The Wisdom of Chali 2na..Jurassic 5 is No Joke

chali_2na_Here’s a throwback interview from the Breakdown FM vaults.. It was done in LA 2006.. It’s the one and only Chali 2na of Jurassic 5

In promotion of their highly anticipated album, Feedback, true school Interscope recording artists Jurassic 5 have launched a massive nationwide tour that began on June 18th and will end September 13th 2006. Incorporated within those dates are back to back to back shows in Florida, including one at Club Revolution in Fort Lauderdale on August 5th.

For all of you that don’t know, Jurassic 5 is a very eclectic group of artists from Los Angeles, California that have been in the game since 1993. Originally consisting of two separate groups, the Rebels of Rhythm and Unity Committee, Jurassic 5 is made up of emcees Chali 2na, Akil, Zaakir AKA Soup, Mark 7even, and turntablist/producer DJ Nu-Mark. DJ Cut Chemist was an original member of the group but has since left.

Hip Hop pioneer journalist and activist, Davey D, had the opportunity to interview the deep sounding basso tone voiced member of Jurassic 5, Charles Stewart AKA Chali 2na. Originally from Chicago, many believe that Chali was nicknamed as such simply after Charlie the Tuna, the deep-voiced animated mascot of Starkist. But as he notes, it was really his father who originally gave him the name, who he himself was referred to by his peers as “peewee.”

Considered to be perhaps the most eclectic member of Jurassic 5, Chali is highly influenced by different forms of music, including Reggae, Soul and House. It was his musical well roundedness that led him to become a founding member of the Salsa Funk band Ozomatli (although he is no longer with Ozomatli, he still collaborates with them on occasions). Lyrically, Chali’’s highly complicated style has been compared to the likes of Rakim, often focused on topics surrounding the social and political climate of the times with wit and wisdom. His very artfully creative expression could be traced way back to his original experiences in Hip Hop as a graffiti artist, which complements his overall persona. As he very humbly puts it, “Hip Hop saved my life.”

The following is a short excerpt of a lively interview with Chali that was originally conducted on Breakdown FM and its full length audio version can be accessed through Davey D’s political website For right now, just check out this snippet of what Chali had to say.

-Tony Muhammad-

Download and Listen to the Breakdown FM Intv

Download and Listen to the Breakdown FM Intv



chali-2naDavey D (DD): When you think of Jurassic 5, it hearts back to the days when Hip Hop was flourishing with groups. Now everyone is a solo artist. Now you very rarely see a pair of emcees. One of the challenges of being a group is defining the roles, keeping the chemistry, that sort of stuff. So with Jurassic 5, do you guys have different roles? How do you keep the vibe and how do you keep the chemistry together?

Chali 2na (C2): It is a team thing, like having a basketball team or somethin’. We indeed sink into these roles that we feel most comfortable with and bring to the table. Everything that I bring to the table, eventually it was kind of fashioned for me to do, whether it is the basso tone part of the harmony or the presence itself. I guess that’s my role. For every member there is a role. There are four emcees. We are all on the same wavelength, but I guess different waves. Each part of what we bring to the table is the chemistry and makes Jurassic 5. I guess my role (laugh) is to hold the wall up.

DD: You as Chali 2na come from a very specific tradition of emcees; the basso tone voice, you know, starting with Melle Mel, moving to Chuck D … There are very few that have that, and so you have a lot of responsibility. And so when you get on stage or even when you get in the mic booth, do you feel like you are of a certain class? There’s been that tradition in Black music of, as you put it, of those who “Holds the wall up” and people just have to listen to the guy with “the voice.”

C2: (Laughs) I don’t think I think like that, it’s more like what could I contribute to make the song better; like it needs more of that, or maybe it needs less of me. But, I do feel proud to be part of that lineage of the Rakims and the Melle Mels, for sure. I’m proud of that for real.

DD: When you look over your albums, I’d like to say that you guys boldly go where a lot of other people don’t go as a group out the gate. Like in your song Contribution, man, you guys were talking about raising kids at a time when no one was thinking about it! This other song, Freedom, you guys are boldly talking about Mumia and challenging people! Talk about that and the reason why you guys bring that political spirit when you do your songs, bring up these relevant issues at a time when grown up adults who run these media outlets are saying, “You guys are a little too smart for your audience. Can you talk about a blunt? Something like that?” (Laughs)

C2: Well, for us man, besides all the fun we have and besides rockin’ the crowd, making people dance, moving you’re a**, we want to make your mind follow … In the end, at the bottom of the line of it all, we being Black people in America up on stage, with the mics in our hands, broadcasting our voices amongst the crowd … that privilege was not granted to us all the time in this country. There were a lot of cats that had to die so that we could have the privilege to speak as clear and as concise and as opinionated as we are able to do right now. I think I could speak for the rest of my fellows when I say that when we do have the mic, the responsibility to being allowed to say something that helps and not hurts is evident. It’s on us and there is no way we can shun that responsibility. I feel that the minute we do is the minute that we have taken it for granted.

DD: Talk to us about the song Freedom which is at least 2 years old and is having quite a bit of a resurgence. Why have people immediately embraced it? What was going through y’all minds when you sat this down?

C2: See … we did the song before 9-11 and we were going to talk about the topic of freedom … But after the 9-11 thing, just watching how the world changed. Like, I’m 34. To see the sky stop and no planes fly, I’ve never seen that (before). I’ve never heard the sky like that (before). That bugged me out! To see the world change in an instant and seeing peoples’ civil liberties being threatened! We are pretty political in the sense that we try to keep up with daily events. This whole thing is a scary thing. The thin line of freedom … people are walking on that thin line. But freedom to me is the freedom to be free. So it’s like we had to speak on it from all of our perspectives, like a united front.

DD: Your line specifically talked about Mumia. It almost seemed like you were issuing a challenge to people! It sounded like you were mad as heck!

Mumia Abu Jamal

Mumia Abu Jamal

C2: Well, the line goes, “While we try to free Mumia Abu-Jamal two or three of ya’ll will probably be at the mall.” (Meaning) Just try to go on with your day-to-day lives. Basically, just try to live in life (in the way) that was created. You don’t want this world to be shattered; doing whatever it takes to keep things the way they are. When you have people like Mumia who have been jailed and who’s rights have been abused and certain actions have been misconstrued to the point that he is in jail for life.

… There are a lot of things going on as far as terrorism is concerned, where territory is concerned and it’s going on in our country and in your neighborhood. And it’s not necessarily the government per say, but you may have a corrupt preacher on your block that’s trippin’ and has everybody twisted or some alderman or some senator, someone that everyone looks up to … I mean these things need to be addressed at all times. And we feel that to speak out against evil is one of the stronger things you can do as a person.


  1. J5 was LA’s answer to Hieroglyphics…so many bomb MC’s on the West. Cali got it locked from North to the South.