Band of the Day

2012.07.05

Chali 2na

Buttery-smooth baritone flows from a founding member of Jurassic 5
A wicked sentence in a vicious blend has more wealth than the wallets of the richest men.
lyrics from Lock Shit Down

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Charles Stewart, better known as Chali 2na, is an American rapper and hip-hop artist. He is a founding member of two critically acclaimed groups Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli. During his time with Jurassic 5, Charles quickly emerged as one of the group’s most popular members, and made several featured guest appearances on other artists’ material such as Linkin Park, and Blackalicious. Well known for his deep baritone voice, Charles took his stage name from the deep-voiced cartoon mascot for StarKist Tuna, Charlie the Tuna. In 2004 he released the mixtape Fish Market as a precursor to his solo album. After several delays, his debut solo album, Fish Outta Water, was finally released five years later in the spring of 2009 on Decon Records. Fish Outta Water featured several high profile collaborators including Beenie Man, Damian Marley, and Raphael Saadiq. His most recent release is 2010’s follow up mixtape to his Fish Market series, Fish Market Part 2, in which he teamed up with DJ Dez Andres of Slum Village fame.

Rakim is always going to be hip-hop's “voice of God,” but Chali 2na actually has God's timbre. In much-missed L.A. throwback rap crew Jurassic 5, five of the group's six emcees (yeah, somebody made a typo) all sort of blended together, making 2na's buttery-smooth baritone even more distinctive. It wasn't just his voice that made him stand out, though: Even within the parameters of J5's keep-it-simple aesthetic, the former Charles Stewart displayed a dexterity on the mic his bandmates couldn't match. No surprise, then, that the group split in 2007, citing “musical differences.” Since then, 2na has dropped an official album (2009's Fish Outta Water) and a pair of mixtapes, Fish Market Parts 1 and 2. The second installment is a hodgepodge of new tracks and random, previously released odds-and-sods, but it works remarkably well as a cohesive album. It’s a testament to the rapper’s unique, commanding presence, and also to his versatility. Although his old group stayed squarely in the realm of traditionalist hip-hop, as a solo artist 2na has branched out, lending his thunderous larynx to a wide swath of projects (including Latin-funk party-protesters Ozomatli, of which he was once an official member). On Fish Market Part 2, he shows his range on tracks from a number of different producers, including DJ Dez, Dilated Peoples’ DJ Babu and Quazedelic. “Hype 2night” and “Step Yo Game Up” are up-tempo, party-starting bangers that wouldn’t sound out of place on West Coast radio, while “Across the Map” and “Funky 4 You”—collaborations with New York undergrounder J-Live and legendary militants X-Clan, respectively—are gritty, deeply funky street-level head-nodders. On the dancehall-inflected “No Bad Mon,” he holds his own with Jamaican microphone queen Tanya Stephens. He even tries riding some dubstep, flowing over a remix of Rusko’s “Go Go Gadget.” No matter what kind of beat he rhyme on, 2na remains lyrically potent, though he is at his most profound and politically charged on the closing “Save the People,” which he opens by declaring “the leaders that framed Mumia are the same names blamed for Hurricane Katrina.”