Chali in charge: Ex-Jurassic 5 member back on Aspen stage | AspenTimes.com

Chali in charge: Ex-Jurassic 5 member back on Aspen stage

Nate PetersonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen TimesRapper Chali 2Na performs Tuesday at Belly Up Aspen, opening for Nas & Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m.

ASPEN – Out on the road, in a crowded, noisy tour bus, Chali 2na picks up his manager’s cell phone, speaks into the receiver and, as if on cue, the disparate voices in the background fade out. 2na’s signature baritone has this effect on people. When the big man speaks, people stop to listen. This would be the case even if 2na didn’t have anything interesting to say. The rapper could likely put out a mix tape of nursery rhymes and it would be transfixing. Just listening to 2na talk, there’s the urge to stop asking questions – about his first solo album, his current tour, the creative turns he has taken since the disbanding of pioneering L.A. hip-hop collective Jurassic 5 – and just ask the rapper to say certain words.Chali, could you just say gingivitis once, please? Sotomayor? Pia Colada?2na has certainly had similar bizarre requests, and is happy to answer questions about his vocal cords and the hold they have on listeners. Even in daily conversations, people comment on his voice all the time, he says.”It wasn’t always this low,” adds 2na, who opens Tuesday’s show featuring Nas and Damian Marley at the Belly Up Aspen. “Around 13 it started changing, but I honestly can’t say when it started to affect people like it does now. Personally, I don’t even realize it. People talk to me about it all the time, but to me, it’s like living with a model. You don’t think about it, even though everyone else notices.”As fans of the rapper know, too, 2na has plenty to say. The heavy baritone voice isn’t just a novelty – it’s the diesel-powered engine which 2na revs up for the rapid-fire delivery of his sharp, metaphor-tinged rhymes. The rapper stood out on all four of Jurassic 5’s albums, and became a crowd favorite during the group’s constant touring in the late ’90s and 2000s.While a solo career seemed like a natural step, 2na waited patiently for the right time to swim on his own. He knew he always wanted to go in that direction, but not at the cost of forgoing other rewarding creative opportunities. That list includes the four albums of work with Jurassic 5, numerous guest spots on other rappers’ discs, as well as helping to form and tour with another L.A. group, Ozomatli, which fused Latin and world rhythms with urban hip-hop, jazz and funk. Another of 2na’s more recent collaborations was going on tour with New Orleans funk band Galactic after cutting a track for the group’s 2007 release, “From the Corner to the Block.” 2na was last in Aspen when the band played a sold-out show at Belly Up in February 2008.The rapper says he has but one regret in waiting as long as he did to finally put out his major label debut, “Fish Outta Water.””I always wanted [the album] to be as creative as possible, as smooth as possible,” he says. “And I felt like I was able to make songs that will be able to stand the test of time. But it was to the disadvantage of fans who were like, ‘When’s the album gonna come out?'”2na hopes the long wait will be easily forgiven, adding that, for “Fish Outta Water”, he was constantly pushing his creative limits. “That’s just one aspect of why I wanted to do a solo album. I wanted to have a creative concept and carry out that concept at all costs, from where I stood, on my own two feet, as opposed to my thought process being induced by someone. I’ve been able to absorb it as a learning experience, and with the next round, I feel like I’ll be that much sharper.”It’s an encouraging statement, considering the breadth of “Fish Outta Water.” The album features tracks by a number of big-name producers (among them Dr. Dre prodigy Scott Storch, and former Jurassic 5 mixmaster Cut Chemist), as well as collaborations with a diverse crew of artists. Damian Marley and Stephen Marley appear on the reggae jam “Guns Up”, while Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli joins 2na for the catchy club track “Lock Sh– Down”, the album’s first single. R&B star Anthony Hamilton adds vocals on another head-bob-inducing track, “Don’t Stop.”For fans of Jurassic 5, “Fish” has its share of beats that channel the group’s classic hip-hop sound. But there’s also plenty of new ground covered, such as the soulful “4 Be Be”. 2na hopes fans will get behind the creative leaps he has taken.One reviewer, who said the album’s production was weak, showed his cards by saying certain tracks didn’t sound like Jurassic 5. “If my music doesn’t sound like Jurassic 5, then he’s not going to like it,” 2na says, before chuckling. “That’s fine, but for me, I wanna do what I feel at the time. … I can’t taper the clothes to fit the next man, I got to taper them to fit myself.”npeterson@aspentimes.com