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Chali 2na

From his days growing up on the streets of Chicago’s south side, to his subsequent explosion onto Los Angeles’ burgeoning hip hop scene, to his tenure as MC for seminal hip hop group Jurassic 5, Chali 2na epitomizes the portrait of a 21st century artist. With his unmistakable, beloved baritone, Chali (born Charles Stewart, Jr.) has firmly established himself as one of the most distinctive, charismatic personalities not just in hip hop, but music in general.

Stewart first gained an interest in hip hop culture through graffiti writing before getting into making music. Both activities were his way of steering clear of drugs and gang life, and also influenced his decision to move to Los Angeles with his grandmother in his mid-teens. Once there, the up-and-coming MC quickly associated himself with rap collective the Unity Committee, which also included turntablist Cut Chemist and rapper Marc 7even. The group used to frequent the open mic sessions at the famed Good Life Café. There the three met Akil, Zaakir, and DJ Nu-Mark of an opposing crew, and later all six formed Jurassic 5 in 1993.

Before Jurassic 5 fully took off, Chali 2na and Cut Chemist also helped found the band Ozomatli, whose music was a fusion of worldbeat, rock, hip hop, and Latin funk. As part of two critically acclaimed ensembles, Chali 2na sent waves through the music world. Jurassic 5's major-label debut, Quality Control (2000), has been deemed a benchmark for underground hip hop. Jurassic 5 released two more full-length albums, Power in Numbers (2002) and Feedback (2006) before disbanding in 2007.

Chali emerged as J5's most popular member and was frequently tapped for guest appearances on many other artists' material over the years, like that of Swollen Members, Linkin Park, Blackalicious, Kardinal Offishal, and Roots Manuva. His solo foray began in 2004 with his Fish Market mixtape series. His debut solo LP, Fish Outta Water, was released last year.

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