The Jungle Brothers Celebrate Their 30th Anniversary (Interview)

The Jungle Brothers are celebrating their 30th Anniversary! These influential hip hop pioneers, Mike Gee, Afrika Baby Bam and DJ Sammy B, transformed what was deemed normalized hip hop with innovative groundbreaking music and bold fashion statements. Jungle Brothers were the founding members of the Native Tongues collective, which consisted of De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep, Queen Latifah, Monie Love and Chi-Ali. The Native Tongues was an eccentric crew with a powerful cultural presence in hip hop.

The Jungle Brothers debuted with their album Straight Out the Jungle” in 1988. I was fascinated by the album and videos because I never heard lyrics so deep and empowering, but yet so funny and entertaining at the same time. As a teenage girl, I began to take pride in my heritage, my skin color, and our rich history as a people — all credit due to the Jungle Brothers’ lyrical content and style. One could only imagine how excited I am to interview a group that made such a major impact on the culture and my life. I’m sure there are fans across the globe who appreciate the JB’s longevity and artistry as much as I do.

Scroll down and enjoy this in-depth interview with these 3 living legends!

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INTERVIEW

DJ SAMMY B:

Who are your musical influences?

Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, Minnie Riperton, Gladys Knight, Diana Ross, and the list goes on…

How did you start DJing?

At the early age of 14, I lived with my aunt on 119th Street in Harlem. And a friend that lived across the street invited me to his house where he had a professional DJ set. I was amazed after him and his brother allowed me to play on the equipment — the love bond for spinning was created.

What was your favorite JB album and why?

“Done by the Forces of Nature”. It was a well-rounded album that touched on many life topics with a fun twist.

What made the JBs standout from other hip hop groups upon its inception?

The originality of the sound. And the fusion of hip hop and house.

Tell us about the highlight of your career with the Jungle Brothers.

Hearing our record play on Kiss 98.7 on the Red Alert show for the first time, not thinking it would take us around the world.

What advice would you give emerging hip hop DJs and producers?

Be original, learn from others, and always remain you!

How does it feel to be celebrating your 30th Anniversary?

Blessed and thankful!

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Mike Gee:

Who are your musical influences?

My greatest influence is Marin Gaye for the way he put his soul into the music, always giving you something you could feel separate from the sound itself.

How did you get your first big break in music?

We got our break from my uncle, DJ Red Alert. At the time, he was a DJ for Kiss FM in NYC and was very well-known for his promos and playing new artist. One dayhr got an ear tone of our demos and was all over it, next thing I know “Bragging and Boasting” was playing on the radio, was unreal hearing it on the radio.

How did you come up with the name the Jungle Brothers?

We were throwing out different ideas at the time for a name. And one evening, when Bam and I were on the phone, there was a big gang fight going on outside. I was living in Lefrak City, Queens at the time. When I looked out the window I said, “Its like a Jungle out here right now!” And from there we went from crew to posse to Brothers.

What’s your favorite JB album and why?

My favorite JB LP is “Straight Out the Jungle”. Not just because it was our first, but the time period in my life and hip hop also. We were both at a crossroads. There were no normals or guides to go by. And everything was raw — no social media. We were just being introduced to the world outside of NYC. Fun times.

What influenced your style of rap and fashion as hip hop artists?

Early on, we fed on the name to influence our style with the Safari gear. And later as we dug deeper into who we are as a people, and got to travel the world, that’s when we opened up our afro centric side to 1000. It’s beautiful when you can travel and see people of color everywhere!

What advice would you give emerging hip hop artists?

In today’s market, just like back in the day, it is important to surround yourself with a good team. And even more important today because the music scene moves at a very fast pace, and it’s important to have people in different positions to help keep things on the level. Study and enjoy the music and its history. With that, you’ll be teaching yourself and your audience.

Where’s your favorite place to tour overseas?

It’s hard to say what my favorite place is. But I’m looking forward to seeing more of Africa, and swinging back through UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, Holland and all the Jungles out there!

How does it feel to celebrate your 30th Anniversary?

It’s a kinda crazy. When we started out, I hadn’t really looked at what we or the music would or could do and how it’s touched so many people. Mostly, I’m grateful for the experience and happy to continue to build on it.

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Afrika Baby Bam:

Who are your musical influences?

Kool DJ Red Alert (mixes), Rakim The God (lyrics), Spoonie G (stories), T La Rock (concepts), Kool Moe Dee (attitude), Grandmaster Melle Mel (voice and delivery), Cold Crush Brothers (routines), Public Enemy (albums), Jimmy Spicer (characters), Kurtis Blow (style), Roy Ayers (music), Idris Muhammad (music), Grover Washington Jr. (music), and we can’t forget MC Lisa Lee.

Which album made you fall in love with hip hop music?

Nice & Smooth’s “Nice & Smooth”, Ultramagnetic MCs’ “Critical Beatdown”, and Eric B & Rakim’s “Paid In Full”.

How did JB come to be founding members of the Native Tongues?

We were there at the beginning when ‘supergroup’ crews and collaborations were forming, so it was an organic process. I introduced Q-Tip to De La after we did a gig with them in Boston. Red Alert saw how we had something going for a while, so he supported it and put the word out to the Violators. So where you had Jungle Brothers brought into the nation by Red Alert, you had Jungle Brothers bringing in Tribe and De La and we rolled out like that. Before that, it was BDP, Ultramagnetic MCs, Nice & Smooth and Mark the 45 King with Markey Fresh and the Violators. Red was mentoring all of us.

What was the creative process behind fusing house and hip hop for “I’ll House You”?

We slapped the record on the turntable and recorded it straight to tape. I came up with the hook first, which was a triple meaning that inspired the rest of my verses. I think I wrote maybe four lines down and freestyled the rest. It took about 20 minutes for the first verse. Hahahaha. I went out to get some chips. And when I got back, the lights were off in the studio while Mike was recording his verse. So then I went in the booth for the middle eight and final verse. And then we both went in the booth and ad-libbed to the playback. To finish off, I started cutting up records to make the middle eight and beat match percussions to make it sound more hip-hop. The whole point was to smack the shit out of that record like a pinball machine until it tilted into being just a dope record.

If you could collaborate with anyone right now, who would it be?

Lyricist G Mimms & Str8jakket.

What was your favorite JB album and why?

“Straight Out the Jungle”! It’s our first, and it was so fun making that record. The energy in New York was insane and dangerous. There were so many different things happening at the same time. It was the golden era of hip-hop!

Tell us about one of your most memorable moments on tour.

Two come to mind. Riding a bike on the round stage in the Wembley Arena to open up for the Beastie Boys. And performing at free party’s in London back in 1988. Those parties were so fun and crazy. People blowing whistles, banging on pots, blowing fire from their mouth screaming “Accciiiiid” and just off their face! It was mental. London was wild back then.

What’s the hip hop scene like overseas in comparison to the States?

The hip-hop scene in France is still true to the soul of hip-hop. Germany went from Boom Bap into gangsta rap in early 2000’s, but there’s still an appreciation for the foundation. England still has the boom bap, breakbeat, funk, and soul and still appreciates the foundation big time. Poland went in heavy with the boom bap as well. Those are the four main countries in Europe for hip hop.

What advice would you give emerging artists?

Study your craft and other artists like you’re learning it for the first time. Step out of your comfort zone to get a feel for how things are done differently. Don’t take the easy way out with songwriting. Be very patient with yourself and others.

What was the highlight of your career? Is there anything you wish you would’ve done differently?

One of the highlights of my career was meeting Kool DJ Red Alert. We see eye to eye on a lot of things instantly when it comes to music, life, and people. I had all my dreams come true as a teenager, so all the rest is cherry on top. I wish I would’ve gone back to square one and regrouped before going back on tour for the second album.

How does it feel to celebrate your 30th Anniversary? What’s next for the Jungle Brothers?

30th Anniversary has been great! Reflecting on the past while you’re in training helps you improve. Sitting down with Pop (Red Alert) listening to him has been the best. His insight is incredible. It fills in the blanks. Pop and Lil Rob have me on the floor laughing hysterically just like old times, too. I can see three pages clear as day. One says 1988, the other says 2018, and the third one is a blank page for me to fill in.

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The Jungle Brothers are without a doubt one of the most unique and innovative groups in hip hop. I’ve admired and respected their music for decades. They have promoted positivity and good vibes in their musical content. And I deeply appreciate it.

Weekly Rap Gods is honored to have the Jungle Brothers share their insight with us. We wish them a Happy 30th Anniversary. And we salute them for their amazing contribution to the culture. #KeepItJungle


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