At six-foot five-inches tall, traveling the touring circuit can be far from comfortable for the rapper and ex-Jurassic 5 member Chali 2na -- not least when it comes to squeezing himself into airplane seats intended for those of a markedly smaller stature. So as he prepares to kick off a month-long, worldwide tour with a show at The Fillmore this Saturday, we spoke to the lofty fellow about how to snag a "poor man's first-class" seat, performing at the Good Life Cafe, and the day a crowd of Green Day fans pelted Jurassic 5 with bottles and rocks.
Are you all packed and ready for the tour?
Yeah, but it's a little hectic when you're trying to go on tour, trying to get everything together, like your accessories.
Have you ever forgotten to pack anything important?
Yeah, I have, but not important like your wedding ring or your passport. I've forgotten my Pro-Tools rig -- my inbox. I thought I had it in my bag and then got all the way out to Europe and realized I didn't have it. I was a little salty at myself for that one.
Do you enjoy the traveling part of touring?
Well that's the one part about it that I don't really enjoy, the process of the to-and-fro, the vehicles, the cars, the boats, the planes we have to get on to get from point A to point B. But to be in the places, and to experience the things I've experienced, I wouldn't trade that for the world.
You're pretty tall, right?
Yes sir, six-foot five. That's one of the reasons why I hate traveling, man -- I'm always reaching for the poor man's first class, the exit row seats. In my later years, I figured out I can use my frequent flyer miles and my status -- like check in online with my frequent flyer number and ensure me an exit row. But before that a lot of the times I missed those seats. It's always been kinda a pain to travel being six-five. Nobody regards your needs, like my chair don't need to lean back -- I just need to be able to stretch out my legs and it's hard as hell.
Before using your frequent flyer tactic, did you try to persuade stewardesses to let you have an exit row seat?
Yeah, I've tried to sweet-talk many a stewardess. Sometimes it works, but most often not.
Do you have any advice for sweet-talking a stewardess into an exit row seat?
Well, stewardesses are like rock stars within themselves cause they travel just as much as any musician. You never know, some of these girls get a little love in every town like a rock star does! So I say just be yourself.
If someone from an airline is reading this, what would you like to say to them?
In my opinion, man, because they already assess the crowd -- they count everybody and see who's going to be on the planes -- because of that they should automatically be like, "Okay, the exit rows are for the big gentlemen." The question they ask is, "Are you willing to assist if there's an accident?" Now I would rather see some big dudes in those seats -- we'd be comfortable, but ready to get it in there if needs be. I don't feel that confident seeing some short lady or a girl going, "It's all good, I can help out." Come on, it's like, "Can I sit there, can we trade seats? Because your feet doesn't touch the ground, but mine does."
Do you have a favorite airline you'd like to shout-out?
Ha ha, I don't really have a favorite airline cause they're all trying to find the smallest way to charge you. They're a robbery, man, taking advantage of a person's predicament! The airline industry as a whole isn't a friend to me!
Do you remember the very first time you performed?
Yeah, I do, I was in first grade, man, I was in a play called The Three Billy Goats Gruff and I was the big billy goat! I think I was a little bit taller than everybody else, that's what made the teacher make me the third billy goat. I got to knock the troll into the water. Yeah, it was all good! Once I did my little part and I got the applause, I kinda caught a little fever, like, "Yeah, I like that!"
What school was this?
James R. Doolittle West, a primary school.
How did acting turn into performing music?
Well I just think that gave me my first encounter with a large crowd. Crowds are particles of individuals which put together makes one big beast in my opinion. You can treat a crowd as one and appeal to it, as opposed to separating it. I caught that from back then. Performing is addictive, in a lot of ways.
Can you remember the first time you caught a bad reaction from the crowd while performing?
Yes sir, the first time was when I was in a group called Unity Committee and I had forgot to bring the right instrumental to the Good Life Cafe. That was a place a lot of us would come in the post-N.W.A. era, when you couldn't get a record deal unless you were a gangsta rapper. So we'd all congregate there at the Good Life. I just felt really bad when we performed, it sucked.
Then there was back in the year 2000 with Jurassic 5 on the Warped tour. Every day on the Warped tour they change the times the bands go on. Green Day were supposed to go on and at the last minute they swapped Green Day out for us. So it was a big Green Day crowd waiting for Green Day and the announcer says, "Ladies and gentlemen, Jurassic 5." We got rocks, bottles, pieces of lawn, beer, bottles filled with piss and rocks, we got shit throw at us, it was raining debris. But we kept going, we kept going. But it hurt, it was a very demeaning feeling. It's like, "Damn, what did I do?"
Did you win any of the crowd over that day?
Well it actually happened to us about four times on that tour. After the show we'd go to the merchandise booth, and people would say, "Yo, I'm not here for you and I don't like rap but I watched that performance and I gotta say you guys are brave. And, maybe, what you guys do might be pretty good." We won over a lot of people we didn't expect to have.
Are there any artists you've toured with that really surprised you with their show?
Let me see... When we did a tour with Fiona Apple it was kinda a both ways situation. I'd heard a couple of Fiona Apple songs, but I wasn't really a fan or really knowledgeable to tell you the truth. She asked us to come on tour, we toured, and the crowd was filled with couples, but a lot of the guys were fans of Jurassic 5 and didn't know that we were opening up for her. They were coming to appease their girlfriends and getting this cool ass treat. And me, I was like this girl can sing like a 50, 60-year-old church black woman!
You're playing with a live band for your own tour. How does that differ from using DJ?
Well it's a lot of shit you can do with a live band you can't do with a DJ. The record itself restricts you to certain parameters that a band does not. A band plays to you, whereas you're playing to a turntable. It's up to the skill of a DJ to manipulate the situation to sound good. With a band, everything is tracked out and separated and it's up to the band to play together and think together and sound good. Not only does it sound a lot more dynamic, the improvisational parameters are very wide. That's the part that I enjoy most.