I bought the cassette from Russell’s Records and Tapes based on the cover and the group’s name. It was around this time of year, November, 1988. I didn’t know anything about them. Never saw a video. Never heard them mentioned before.
It was one of the best purchases that I ever made.
The cassette I’m speaking of, Straight Out the Jungle, played a role in the whirlwind of change that was taking place in my life that winter of my Junior Year in High School.
The Jungle Brothers, in modern parlance, gave me life. And, although that is a figure of speech that’s often lobbed at something as simple as the sprinkles atop some Fro-Yo, I mean it. The Jungle Brothers gave me life in a time when death was becoming the norm.
Now, they’re rarely even mentioned.
This year began with the awful & too soon returning of Phife of A Tribe Called Quest, the final arrival of the crowd funded De La album, and the release of Tribe’s last offering.
These events have people recalling the days of the Native Tongues, a collective that consisted of like-minded artists from Jersey, Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and London.
Fame often alludes pioneers. It certainly is the case with the Jungle Brothers, but I really feel that it’s important that we discuss how significant they were. So bear with me.
The world had changed drastically since the time of my older Brother, Ade’s, graduation that Spring of 1988. I often call his Senior Year (87–88) My First Senior Year. It was the year I went to my first clubs, the year that we entered our first high school talent show; it was a festive time.
If violence broke out, it was fists. But there were no major threats and we moved through Park Hill with ease.
By the time November of 88 rolled around, the city had its first drive-by shooting, the murder of our close friend Cameron Smith…who wasn’t even in a gang. Cameron played on the football team with my older brother and was in my first weights class. He defended me my freshman year when upperclassman picked on my scrawny self. He always looked after me.
You know that moment in Boyz N the Hood where Cuba Gooding Jr’s character is riding around with Cube nem looking for the people who killed Ricky? That was almost me & Sayyed Munajj but we were told to “stay our asses home.”
But that changes you. So does walking home around ten at night in a fifteen or so block radius of an open drug market.
Was constantly asked.
And if it wasn’t that, it was keeping your eyes peeled on cars that slowed, turned off their headlights, or rolled down their window.
“Where you from, nicka?!?”
Was constantly asked.
That changes you.
When I first moved to Denver, people were just from Denver. When Run DMC got big, a lot of people who wanted in on the culture claimed to be from New York. But in the Fall of 1988, after the movie Colors, after the rise of NWA, and after Los Angeles began shipping their gang problem to Denver, people wanted to emulate that death culture.
That was November of 1988.