Ignore the numerical implications of the name – these boys are six in total, and their pre-historic connections are unclear (except that they're fans of old skool breaks). While hip-hop runs the gamut of misogyny and wallet-flexing, J5 are more interested in performing musical miracles and praising Allah than booty videos and low-riders. Citing Black Star and De La Soul amongst their influences, the West coast composers have blended hip-hop beats, lyrical street poetry and kernels of jazz to generate an inventive, infectious combination.
The band were originally part of two rival hip-hop/rap crews in Los Angeles but it wasn't long before they discovered their common musicality and mutual respect for each other. "I was part of a crew with Chali 2na and Cut Chemist called The Unity Committee, we used to hang out at The Good Life (LA underground venue)," says Mark 7even. "One night we played, as did The Rebels of Rhythm (Zaakir, Akil and Nu Mark) and we really liked each other's style. We had this song and they came around, did some rhythm on it and it turned into 'Unified Rebelution'. It really took off so we just thought 'Hey why don't we all form a group?' So that's how it all started really."
Both crews – tired of major label apathy - decided to bring out their own record. It was recorded at Cut Chemist's house and the absence of capital made mastering the most expensive part, a process Mark 7even says "wasn't difficult at all". After the success of this debut, the band were signed to Interscope. The result was an eponymous 8-track EP containing anthems like 'Jayou' and 'Concrete Schoolyard' that would bring them critical respect and mass appeal.
It could be said that a hip-hop group with four MCs sets itself up for accusations of 'too many cooks', a charge Mark 7even refutes. "I think having four MCs is an advantage because you've got more ideas, more ways of doing things. When it comes to writing songs, I might come up with some opening stuff and Akil will come up with the chorus, so it's quite democratic."
Their brand of "lyrical malaria" is split between penned lyrics and off-the-cuff freestyling when it comes to laying down cuts in the studio. "Sometimes we won't write a song until we get there, which is what we did with the new album. We write a LOT anyway, but there's always room for adlib," says Mark 7even.
Lest the MC's relegate the two DJS – Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark – to the back of the stage, the beat juggernauts exert enough influence over the set-up not to remain downstage. Harking back to DJ innovators like Flash and Bambaata, they construct a platform for the MC quartet to spill their rhymes all over.
Lyrically the group has a very strong spiritual and social agenda. Proud of their faith, they talk about issues affecting black America with conscionable ardour without diluting the message. That said, they're no Holy Joes and 'Quality Control' (their last album) carries a Parental Advisory sticker. They can represent musically with hip-hop's elite without negativity or marginalisation.
Without this agenda, Mark 7even reckons they wouldn't do what they do. "It's definitely a big part of what we're about. When it comes to making music, we include that side of things but you have to remember that people want to party too! So you have to find a medium, which I think we do. A lot of mainstream hip-hop has forgotten about the issues in favour of the party vibe."
Asked about Jurassic 5's appeal, Mark 7even modestly puts it down to "six individuals who aren't afraid to be themselves". So when can Dublin audiences expect next Wednesday? "Well we don't enjoy using dats and sequencers. If you come for a live show, you should get a live show. So expect a full-show, expect a lot of energy, and expect to be entertained."
Jurassic 5 play Dublin's Red Box on Wednesday 18 July 2001.