After releasing their debut album Straight Out The Jungle on the independent label (Warlock Records) which accumulated into lackluster records sales (but what more would you expect from an independently released hip-hop album? Especially from the late eighties?), the Jungle Brothers struck a deal with Warner Brother Records where they would release their next two albums before
getting dropped parting ways with the label that Prince built and fading into hip-hop obscurity (for the most part), but I digress. Today we’ll be focusing on the JB’s sophomore effort, Done By The Forces Of Nature.
I think I might have mentioned this in the write-up of their first album, but I’ll say it again: I love the Native Tongue. They might just be the greatest hip-hop collective of all-time. But I’ve never been crazy about the Jungle Brothers. My purchase of their catalog is/was mostly out of love for fellow NT groups De La Soul, and firstly, A Tribe Called Quest…and with the exception of their debut, they were all purchased used for under $3. That’s not to say they’re terrible or don’t have any good songs. Matter of fact their debut was pretty decent. The problem is they’re clearly out matched in talent when compared to their Native brethren.
Needless to say, based on that (and what I remember from this album) I’m not too excited about doing this write up, but I’ve reminded myself it’s not about the journey but the destination (yes, I remixed that slogan…whatever it takes to get through, man).
By The Way… has anybody seen recent pics of Baby Bam? WTF?
Beyond This World – In true Jungle Brothers fashion, the JB’s kick off the show with abstract lyricism over a barely decent instrumental. Not much to see (or hear) here folks.
Feelin’ Alright – Lets get one thing clear upfront: neither Mike Gee or Afrika are great lyricist, so don’t expect a bunch of hip-hop quotables from the duo. Over a simple but effective instrumental the duo spit random rhymes about what makes them feel good. Afrika’s story about getting to work early only to be met with the pleasant surprise in the form of a raise and a 2 month vacation time was pretty amusing. Fairytales aside, this would have been decent had they not added in the duo’s out of tune singing during the chorus.
Sunshine – The JB’s ode to the sunshine… (and no they didn’t sample Roy Ayers’ song of the same name), in it the physical form and metaphorically. Mike Gee and Afrika come across as straightforward as they have up to this point, and this is a good thing. The true star of this song is the laid back instrumental. I love the tribal chant sample used over the chorus. Nice.
What “U” Waitin’ “4”? – Picking up where “House You” left off, the JB’s make another one for the dance floor. Although it’s not as enjoyable as “House You” it turns out to be a solid hip-hop dance track (wow, it felt kind of weird saying that). Mike Gee and Afrika don’t turn in any memorable lines, but the instrumental mix of funk and jazz is a nearly perfect mix.
“U” Make Me Sweat – The title might make you believe this is going to be another dance track. Instead it turns out to be a dedication to the ladies of their lives, that sweat them. The funk instrumental sounds like a generic EPMD rip off, qualifying this as skippable.
Acknowledge Your Own History – The JB’s use this one as a call for the black man to “do the knowledge” (i.e. learn your history), while also exposing some of the lies blacks are fed from “his story”. Mike Gee and Afrika provide some of their best lyrics up to this point, but unfortunately the instrumental did nothing to help their rhymes stand out. Random fact to note: Vinia Mojica makes her first (of many to come) vocal appearance on a Native Tongue crew song.
Belly Dancin’ Dina – Mike Gee and Afrika paint a tale about, well, a belly dancer named Dina. This was cool, the most interesting part of the song is the bass line sample used during the hook (which MC Breed would later make popular on his “Future In Ya Frontin” hit). That’s all I got.
Good Newz Comin’ – Interlude…which at nearly 5 minutes is way too long for anyone’s good.
Done By The Forces Of Nature – Mike Gee and Afrika sound pretty good over this subdued jazzy instrumental, which also happens to be the title track. And you know how I feel when the title song of an album is solid.
Beeds On A String – Wow. Nothing to see here, folks. Moving on.
Tribe Vibes – This one did nothing for me. But KRS-One does make a brief cameo towards the end, so that should count for something, right?
J-Beez Comin’ Through – This JB’s instrumental starts off with a playful piano sample (that sounds like something De La Soul would have used), only to disappear for the bulk of the song and reemerge as the song fades to black. I happened to love the piano sample so the song loses it’s luster when the sample disappears.
Black Woman – Caron Wheeler of Soul II Soul fame gives an assist with a vocal contribution over the hook for this JB’s ode to the black women. I’ve always liked this song and it still sounds good today. I love you momma!
In Dayz “2” Come – The JB’s are in apocalyptic mode as they spit rhymes about the end times. I actually like this song as it doesn’t come off too preachy. It also helps that I love the instrumental, including the soothing flutes. Nice.
Doin’ Our Own Dang – The JB’s invite fellow Native Tongue members De La Soul, Q-Tip, Monie Love, and Latifah into the studio for this posse cut. Other than Posdnous no one else turns in memorable verses, but it was nice to hear from some of the other members of the NTs (or maybe I just needed a break from Mike Gee and Afrika). Overall this was decent.
Kool Accordin’ “2” A Jungle Brother – Afrika reminds me of MC Serch on “Flippin’ Off The Wall Like Lucy Ball” as he’s in full clown mode over this laid back jazz/bluesy track. Afrika’s not as funny as Serch, but it was cool.
Done By The Forces Of Nature solidifies why the JB’s in my book always will be at the bottom of the Native Tongue totem pole. With the exception of maybe 5 songs, Done By The Forces is underwhelming and makes for a tedious listen (take that as a warning all those with short attention spans). Neither Mike Gee or Afrika’s voices or lyrical contributions will hold your attention for too long, which would have been kind of nice since the beats don’t either. If this is what I have to look forward to for the rest of the JB catalog the future looks pretty bleak. Oh, well… I guess I do owe the JB’s a thank you for opening the door for ATCQ and De La. There is always a bright side, even if you sometimes have to search for it with a microscope.
An important element in hip hop is timing. If the jungle brothers debut would have came out just two months later, it would be in the same boat with albums like the krown rulers “Paper Chase” and JVC Force’s “Doin’ Damage, obscure and forgotten. Not to say they were wack, but not even close to De la, Tribe, or Black Sheep. Having Red Alert in the family gave them more exposure also. I was disappointed with this album at the time I bought it.
One of the best hip hop albums ever made in my opinion
You must be insane. This album is a hip hop classic.
I recently discovered your blog site and have enjoyed reading your reviews, even if I don’t agree in many instances with your thoughts on this albums. I do wish you would place albums in their context in terms of technique and technological developments. Sure, some albums have not aged well, but that wouldn’t have been the case at the time, and it’s pity this element in missing in many of your reviews.