Jungle Brothers Are Often The Forgotten Tongues Who Helped Teach The Native Lingo (Video)
For a collective that never made an album, and rarely performed under their decided moniker, the Native Tongues’ relevancy has never waned. Despite the fact that A Tribe Called Quest has exclusively (and sporadically) been a touring group since The Love Movement, De La Soul existed without formal releases for years on end, and Queen Latifah and Monie Love made transitions to film and radio, respectively, everybody can’t stop talkin’ ’bout the Tongues.
But what about the Jungle Brothers? The New York City collective of Afrika Baby Bam, Mike Gee, and Sammy B dates back to 1987. The group’s breakthrough Straight Out The Jungle hit record store shelves in 1988, prior to their De La and Tribe counterparts. A strong fusion of Jazz, House, and Funk music, the JBeez had the remedy for stagnation in Hip-Hop’s sound and delivery. Cosigned by pioneer Kool DJ Red Alert, this outfit made incredibly advanced music that has more in common with today’s arguable Hip-Hop leaders (Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Kanye West) than many of their late ’80s peers. So why the disconnect? Perhaps for starters, the Jungle Bros. inked a deal with Idlers/Warlock Records for their most heralded works, Straight Out The Jungle and year-after carry-over, Done By The Forces Of Nature. While De La and Latifafah had one of the hottest labels of the era in Tommy Boy, Tribe was inked to Rap institution Jive/Zomba, and Leaders Of The New School, Brand Nubian, Black Sheep and Monie were in the middle of major labels themselves, the JBeez were signed to Adam Levy’s laissez-faire label who would later cultivate early discographies for Juvenile, Trick Daddy, C-Bo. Evidenced by their work with fellow late ’80s act The Tuff Crew, Warlock wasn’t suited to make household names of artists—no matter the talent.
Even with Warner Bros. Records distribution and interest, ’89’s closeout LP, Done By The Forces Of Nature is an album that makes its way onto critical lists, where it missed the Top 200. However, more than 25 years later, Sammy, Mike, and Afrika’s message on the album remains potent. Produced by Red Alert in conjunction with the trio, the LP employed samples ranging from Black Sabbath to The Undisputed Truth. Jungle Brothers were extracting elements of Zapp and Parliament on ’80s albums before G-Funk was coined, and they cleverly connected Hip-Hop to its Electronic origins as well. Baby Bam was a fitting name for a man in a group paying frequent homage to the Soulsonic Force.
1989’s “Beyond This World” is part of this sonic extension. The video, a reflection of the indie budgets, finds the group presumably in the barren Bronx, standing atop Hip-Hop’s fertile soil. Red appears in the video, which switches from black & white to color, with mixed media—a popular style in the day. The samples drive the record’s bends and turns, and the group makes timelessly applicable statements like “Better days will come / And if they don’t come / We’ll get up and make some.” Hope, pride, and strong sense of self are major themes on the trio’s first two albums, and something that should not be looked over in their understated history and influence.
Why do you think the Jungle Brothers live in the shadows of the Native Tongues story and glory?