Let me start by saying this: I am a Native Tongue Stan. A Tribe Called Quest is my favorite hip-hop group of all-time (key word, group) with De La Soul falling somewhere in my top 10. Black Sheep, Queen Latifah, Monie Love and others would also go on to rep the Native Tongue Posse as well, with varying success. But it’s safe to say, there would be no Native Tongue without the foundation, the Jungle Brothers.
My first introduction to the Jungle Brothers was on “Buddy” from De La Soul’s debut album 3 Feet High And Rising, later discovering they had released their debut album the previous year. Jungle Brother members, Mike G, Afrika Baby Bam, and deejay Sammy B, released their debut Straight Out The Jungle on the independent label Warlock Records, in November of 1988. Despite Afrika Baby Bam’s terrible alias (which is homage to the Godfather of hip-hop, Afrika Bambaata), Straight Out The Jungle was highly acclaimed, and is recognized as one of the first hip-hop albums to fuse jazz samples with hip-hop. And like most highly acclaimed hip-hop albums, its praise didn’t translate to high records sales. It did generate enough of a buzz to get Warner Brothers interested, which led to a deal with the major label, where the next two JB albums would be released.
But for now, I’m only concerned with Straight Out The Jungle. Let’s give it a listen to see if it is worthy of all the praise that has been draped upon it.
Straight Out The Jungle – The JB’s kick things off by spitting verses about life in the concrete jungle. You’ll recognize a few hip-hop quotables from Mike G and Afrika that have been used in several other artists songs. This was a nice way to start the show.
What’s Going On? – The opening songs is a nice segway into this song, as Afrika and Mike G share stories about lifestyle choices (and the situations that led to said choices), which leads them to the proverbial question asked in the title. Mike G and Afrika do an excellent job covering serious subject matter while balancing the type rope that teeters between serious and playful. The JB’s borrow from Marvin Gaye’s song of the same title, and add a jazzy horn sample on the hook, which reminds me of a time that I miss. Two for two, nice start.
Black Is Black – Q-Tip (from the legendary A Tribe Called Quest) joins the JB’s to speak on black history and the light skin/dark skin issue that plagued the black community (and still does to a lesser degree) in the 80’s. The Abstract Poetic (who at one point went by the alias of J-Nice, but changed it to Q-Tip after he was told it sound to similar to LL Cool J, not to mention, it’s kind of corny) lives up to his moniker as he spits not one, but two solid verses, leaving our gracious host to share the final verse. I’m a self-proclaimed ATCQ Stan, so hearing Q-Tip utter his first recorded verse was pretty cool, but overall this song was just okay.
Jimbrowski – Over a simple but dope drum beat, the JB’s are in clown mode on this ode to “Jimbrowski”, also known as Jimmy, bozack, cactus, or dick. In classic Native Tongue fashion, Mike G and Afrika spit playful rhymes making turning this into an entertaining listen.
I’m Gonna Do You – So now that the brothers have introduced you to Jimbrowski, it’s only natural that they tell you what they plan on doing with him, right? This would be the first song, of many more to come from the Native Tongue crew, covering one of their favorite topics, skinz! Though they would go on to make some pretty memorable songs covering the same topic, this was lackluster.
I’ll House You – House music was huge in the late eighties and early nineties, and hip-hip being the prostitute that the music business made it, also attempted to cash in on it as well. I’ve always considered this song satire, poking fun at house music (similar to De La Soul’s “Kicked Out The House”), but it would go on to be one of The Jungle Brother’s most popular songs (this song was not included on the original release of this album but was added on later pressing released in 1989). I actually liked house music, so this song works for me. I’d like to think the pimp that made this song possible.
On The Run – Afrika and Mike G address the struggle of balancing family and home with life on the road, in true Native Tongue fashion. This was dope.
Behind The Bush – Another song about skinz, but unlike “I’m Gonna Do You”, this one works. Mike G and Afrika’s rhymes match the smoothness of the track, as both emcees wax poetic in their discussion on hittin’ the bush, in the bush. This was really good.
Because I Got It Like That – The JB’s kick back and have fun spitting rhymes filled with all types of randomness, and they also manage to talk a little shit. This was pretty enjoyable.
Braggin & Boastin’ – Afrika and Mike G spit their version of battle rhymes, and make sure you’re aware Sammy B is on the cut. This was pretty forgettable, but I’ll never forget who’s on the cut.
Sound Of The Safari – This is an instrumental which includes samples of sounds one my expect to hear while spending quality time in the jungle, or your local zoo.
Jimmy Bonus Track – This is a short instrumental with a vocal sample pleading with the listener not to “front on the Jimmy”…
The Promo – That turns into this. Over the same beat used on the previous song – minus the vocal sample and adding a dope horn sample – Q-Tip joins Mike G and Afrika to do exactly what the title suggest: promote the hell out of ATCQ’s debut album (he mentions Ali repeatedly, but makes no mention of Phife, what’s up with that?) while the JB’s plug their second album Done By The Forces Of Nature. Like “I’ll House You”, this was also not included on the original pressing of Straight Out The Jungle. All three emcees sound good over this beat making this a really good ending to the show.
Straight Out The Jungle is a great start to the career (although I’m not sure what’s happened to Afrika’s career. After joining the Pagan Society, dudes been on some other stuff) of one of the pioneering groups in hip-hop. Coming up in an era where most hip-hop artist were politically charged, gangsters on wax or had ball grabbing bravado, the Jungle Brothers were a nice change of pace, as they covered topics that the average brother (i.e. working class tax paying citizen) in urban america could relate to. When you add the solid beats to their relatable rhymes, you get a pretty solid effort.
Did The Source Get It Right? Props to the JB’s for ushering in a new sound of hip-hop. Props to the JB’s for giving me ATCQ and De La Soul. But unfortunately, I have to disagree with The Source’s 5 mic rating. For the most part, the production and rhymes on Straight Out The Jungle range from decent to solid but there are a few too many lackluster moments to give it a 5 mic rating. I’d go with a 4, maybe a 4.5.