Jurassic 5 rapper Zaakir – real name Courtenay Henderson – is on the phone from California, but already his sights are set on the UK. “Oh yeah I love it out there, man – we all do,” he insists. “You guys gave us our start, without you guys I don’t know how Jurassic 5 would have turned out.”
Continuing, the rapper begins to reminisce. “We wasn’t even that well known in our own backyard, we were still in the trenches just trying to make a name for ourselves. But when we put out our first single somehow it got over there and you guys just took to it, man, like wildfire.”
A bridging gap between the so-called ‘golden age’ sound and more modern techniques, Jurassic 5 occupy a unique place in the hip-hop pantheon. Steadfastly underground yet achieving some measure of crossover success, the group is a perfect example in how to have your cake and eat it. Probing Zaakir on some of his favourite new rappers, the MC delivered some all-important Rock & Rules for those new to the game.
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Don’t Believe The Hype
You got Kendrick Lamar – I just heard he went platinum. That’s insane, and he’s a California guy like myself. Then you’ve got people like Joey Bada$$ who’s making noise. A few other new cats, new guys who are doing their things. What I do is I usually sit back and look at how it unfolds. I don’t get too hype about anybody, but then again I also make sure that I don’t mis-credit anybody before they actually get a chance to build their legacy. I sit back and wait.
Use Something Of Everything
When I’m looking for stuff I’m looking for something of everything. A deep sound, definitely what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. I’m not caught up on content if it’s good. My thing is not like you have to be saying something. I don’t want to hear the uplifting stuff, I like to hear a variety of stuff. If it’s ignorant and dumb and good then I like it. I’ve been ignorant and dumb a lot in my life, so I can relate. But then if we’re talking about something with some substance – if it’s done right – then I like that also.
Know Your Roots
California is where I was born and raised. This is my place where I set my roots, so California means everything to me as far as how I grew up, what I learned, the people I met, the things I experienced. If it wasn’t for California I would be a totally different cat. For good or bad, I don’t know.
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Look Beyond Your Own Environment
The segregation thing that people are used to, I didn’t grow up like that. When I heard James Brown – James Brown wasn’t from California but he just made good music. When I heard Otis Redding or Run DMC I just liked what I was doing. I didn’t have to like them just because they were from my town. If somebody from my town is good then cool, but if there are people from my town I don’t like then I don’t listen to their stuff. I like the fact that people are getting opportunities to do what they need to do. But the segregation of it, that element of it? I couldn’t care less. I just want to hear the music, man; I don’t give a damn where you’re from. If you’re doing stuff that I can relate to then that’s what I’m in it for. I want to hear your creative side and if I’m interested in that then of course I want to get to know what’s going on with you a little bit deeper. Let me get into it, let me go digging.
Know Your History
Hip-hop don’t like to deal with history a lot of the time. I think we’re the only genre of music that doesn’t salute its pioneers, man. When you listen to rock music I can listen to new cats and start hearing Zeppelin, Def Leppard, Black Sabbath. You won’t get anyone saying that those guys are old and washed up. They don’t say that – those are the legends! But with us, you don’t get that.
The people change, but the times stay the same. Monday through Sunday always comes – you’ve yet to see a new day of the week. Sun come up, sun go down. It rains sometimes, it’s sunny sometimes. The people do change, and that’s to be expected. If you’re doing something cool and creative then people get with it – that’s evolution. You need to take what you’ve heard, your foundation, and put your spin on it. You learn from them and you put it on top. Putting words over beats is nothing new. We can go down a list of who done it before you, who was successful and who wasn’t. You not doing nothing new as far as that; you just put your own spin on it and if it’s good then people rock with you.
You Can’t Please Everyone
The old saying is, "You can’t please everyone". I couldn’t tell a person exactly their situation because everybody’s different, and sometimes you have people who can relate to a few different things. People might just relate strictly to them talking about getting money. Then somebody else wanna hear about being positive. Somebody else want to hear about getting money and being positive. You never know – you just do your thing and then once you put your creative vibe out there’s nothing you can do after that.
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Catch Jurassic 5 at Lovebox in London this weekend (July 19th - 21st) - more information here.
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