(Published in the May 2010 issue)
Best known for being the front man of hip-hop group Jurassic 5, rap legend Chali 2na is launching his solo career with his first major album, Fish Outta Water. Featuring talents including Talib Kweli and the Marley brothers (Stephen and Damian), the new CD reveals the smooth-voiced lyricist’s deeper side.
In advance of his May 8 live performance at Soundwave in Mission Beach, Mr. 2na shares his thoughts on his new venture and life in California.
PacificSD: What made you decide to start performing by yourself?
Chali 2na: Let me say it like this, I’m a painter first and a rapper second. I just want to express myself on an artistic level. When artists from a group do a solo album, they get to do their thing and then come back to the group. We didn’t plan for J5 to break up.
Why should fans buy your new album?
2na: I wanted to do something that I had never done before. I’d never had a band before, so my intent was to create songs that felt like a live experience.
You have some great guests on your album. Who was your favorite to work with?
2na: There were so many great artists. I would say the Marleys, just on a personal level, because their father’s songs always spoke to me when I was growing up. Also, they helped me learn how to deal with all that comes with fame.
Are you happy with the current direction of the rap industry?
2na: I’ve been in the game for 15 years, so I was able to watch all this develop. The Old School was invented in my youth, and now kids have their own style. I could put it down, ‘cause it’s not my school, but the essence of hip-hop is the same-I’ve seen it give people jobs, seen it save lives, and seen it murder people.
What made you move to LA from your hometown of Chicago?
2na: My family was going through problems. My grandfather died. I wasn’t happy, man. I was like, “I’ve got to get up out of here.” When I came out here, I went to school with damn near everybody that’s doing stuff in the rap game today. It still bugs me out.
What’s your favorite part about living in California?
2na: That’s easy, man, the weather, the women and the weed. I’m on some Biggie Smalls stuff. It really is an amazing place, in a lot of ways.
What’s your favorite thing about performing in San Diego?
2na: The coastal lifestyle brings out the best in people. I love hangin’ in OB. I’ve even got a favorite taco stand down there by the pier that I go to whenever I’m in town.