September 23, 2009

Jurassic 5 - Power In Numbers (October 8, 2002)

That's not the cover of my version of this album, but we'll run with it anyway. (For the record, I own the blue one.)

Power In Numbers is the third album from six-man collective Jurassic 5, and their second for Interscope Records. The team of Chali 2na, Akil, Zaakir, Mark 7even, and their deejays Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist, were riding high off of the surprising success of their mainstream debut, Quality Control, which somehow managed to please both critics and the folks that bought the damn thing.

Power In Numbers is akin to a movie sequel that begins right after the events of the preceding film, as its introductory track uses the same music that ended Quality Control. While it is generally seen as a successful continuation of the fun music that they mastered, I look at Power In Numbers as a more aggressive project, one which is much darker in tone. The album cover appears to be promoting a revolution of some sort, and the J5 respond in kind, as if they're trying to prove to their audience that they are capable of more that the affable passing back-and-forth of the mic.

Chali 2na remains the lead voice of the crew, not by choice but by mere distinction, as he has the voice that you could pick out of a lineup, but Akil, Zaakir, and Marc 7even all step up a bit, so as not to get lost in the shuffle. This time around, they sprinkle storytelling, self-esteem, and atypical (for them) hip hop bombast into their tracks, while Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark work around them to provide organic beats that were made from composted remains of other beats. Although these two produced Quality Control in its entirety, they cede production duties on three occasions to outside influences, allowing the J5 to show the world their skills at adaptation.

And so.

Even though this intro is a direct continuation of the last track that we heard off of Quality Control, it already comes off as darker than that previous project. So, in that respect, "This Is" sets the tone effectively, I suppose.

I found this song, which focuses on the concept of freedom, what it actually means, and those who fight for it on a regular basis (although, I have to say, today's armed forces aren't mentioned at all - does this mean Jurassic 5 are against the war?), faulty in its execution, but its heart is in the right place. DJ Nu-Mark's beat isn't a call to arms or anything especially revolutionary: it just is, and the rappers all do what they can.

This was fairly dull, as it sounded like one of the most boring J5 songs off of their debut EP/LP. The fact that this was produced by Juju, of The Beatnuts, shows more promise for Juju than anything else, as he proves that he can adapt to any artist's style. But still, yeah, this sucked.

Ah, now that's more like it. Cut Chemist's beat features hard-hitting drums, which wrap themselves around both the melody and your subconscious, and Chali, Akil, Zaakir, and Marc 7even all rip shit as if their internal alarm clocks buzzed them out of a good dream and they're all pissed about it. Sure, it sounds like an outtake from Quality Control, but a lot of Quality Control rocked, so that comparison isn't detrimental at all.

A deejay interlude featuring music, sampled dialogue, and absolutely no rhyming. Interesting the first time around, but you're forgiven if you never want to hear it again.

The Jurassic 5 rhyme over what could double as the score to an unnamed blaxploitation flick, and its hurried pace is matched evenly with each verse. To my knowledge, this is the first real Jurassic 5 song that featured actual name-brand guest stars, but strangely, the weakest link on here is Big Daddy Kane himself, as he simply sounds overwhelmed, and yet he still sounds alright, which is a testament to how well crafted this song actually is. Percee P fits right in to the proceedings, which was nice.

The false start is kind of hilarious, as if the song itself was interrupted during the recording process, but this track is anything but funny. Everybody tries to recall the identity of a murder victim and, at the same time, we're taken through their thought processes as they attempt to rationalize the death. Pretty interesting.

I remember this song being used in a Sprite commercial around the time Power In Numbers was released. This first single deviated from the sound of Quality Control, but the rhymes are as playful as ever. I have to say that the hook sounds forced, as though it was an imposition from the label. Even so, this still sounds pretty good today.

Jurassic 5 were, apparently, aiming for radio airplay with their love song, even enlisting Nelly Furtado to sing on it. While she does a good job, pre-Timbaland makeover, Interscope Records apparently thought otherwise, replacing her with Mya for the radio edit, as if Mya would somehow sell more records. They're both cute, but they're not interchangeable, people! Anyway, given the former's recent success and the latter's inadvertent slide into obscurity, I'm sure the label was kicking themselves for that stupid move, as the original track was good as is.

Brings Power In Numbers back on track, with its steady drums, dialogue samples, and the playful interchange between Marc 7even and Zaakir, who handle the track all by themselves.

The other two rappers, Akil and Chali 2na, get their own track to balance out the universe. Chali, unsurprisingly, rips the shit out of Nu-Mark's banging production, leaving Akil to sweep up the debris. The hook is a bit too wordy, but it relays a good message, so I'll let it slide.

A weird interlude featuring Kool Keith (and nobody else) spitting an acapella verse with his trademark bizarre imagery (as you may have expected, he starts rhyming about bugs at one point). To this day, I still have no idea why Jurassic 5 included an interlude from a guy who wasn't even in the group, but it's an interesting diversion, and hey, Kool Keith doesn't make many appearances on major label projects, so there you go.

Darker and grimier (slightly, anyway) than any other J5 track to date, thanks to Juju's second of two production efforts and his lyrical contribution, of which some of the bars are pretty funny. The crew step up to the task, though, and even if they aren't the most convincing, they turn in respectable performances.

This was a failed experiment, but it was a noble effort. Unfortunately, "Hey" sounds like the J5 entrusted their producer, the Sa-Ra Creative Partners, to thrust them into the crowded adult-contemporary-hip hop ring populated by the likes of Mojoe, the Nappy Roots, the regular Roots Crew, and a handful of Outkast's songs, and the shit simply doesn't fucking work.

I didn't care for this song. Positive messages are nice, but so is entertaining music.

A deejay cut sequenced as the (incredibly long) outro, not unlike how they did in Quality Control. It was nice, but I probably won't need to hear it ever again.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Power In Numbers plays like how Quality Control would have sounded, had the Jurassic 5 been a little bit bitter about their place in the hip hop genre, and their aggression was shaped into the presented lyrics and themes. The music, mostly provided by group members DJ Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist, is almost consistently entertaining, but the crew slips up a bit whenever an outside factor is introduced (with the exception of "One Of Them" and Percee P's verse on "A Day At The Races"). Chali 2na extends the distance between himself and the rest of the crew (lyrically, at least), but Akil, Zaafir, and Marc 7even all manage to shine in their own way, or at least much more so than they ever did previously. Power In Numbers is a worthy addition to your library, especially if you're one of the few who already bought Quality Control and are looking for a bookend.

BUY OR BURN? If you enjoyed Quality Control, you should purchase this one immediately. If you've never listened to any J5 music, this probably isn't the best introduction to the crew, but you'll be entertained, so fuck it, you should also buy it.

BEST TRACKS: "Sum Of Us"; "One Of Them"; "What's Golden"; "Thin Line"; "Break"; "High Fidelity"; "Remember His Name"


Other Jurassic 5 projects can be discussed here.


  1. I thought the others stepped up massively. Its like j5 didn't know weither to make a Low End Theory styled album or Midnight Marardaurs. odd two different covers (I got the sunny one), kinda fit the stupid extremes of the album at different points, mess although the songs were good.

  2. You put High Fidelity twice, and in the actual review you name a song "Remember His Name", but you wrote "Remember The Name" in the best songs?

  3. oh yeah, and review 2pac

  4. Ringpeace, I wish I could say that I loved "High Fidelity" so much that I think everyone should listen to it twice, but the reality is, nearly two straight months of writing, listening to something different every day, is taking its toll.

    Corrections have been made. Thanks for letting me know.

  5. I've put off trying them for too long.