Regular gig goers will tell you that hip-hop shows are a precarious beast. To borrow a line or two of the American bard Longfellow from his ode about the girl with the curl, when they are good they are very good but when they are bad they are horrid. The same seasoned punters had no hesitation in snapping up the tickets for Jurassic 5’s return to these shores however. They come with a very strong live reputation and they’re back in the game and back on the road after their split in 2007 so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when a second date was added and heavily subscribed to after the initial date sold out.
It feels almost sinful to be leaving the sunny June streets of the Liberties behind as we enter the darkened environs of Vicar St for the Handsome Paddy warm up slot but nothing says summer like old-school hip hop beats and J5 can be counted on to bring some of that urban, asphalt melting, LA sunshine to the proceedings. Once the stage has been cleared, Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark hit the decks. They lay down the break beat grooves as the four MCs take to the stage. Each coming on, one at a time, rapping and toasting as they’re given riotous welcomes from the assembled hoard.
The four voices effortlessly combine. Their distinctive styles completing each other, Chali 2na’s booming baritone lays the foundation for Marc 7 to spit out his rhymes, each one hitting its mark with a bang. Zaakir provides the soulful side and Akil skanks and skulks around like the original upsetter Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry until he pops centre stage and busts some b-boy moves. Make no mistake Dublin, this is an old-school block party and the fun’s only begun.
Hopping, skipping and jumping through their back catalogue like double-dutching kids jumping rope, the older tracks like ‘Jayou’ receive the loudest cheers, with the biggest reception of the night rightly reserved for the stone cold classic ‘Concrete Schoolyard’. J5 haven’t commented too much on the reasons for their split but if it was due to bad blood between the boys then those days are well and truly behind them. You couldn’t fake the warmth and fraternal love that emanates from the stage as their interplay carries us through the night. Complete with cheesy dance moves they are, at times, in danger of coming across like a stoner 1D but that just adds to the general exuberance.
When they hit ‘Baby Please’ later in the set, the vocal lines weave and dance around each other as they, cool the proverbial cucumber, drop their rhymes around their marks. The four MCs slip and slide on the beat creating a sonic loop guaranteed to catch you up and catch you out in its flow. The overall effect is hypnotic and the constant hits leave us dizzy and delirious in its wake.
Bar a few technical glitches on the Monday night which shortened Cut Chemist’s and DJ Nu-Marks toe-to-toe DJ battle, J5 deliver a pretty much flawless performance. There’s a bit of cod-ology and play acting on stage with a giant turntable and portable decks to liven up proceedings but apart from that it’s a stripped back gimmick free show that lets the beats and raps do the talking. There’s “no rabbit in a hat tricks, just that classic rap shit from Jurassic”. On nights like this that’s more than enough.
Jurassic 5 photographed for State by Derek Kennedy.