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Chali 2na Talks Life After Jurassic 5

It’s been roughly three years since underground collective Jurassic 5 called it quits, but its gravel-voiced front man Chali 2na is keeping on strong. Formed in 1993, J5 served as a cornerstone of Los Angeles hip-hop, with its members Chali, Akil, Zaakir, Mark 7even, DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist dropping potent, organic collections of tracks that recalled the boom bap knock of ’90s rap with a contemporary, next-level twist. But after a moderately successful run with Interscope Records and four studio albums under their belts, the guys decided to part ways, presumably due to creative differences.

For Chali 2na, life after Jurassic 5 has proved to be more of a gift than a curse. The nimble emcee, who first cut his teeth as a rapper in the seven-person collective Unity Committee, just released his ‘Fish Market 2′ mixtape last month, the sequel to his breakout 2004 mixtape, ‘Fish Market,’ and the follow-up to his 2009 solo debut, ‘Fish Outta Water.’ And while his career has blossomed into a force of its own, its roots are based in the J5 days when he first started recording solo joints during his spare time.

“While I was not doing Jurassic 5 work, I was doing solo guest verses and such that I wanted to do,” he told The BoomBox of his debut mixtape. “I gathered them all together on one CD so that they could grab it and check it out, and once they discover the collaborations, maybe go out there and seek and find it. But I wanted those to be the tracks that people were exposed to, and that’s why ‘Fish Market’ came out. And then my album followed two years later, but I thought now I wanted to continue to put out as much music as possible.”

‘Fish Market 2,’ a blend of collaborations and solo tracks, was mixed by DJ Dez Andres, who Chali met while performing with Dez’s father while a member of the jam group Ozomatli. The tape, which features guest appearances from Planet Asia, Tanya Stephens, J-Live and more, is a stepping stone to Chali’s next studio endeavor, patched together with one-offs and contemplated duets with a diverse array of emcees.

“I didn’t want it to feel like another Chali 2na album, per se,” he admits. “But putting it all together, I kind of just liked the project, man. I chose the guests more so on a case-by-case basis. Like, you know who would sound dope on there? Or being in a room with somebody or on the phone with somebody or on Facebook or Twitter. It all came together like that.”

Though he’s currently on the solo grind, he hasn’t entirely left his Jurassic 5 days behind him. Often heralded as a next generation’s A Tribe Called Quest, the outfit was going strong until Cut Chemist left to pursue a solo career before the release of their ’06 album ‘Feedback,’ which inevitably led to the group splintering apart. Chali still keeps in touch with a few of the guys, but it isn’t as easy as fans wish it were. “It was hard to retain the relationships after the group broke up,” he says. “Because even in that aspect, a lot of the different members live in their respective places across America and we didn’t all necessarily stay in the same city or nothing like that.”

Nonetheless, the split has put Chali on the path to personal success. Using his spare time to paint, Chali is balancing what seems to be a never-ending tour with writing new material, most recently logging studio hours recording a full-length album with the band Galactic. But the public won’t have to wait too long for the second studio release. “The second installment of my solo adventures will be in stores soon,” he emphatically states. “Just trying to keep busy in the musical world, more so satisfying my passion. This is a passion for me, and I think anything above and beyond that is a gift and a blessing, if you know what I mean.”

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