Any student who has attended Rutgers, be it for four years or four days, have all had to do the same thing at some point in time — hop on their computers and type out the five letters that will haunt their nightmares for the duration of their time on the Banks: Sakai.
Rarely is there a time where checking Sakai, the interface most professors at the University use to communicate with students, post assignments and many other not-fun things, is a positive. That is, until the phrase was revolutionized by rap group Jungle Jambooskies.
The crew, composed of five University first-year School of Arts and Sciences students — Nicco Salgado, Christian “Sibs” Barillas, Jordy Reyes, Jason “Big Chill” Morel and Edsel Selengalla — released their most popular single “ChEcK mY SAKAI” early on in their second semester of college.
The track was the seventh the group released within the first four months of its existence, but the subject was the cause for its creation in the first place.
Salgado, like many of his fellow classmates, was procrastinating on an assignment one night in his dorm room. After staring at the essay he was struggling to get himself to write, he elected to go all in on his procrastination and looked up beats on YouTube to rap over. With Barillas in the background throwing around ad-libs, Salgado free-styled on the beat. What the pair discovered shortly after was that, while it started as them joking around, they were enjoying themselves. So they invited Morel and Selengalla over to their dorm to join them.
Soon enough, the group was making music and putting out tracks on Soundcloud, one coming quickly after the other. The Jambooskies released five songs in their first month, but it wasn’t until the fourth single that the group realized it had some potential.
“We’re like, 'wow, this is actually good,’” Salgado said. “Our friends started to play it in their cars and we’re like ‘this is so dope’ … we never really decided to pick a group, it kind of just happened.”
To understand how it happened, one needs to look back on the collective’s relationship before the rap group was created. The five first-years all hail from Hudson County up in northeastern New Jersey, each of them attending High Tech High School in North Bergen. It was there that their friendships fostered and flourished, in the classroom and in school clubs.
Along with the bond created in North Bergen that was brought to the Banks, the group brought with them a knack for creating inside jokes between themselves.
“If you passed us in the street and heard our conversations, you’d think we’re speaking a different language,” Selengalla said. “That’s how many insiders and just random (stuff) we say. No one would understand what the hell we’re saying. ChEck mY SAKAI is one of those things, especially the way we’d say it.”
The habit not only gave a name, hook and theme to their most popular single. The Jambooskies have songs where a friend named Joe was mentioned, a girlfriend of one of the members was the subject of one single, and most notably, the inside joking was the reason for their name.
It came about one night on College Avenue, where the five were participating in traditional college student activities. They entered a function with jungle juice in hand, an occurrence that brought so much excitement to Barillas that he screamed “Jungle Jamboosky!” as he walked in through the door.
Unbeknownst to him, it would serve as inspiration.
“It happened by accident,” Morel said of the emergence of the group name. “Nicco (Salgado) asked me to spit random ad-libs and I said Jungle Jambooskies … and it just stuck.”
The ad-lib can be heard on every track released by the Jambooskies from that point on, a signature sound similar to Drake’s “yeh,” Gucci Mane’s “burrrrr” and Kanye West’s “haaaah.”
The ‘Booskies produce rap music like those artists, but their musical influences vary far beyond that. Aside from artists like Big Sean and Kid Cudi, the group listed a plethora of genres they indulge in, from R&B to bachata, jazz to trap, merengue to pop punk, country to indie.
“Musical influences are just flowing everywhere,” Barillas, who goes by the name Sibs in his raps, said.
Those influences mesh into a discography currently composed of nine singles. As of right now, according to the Jambooskies, the audience for those singles isn’t expansive, mostly limited to their group of friends from high school and a select few people they met at Rutgers.
When asked about their future goals, there was a wide range of responses from different members.
“I want to get mobbed on my way to class,” Morel said. “I get on the LX and it’s like 'is that a ‘Boosky?!’”
Reyes took it a step further.
“We’re always joking around that if Jambooskies takes off, we’re all ready to drop out,” he said.
Spend an hour with the ‘Booskies, and you’ll see joking around is their default setting. Time with them is sure to be filled with smiles, laughs and good vibes — they don’t take themselves too seriously, they’re just looking for a good time, which is echoes in their music.
It’s all they looked for when starting this music, but upon receiving attention outside of the friends and acquaintances they showed, there was a newfound sense of seriousness.
“We’re fans of other people, so to have someone react to our music, to see that, it warms up the heart. Even though this was made as a joke, the fact it sparked something in other people and made moments, that’s all we can hope for. Everything else is extra.”
Getting that taste of recognition poured gasoline on the fire of their creativity. With plans of releasing a music video and a mockumentary of their experience in the near future, the Jambooskies have no shortage of ambition in growing themselves.
“I think we’re enjoying the ride as it is,” Barillas said. “We’re not expecting anything but we do have moments where we’re like 'how tight would it be to play a show?' I think what we want more out of this is the actual experience if it ever presents itself.”