The Jungle Brothers
When people recall the founders of the Native Tongues (the highly influential Afrocentric hip hop collective from the late ’80s to mid ’90s), they usually think of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and the Jungle Brothers…in that order. The former two are among the most highly beloved and celebrated hip hop groups of all time. The latter is a highly forgotten and under-appreciated after thought.
It’s quite a shame that outside of hardcore hip hop heads, not many people know of the Jungle Brothers. Composed of rappers Afrika Baby Bam (homage to Afrika Bambaataa) and Mike Gee and producer Sammy B., they were one of the most influential hip hop groups of the late ’80s and early ’90s. They are the ones that introduced the members of A Tribe Called Quest to De La Soul. They are the ones that gave A Tribe Called Quest their group name. They were paving the way for jazz rap and instrumental experimentation before Tribe or De La ever released an album.
the jungle brothers (left to right): afrika baby bam, sammy b., mike gee
So why have they been so underrated? It’s hard to explain. Hip hop critics will concede that their first two albums Straight out the Jungle and Done by the Forces of Nature are definite classics. Yet in spite of all this, the J Beez (as they’re commonly called) never managed to garner much commercial appeal. Of the first three albums that consist of their canon, two were commercial flops. Perhaps it’s because they were even more experimental in their music than Tribe or De La. But for whatever reason, they never gained mainstream success.
Which of course is a shame, because their music is brilliant, with it’s own distinct style. That’s why I think this post is very timely. What better time than Black History Month to inform people about one of the most Afrocentric music groups to ever approach the mic.
Love live the J Beez!