Although the crowd size wasn’t worthy of their legendary status in hip hop, Getintothis’ Neil Docking caught their infectious energy.
Few things are worse before a gig than the fear that there will be more people onstage than in the crowd. Sadly, that was the scenario which greeted Jungle Brothers at the Kazimier – where a handful of hip hop heads sat apprehensively, while a solitary DJ tried his best to work up an atmosphere. The audience was bolstered in dribs and drabs, yet approaching 10pm, there still couldn’t have been more than 50 or 60 people in the venue.
Thankfully Jungle Brothers are consummate professionals, and seemingly just as enthusiastic today as at the beginning of their 27-year career. Dispelling any fears, Mike Gee bounded onstage. “Don’t worry about the numbers,” he said. “As long as we’re together, we’ll have a good time.” He was right.
Joined by DJ Sammy B and his rhyming partner Afrika Baby Bam, the pair of MCs launched into Braggin’ and Boastin’ and then Straight out the Jungle, the title track from their 1988 debut album, with its opening lines: “Educated man, from the motherland, you see, they call me a star but that’s not what I am, I’m a jungle brother, a true, blue brother, and I’ve been to many places you’ll never discover”. With that the crowd came alive – moving to the front and responding in kind to their host’s infectious energy.
Spitting over the Mandrill funk sample Mango Meat, the duo’s charisma filled any gaps in the room, with Mike Gee bopping back and forth in cargo pants and a black t-shirt, while ABB strutted around in jeans and a slick leather jacket. They followed up with another smash from the same record, the boastful Because I Got It Like That, temporarily riding over Billy Squier’s The Big Beat, the self-explanatory big beat sampled by Dizzee Rascal on Fix Up, Look Sharp.
There was no let-up as tracks rolled straight from one into the other, the pairing promising to rock “on and on until the early morning” on 2000 cut Early Morning – pausing only to down some shots bought by an appreciative fan. Next was the funky Brain, the Roots-produced single from their 1997 Raw Deluxe, and an acapella breakdown, with ABB providing the human beatbox and Mike Gee giving his all, despite explaining he was suffering from a sore throat.
By this stage it seemed the crowd had doubled in size, but that could have been because most people were dancing like they were having the time of their lives. The party was in full flow and Doin’ Our Own Dang was the backdrop – the house music influenced collaboration with their former Native Tongues collective pals, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.
Another early classic, On The Run, soon rumbled by, before ABB showcased his best moonwalk and Mike Gee skanked to the finger-snapping, hand-clapping Feeling Alright, a ridiculously upbeat highlight of 1989’s Done By The Forces Of Nature – complete with Afrika’s scat-singing outro.
The Jungle Brothers made their name by embracing and successfully incorporating so many different sounds beyond hip hop into their music, which was illustrated in a formidable genre-crossing salvo. First up was their highest charting single, the dancefloor filler What U Waitin’ 4.
Then came a rendition of I’ll House You, the Todd Terry produced track known for being the first ‘hip-house’ song recorded outside of Chicago, which became an international club hit in the summer of 1988. The pair then took things forward nearly a decade, performing Jungle Brother (True Blue) – a song which was given a jungle remix by Aphrodite and Micky Finn, becoming an all-time drum ‘n’ bass anthem.
To see two such talented rappers not only acknowledge this version of their hit, but adapt their delivery to match its frenetic pace and not miss a step, was something truly special. “10th round, and still catching that beat down…” The energy in the room was now off the charts, which the J Beez capitalised on with a party effort, V.I.P., some more filthy drum ‘n’ base, and an airing of The Jungle, The Brother.
Before wrapping things up the duo returned to their classic hip hop, providing a blast of their playful ode to manhood, Jimbrowski.
They ended proceedings with an extended lyrical salute and plenty of thanks – posing for pictures with fans who had made the wise decision not to miss a legendary group in action.