Great Expectations: An Oral History of Jurassic 5’s Quality Control

Portrait of American hiphop group Jurassic 5 as they pose on a staircase, Chicago, Illinois, April 17, 2003. Pictured are, from left, Chali 2NA (born Charles Stewart), Zaakir (born Courtenay Henderson) (in light grey sweatshirt), DJ Nu-Mark (born Mark Potsic) (sitting), Akil (born Dante Givens) (center back), Cut Chemist (born Lucas Macfadden) (in dark grey, Hartford sweatshirt), and Marc 7even (born Marc Stuart). (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Tracklist

 

Marc 7: “Quality Control” started as a promo for the Wake Up Show. That was a short snippet. We were like, “We need to get back to that beat again.” I remember Cut bringing it back up. We liked it so much that we wrote the song.

Nu-Mark: For me, [my favorite song is] “Swing Set” all the way. That was a labor of love, the attention to detail on that. I remember when it came out, I felt like, “Damn, we failed. Nobody is talking about it.” Then something like four or five years later there was all this attention around it and I started hearing records that sounded like it. There was a lot of interest in DJ’s talking about it. I was being interviewed about it. It was a very late detonation.

Marc 7: “Jurass Finish First” was funny. I remember the first time we worked on that. Akil knows Ice-T. We went up to his house and tried to work on it. It didn’t quite come together, but we brought that beat out there. Ice-T wasn’t there, but he had a studio in his house when he had his house in the Hollywood Hills off Sunset. First, I was like, “Oh my God, this house is incredible.” The studio was incredible. It had a shark tank behind it. Really good dude. He definitely is a big supporter of L.A. artists. Props to Ice-T. Akil and Soup weren’t feeling that beat at all. So me and Chali took the song and went ahead with it. It’s a crowd favorite, especially performing.

Nu-Mark: I didn’t want the guys to rhyme over “Monkey Bars.” That was supposed to be an instrumental. Cut played them the beat without me knowing. [Laughs.] They were like, “Why did you hold this from us, Nu? What the hell? This shit is hard.” I was like, “What beat are you talking about?” Then they explained all the different change-ups and stuff and I was like, “Aw man. I wanted this to be an instrumental.” Things happen in the studio. But that’s the cool thing about being in a group: you get a bunch of different energies. When the synergy lines up, it’s really beautiful.

Soup: I got the last verse on “Great Expectations.” That was directed to Nu-Mark and Chali 2na. One of the members was like, “Soup dissed the group with that verse.” I was like, “That wasn’t the group. I wasn’t even thinking about you. That was directed at these two people.” And they knew it. One of the members was like, “We never addressed it.” I was like, “Well, I did.” That was that tension. The thing that I addressed was personal… I just felt Nu-Mark would prop other people’s rhymes when he heard them. I was like, “Dude, I know this rhyme is dope. Why are you giving other people no love and ain’t giving me no love?” That’s how me and him used to butt heads. Part of the rhyme dealing with him was about that. With me and Charlie, it was more of a personal thing. At the beginning, me and him would do a lot of hanging out. And then certain things that I won’t discuss transpired, and it just put a bad taste in my mouth. It may have put a bad taste in his mouth, too. I don’t know. But this is my interview. So I’m going to be biased and point the finger at other people. [Laughs.]

Cut Chemist: “Ducky Boy” didn’t make the album, but it’s on a [DJ] Babu thing called Duck Season. That was supposed to be the opening song on the record… I remember when we were in Nu-Mark’s apartment in Hollywood. We were like, “Okay guys, we are going to play you our arrangement of the album.” It was crazy. I loved it. Nu-Mark loved it. It just didn’t resonate with the guys the way it did with us. I think that maybe there was some label input about how we should do it, and then it changed. “The Influence” had a whole intro to it, like this weird doo-wop thing. It was really dusted and dope. It started with a song called “Ignition Sequence,” which I’d done this whole intro for. And then it goes into “Ducky Boy.” And then it goes into the doo-wop weirdness into “The Influence.” I don’t know what would’ve happened if the album started like that. It may have been too much. Everybody was like, “Let’s just get to the fucking songs.” [Laughs] I totally agree with them in hindsight. Nu-Mark and I were just so into the Bomb Squad and Prince Paul. We were like, “Look at this fun skit. Then after that comes another skit. And then after that skit is another skit. Then you get the song with you guys. After that, guess what? There’s another skit.” [Laughs.] The look on Akil’s face was fucking great.

 

 

The Beats

 

Nu-Mark: I’m more of a drum guy. I’ll sit and make drum packs for two months straight. I grew up being a drummer before I touched a turntable or a drum machine. It’s just my nature to curate the drums and get that right. Cut is very heavy bass lines and of course loops. It was a good marriage.

Cut Chemist: In ‘99, I think I was still on the MPC-62. I didn’t switch over to the [MPC] 2000 until 2000 or 2001. All of my J5 beats, for the most part, exist from one sample tape I did in 1994. “Concrete Schoolyard,” “Jayou,” “LAUSD,” “Day at the Races,” and “Quality Control” were on one night of me just sampling some of my records. They would resurface because the guys would be like, “Remember that beat?” Most of the material was kind of already there, and then I would add stuff, do cuts, and work around their vocals. That was all done at home.

Nu-Mark: Shafiq [Husayn] came in and did two songs on that album as well. But we were pretty much [making beats] in isolation, with the exception of “Swing Set.” We really tag-teamed that one together. That song is really special.

 

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