The Jungle Brothers remains a solid and underrated pillar of hip-hop history. The trio of Afrika Baby Bam, Mike Gee, and DJ Sammy B helped usher in an era of positivity, self-knowledge, and supreme blackness. The JBs brought with them the whole damn continent of Africa, and in their classic 1988 debut, Straight Out the Jungle, they stepped up as enlightened, intelligent, and spiritual sons of the motherland surviving and thriving in the jungles of New York City. They were one of the earliest groups to provide an Afrocentric point of view to rap, which was massively influential and stood out against the gangsta, political, and bragadocious raps of the day. The group was also the first coming of the Native Tongues, a collective of artists which celebrated individuality, youthful exuberance, and good vibes, of which De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and Queen Latifah would be a part of.
So yeah, the JBs are pretty massive, and were definitely a group I idolized when I started delving deeper into older hip-hop. They’ve also had a fascinating trajectory when it comes to their work, and they really were ahead of their time in several aspects.
The JB’s second album, 1989’s Done By The Forces of Nature is one record which took me a long time to come around on. I was a HUGE fan of their debut, which, despite sounding a bit rough and dated around the edges, was full of bombastic samples, entertaining tracks, and an overall fun experience by kids clowning around in the studio. Their second record to me, was the very definition of subtle. The sound was refined, the beats less in your face, the lyrics deeper and more ingrained in Black history and African culture. It was mature and assured, and it took several plays before I realized just how strong this record was. No other rap act in ’89 was this composed and thoughtful, and this album still feels very relevant and worthy of your attention today. The JBs really had a masterpiece here, which makes it all the more unfortunate that the record never really sold all that well and the group was overshadowed by the arrival of De La Soul, leading to some animosity and some dramatic changes to their music later on.
But that’s another story though. Anyhow, tonight’s track is one of my favorite listens by the group. “Feeling Alright,” with it’s dry drum kick and wry guitar lick is the soundtrack to an ultimate feel-good day, as Afrika and Mike Gee simply talk about good things happening in their world and simply how they feel alright. Listening to this one, hell, I’m kinda envious of ’em; I wouldn’t mind spending 2 whole months in the motherland!