassic 5 has received offers every year since 2007 to reunite but always resisted. So why now?

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“The offers got pretty high,” he laughs, and then adds, “I also wanted closure. I wanted to end on a high note. I couldn’t DJ today the way I am without those guys, I’m sure if you’d ask each person, it’d be a different answer.”

The reunion will feature all six members, including turntable wiz Cut Chemist, who left Jurassic 5 to pursue a solo career in 2006. Nu-Mark says it would have been off if not every member was on board. “We don’t believe in the half-group thing,” he says.

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But is it just a one-off? No, says Nu-Mark, although he’s hesitant to discuss how long the reunion will last.

“I don’t know how far this will go,” he says. “I just know that there’s Coachella -- and I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this -- I just know there’s two other dates ready to go. The plan from what I’m seeing right now is just doing festivals on the reunion trip. I don’t know the extent of it, or if it will be more.”

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As for the possibility of Jurassic 5 heading back into the studio, Nu-Mark is equally uncertain.

“I don’t know how to answer that,” he says. “I don’t see music coming out of it right now, but I’m the kind of guy who says, ‘never say never.’ We’re taking it one step at a time. Let’s take the first step and see if we want to take Step Two. Right now we’re still working Step One.”

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