The artwork speaks for itself. Covert Coup will now reportedly be a free release on the unofficial smokers’ holiday of April 20. The cover mimics Saddam Hussein’s statue being pulled down.
The New York City based Jungle Brothers are undeniably an unsung element of hip-hop. During a time when hip-hop music was indeed impressionable and messages of self discovery and community awareness were prominent, the triumvir of the Native Tongues (which also included A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul) offered lyrics promoting a peaceful and positive lifestyle as well as aiding in introducing the mass music world to a production and DJing style known as house music. The hip-hop trio (consisting of Mike Gee, Afrika Baby Bam, and DJ Sammy B) released their sophomore album, “Done by the Forces of Nature”, November 9th 1989 under Warner Bros. This project is a precise glimpse into the Afro centric movement of hip-hop and a critical component to the soundtrack for a golden age of the music.
The Jungle Brothers’ message of self education came across trenchantly on the “Done by the Forces of Nature” album. The beautiful aspect of this project is how many different concepts were introduced at once. Fresh subject matter, new ways of thinking, and a new production style all came together to birth an innovative hip-hop classic. The album’s house music production aspect is one of its more unique qualities. The disco funk and soul influenced genre grew popular in the 1980’s amongst Black and Hispanic communities in Chicago, New York, and Detroit. DJ Sammy B brought the house music element to the trio with his ear for samples and intricate beat patterns. Mike Gee brings penetrating lyrics to the album and Afrika makes it crystal clear in his rhymes as to where he stands on well, pretty much everything. The collaborations are classic as well with appearances from A Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One, De La Soul and others. The production (executed by the Jungle Brothers) as well as the mixing (Kool DJ Red Alert mixed the album) made for an everlasting and widely over looked hip-hop classic.
The pro vegetarianism hip-hop trio waste no time conveying their message of self education with album opener, “Beyond this World”. “Never heard of and hardly seen a whole lot of talk about the Red, Black ,and Green/So dirty ya didn’t wanna deal with it/So funky ya didn’t wanna get with it/But that’s alright, no problem, cool/Sent to the earth to educate these fools.” Afrika’s first line on the album hits the listener hard in the gut with a reminder of a general lack of interest for the past and history of Black America. The song’s hard hitting message is well dressed with the help of a fantastic beat that reeks of house music elements with ear stimulating samples dispatching from all angles. The funky old school vibe is definitely in affect on the second track “Feelin’ Alright”. The heavy bass line, and throw back percussion style combined with Afrika Baby Bam’s Louis Armstrong inspired scatting attempt make this track fun yet detailed. One of the strongest tracks on the album (Sunshine) contains African influenced percussions and chanting meanwhile bringing a message of self destiny to its listener. “Sunshine” is a plea of some sort, a wakeup call for self education. “Given light but now there’s darkness/Started with intelligence now there’s ignorance…” Mike Gee goes on later to say, “The fire that we all attempt to fight/The only thing is you can’t put it out/ You blow and blow but that only makes it grow.” Mike Gee’s lyrics on “Sunshine” paint a picture of urgency for self mental liberation.
Now don’t get it twisted, not all of Done by the Forces of Nature has a philosophical approach. Tracks such as “What You Waitin 4?” are specifically for ear stimulation and enjoyment only. The track (What You Waitin’ 4?) has potent characteristics of disco and funk combined with lyrics pressing the listener to, “Shake ya butt but don’t break ya back/Tap ya feet and let ya fingers snap”. Another interesting track, “‘U’ Make me Sweat”, is oozing with funk and soul influences. Funny lyrics and entertaining punch lines bring the listener into two stories involving Afrika and Mike Gee dealing with significant others. All jokes aside though, “Good New Coming” is by far one of the best songs on the album. With no lyrics, the Jungle Brothers bless ears with a detailed instrumental allowing Sammy B an opportunity to display his talent with house music influences, combined samples and detailed mixing. With the coherence of this album, as well as its uniqueness, I give it a 4 out of 5 rating.
“Done by the Forces of Nature” remains one of the most unrecognized albums of the Afro centric age of hip-hop. The Chicago Tribune contributor Rick Reger called it, “an underrated classic”, while former Los Angeles Times writer Robert Tanzilo named it, “one of the brightest records of the year.” The album peaked at number 46 on the Billboard’s Top Hip-Hop and R&B charts, and in 1998 Source Magazine selected it as one of its 100 best rap albums. The Village Voice contributor Robert Christgau said it best by stating, “Somehow these young Afro American New Yorkers have evolved a rap version of urban pop at its most life affirming: the boasts [are] low-key, the propaganda [is] beyond hostility, the samples [are] evoking everything tolerant and humane in recent black music memory; this is music designed to comfort and sustain.”