Rap innovators and precursors to the sound later fine-tuned by De La Soul, P.M. Dawn et al. Following on from Afrika Bambaataa, the Jungle Brothers: Mike G (Michael Small, Harlem, New York City, New York, USA), DJ Sammy B (b. Sammy Burwell, Harlem, New York City, New York, USA) and Afrika Baby Bambaataa (b. Nathaniel Hall, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA) were unafraid of cross-genre experimentation. The most famous demonstration being their version of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, though their incorporation of house music on ‘I’ll House You’ is another good example. They made their debut for Warlock/Idlers Records in October 1987, before signing to Gee Street Records. As part of the Native Tongues coalition with Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest and others, they sought to enhance the living experiences of black men and women by educating them about their role in history and African culture. In many ways traditionalists, the Jungle Brothers carefully traced the lines between R&B and rap, their admiration of James Brown going beyond merely sampling his rhythms (including the basis of their name - which shares the godfather of soul’s initials).
A second album was slightly less funky and more soul-based, particularly effective on cuts like ‘Beyond This World’. It has been argued that the Jungle Brothers’ failure to break through commercially had something to do with the fact that they were initially signed to a New York dance label, Idlers. More likely is the assertion that audiences for macho skulduggery greatly outnumbered those for which intelligent, discursive hip-hop was a worthwhile phenomenon in the late 80s. By the time of their second major label set, 1993’s J Beez Wit The Remedy, they had unfortunately succumbed to the former. They surprisingly charted again in 1998 with the Stereo MC’s’ remix of ‘Jungle Brother’, taken from the one-dimensional Raw Deluxe. The big beat influence was carried over to the following year’s V.I.P. , which featured creative input from Alex Gifford of the Propellerheads.