Jeru The Damaja & Afu-Ra’s Lyrics Still Kick Like Kung-Fu 20 Years Later (Audio)
The Wu-Tang Clan weren’t the only Hip-Hop crew flexing a Kung-Fu style in the early 1990s. On Jeru The Damaja’s celebrated 1994 debut, The Sun Rises In The East, he introduced the Perverted Monks squad. The head of that group, Afu Ra, impressed with an ill appearance on the joint “Mental Stamina.” Meanwhile, the rest of the Monks were just voices in the background of the “Perverted Monks In Tha House (Skit).” However, just as Jeru had been a thorough, multi-faceted introduction for Gang Starr on their third and fourth albums, so was Afu-Ra.
“Pugilistic linguistics / Check out the mystics, we’re fant-istic (You mean fantastic) / F*ck it, you’ll get your ass kicked / Challenge my verbal gymnastics (Vanacrobatics) / Vocabulary calisthenics, can’t under- / Stand, the mathematics are esoteric / Watch the style, but also peep the lyrics / My lightning, my thunder, way back I stomped out,” spit ‘Ru on the song, using his cadence to the fullest and breaking down words. Afu followed in the second verse with, “Influential, scientifical power / My mental violence will shower / Devour, at a crazy rate I’m speedin’ through your circuits / And I perforate ya data banks Stamina in the brain is how I slay it / I enforce my voice and I always must obey it.” The advanced styles sounded great alongside one another.
Afu, a formally trained martial arts student, also made a cameo on Jeru’s 1996 sophomore, Wrath Of The Math, on “Physical Stamina.” The song was a continuation in the series, among several for Jeru. However, on that Payday Records LP, Heads did not get a taste of the rest of the Perverted Monks monastery. Afu also made a memorable appearance alongside Jeru in the martial arts-inspired “Ya Playin’ Yaself” music video. The master and the student joined forces to defeat the evil forces in the universe as ‘Ru attacked who he considered Rap’s violators.
Keeping the tradition flowing, Afu led off the sequel with, “Physical paralysis, open your chest like a chalice / MCs couldn’t strike movements we wish to brandish / I’m tormentin’, mind states lyrical warrior I flow through, f*ck the mic I fuckin’ floor ya / Headlocks and arm-locks, necks is gettin’ broken / No jokin’, format’ll leave your whole borough smokin’ / Fist of five rings, I fling MCs to the gutter / Samurai sharp, more deadly than box-cutters / Ultimate, as I emit your death blow / Perverted Monks, and Jeru with the combo.” With slick timing, The Damaja followed: “Peter Piper picked peppers, and Run rocked rhymes but now he rock hymns / I got G through my meridians / The physical extremities Indomitable / The spirit can’t be broken But jaws are broken / And even backs are broken / Think you’re on point, well let your points of pressure open / Foot and fist got your head hangin’ open / The breath rebirth I damage in the mental and physical universe / You quake the earth when you hit face-first.” This Big Apple tag-team had the competition on the mat.
All three aforementioned songs were produced by DJ Premier, who mentored Jeru alongside his Gang Starr partner, Guru. Even during a period when Jeru had stepped away from the Gang Starr Foundation, Preemo and Guru remained focused with Afu. After a deal with Gee Street, the New Yorker signed to D&D Studios’ label, entrenching him, Krumbsnatcha, and Craig G right alongside Gang Starr’s Midtown Manhattan creative space.
Following the second “Stamina” record, fans would have to wait another four years for Afu’s 2000 debut, Body Of The Life Force. In addition to heavy Preemo production, DJ Muggs, Da Beatminerz, and Tru Master got down for the cause. As for the original Perverted Monks crew, Heads only got to hear one other member of the clique on that release. A-Sun performed the poem on “Intro (Body of the Life Force).” Quietly, a P.M. compilation dropped in 2004.
In an odd twist of fate, Jeru The Damaja was absent from Afu-Ra’s series of solo releases. At a time when the Crooklyn Dodgers alum was distant from his former circle, Afu linked with O.G.’s such as GZA, Big Daddy Kane, and M.O.P., in addition to Premier. However, the two linked for Ghost Dog’s “East New York Stamp” in Y2K.
In recent years, in the name of Gang Starr Foundation, Heads got a fresh taste of Jeru and Afu, alongside Big Shug. The three MCs came together fittingly “3 Evil Masterz” (embedded below), a 2016 video single, promoting Afu’s brand new effort coming November 5 called Mazterchef. Heads can also check brand new video single, “Don’t Give A F#ck.”
One of Gang Starr’s most talented disciples helped give Hip-Hop another lyrical shogun. It’s great to see these MCs still making each other sound great, in two careers that have lots of stamina.
#BonusBeat: The “3 Evil Masterz” video by Afu-Ra, Jeru The Damaja, and Big Shug: