“You’re learnin’ while the turntable turnin’ people should know me more than for just the verbal Herman … Munster, what?” – Chali 2na on “Comin’ Thru”
Chali 2Na. It’s unlikely that most people know how to pronounce the name, much less know who exactly this man is. Unless you’re a Jurassic 5 fan or underground hip-hop head, it’s unlikely that the name Chali 2Na rings a bell. However, one listen to his trademark baritone delivery and most listeners get that déjà vu feeling of “I’ve heard this before?”. They’re probably right, thanks to his 14 years in the game as one sixth of the legendary west coast group, Jurassic 5.
If he has his way, all of this will change starting in the summer of 2009, when the man known affectionately by his fans as the verbal Herman Munster, Chali 2Na will release his highly anticipated debut solo album, entitled Fish Outta Water, independently. Hopefully this will finally give listeners the opportunity to get to really know who Chali 2Na is, as a person and artist. “I’m basically striving to be an all around artist and not just be known for that verbal Herman Munster from Jurassic 5 that people would point me out as,” states 2Na. “It’s striving, so to speak, to be an ambassador to the brand. That’s the mission that I’m on.”
Fish Outta Water is an appropriate title for the rapper who helped found and helm two of the most distinct and influential groups in hip-hop — Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli. After more than a decade of being a team player, he’s out to become the big fish in the sea for the first time in his career. When you listen to him speak about the transition, it’s easy to see that the change is something he welcomes with open arms. “Being like one sixth of a group or a part of any groups, you’re kind of limited to what you can show at any given time about yourself as an artist. As a solo artist now, I have a lot more room to express myself and show you different sides of me,” declares 2Na, with the same confidence that he uses when he delivers thought provoking rhymes.
He’s excited and you can hear it in his voice. The former Jurassic 5 member has all the right in the world to be hyped about this project. Unbeknownst to many fans, this solo album has been in the makings for several years and is just now coming to fruitation after a lengthy period of label difficulties. When asked about why fans are just now getting the chance to hear his solo debut, Chali explains quickly and candidly, “I kind of always wanted to do it, especially during the halfway point … I was fortunate to be signed as a solo artist by Interscope Records because of my involvement in both of the bands. So I thought I was going to get a chance to do it there, but it all turned out that I had to leave. Now I’m on my own with Deacon Records. So it took a minute because of really red tape more so than anything else.”
Label politics and behind the scenes red tape are nothing new for hip-hop artists. It really doesn’t matter if it’s a new cat trying to get his sound out to the world or an established veteran with a solid fan base, at some point, and more often than not, this monster will rear its ugly head. The hard part is being smart enough to know how to roll with the punches and maneuver in order to keep things going forward.
Being the veteran operator that he is, 2Na used his involvement with Jurassic 5 to his advantage, securing himself a deal as a solo artist. After he and his group’s departure from Interscope, they quickly found a home at Decon Records to release some of their music, and he used that relationship to help forge a relationship for his own solo career with an independent label that he quickly became a fan of. “It’s just a beautiful situation to see an independent record label going like this. I told them I was doing this project and that if they wanted to get down then holler at your guy and they hollered,” recalls 2Na.
With the new label, 2Na believes that he is in the right situation to ready himself on the solo tip. “On the surface level the main root of it all is just the splits of it all. With an independent label, it’s like being in a classroom that ain’t overpopulated. You have more attention being put on from a personal perspective, as opposed to it being a product that is kicked out from a massive machine. That sh** feels great.”
With the foundation set for Fish Outta Water, 2Na has gone to work enlisting a top notch supporting cast of features and production including Damien and Stephen Marley, Beenie Man, Talib Kweli, Elzhi, Scott Storch, Jake One, Cut Chemist, and Vitamin D.
This summer Chali 2Na and Decon Records plan to drop an album that will have a blend of something for both J5 heads and something that will attract new listeners who aren’t as familiar with the veteran. If all things go as planned, the rapper known as the ambassador of Jurassic 5 will finally succeed in branching off from people’s perception and letting fans get a deeper glimpse into his individual physce. In response what this solo debut will encompass 2Na states (in his usual cooler than cool demeanor): “It’s just really more so to just show me as a diamond, rather than one facet of who I am. My artistic inspiration, period, is just a drive to try to create something and see it through, and to be able to step back and just look at it or listen to it and feel like ‘I’ve created something that’s good.”
Fish Outta Water is finally due to hit stores July 7. Pre-order it on Amazon.com.
You can catch Chali 2NA on the road this summer for Guerilla Union’s Rock The Bells tour. For dates and info, click here.