Tuesday, April 20, 2010

RIP Guru - A Legend in His Own Time

"Lemonade was a popular drink and it still is. I get more props in stunts than Bruce Willis"

One of the greatest couplets in hip hop history. The first half is probably the most random quotable ever and it sticks in your head cause it's like did Guru really say that? The second part you just have to know because it finishes the rhyme but you're still bugged out that a great MC just said the first part for no rhyme or reason.

That's one of my favorite lines from Keith Elam aka Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal (Guru). I remember when I read the Source's Top 150 songs and "Dwyck" was in the Top 30. It stood out for a few reasons. 1) The first time I had heard Nice N Smooth outside of their classic hit "Sometimes I Rhyme Slow", 2) DJ Premier's simple beat that was the definition of head-nodding, boom-bap, 3) Guru's laidback flow just rocking that beat like a calm earthquake - monotone, yet vicious.

It's sad that I went to sleep seeing a trickling of stories come out on Twitter. Then I woke up and checked Allhiphop.com to feel the same sadness I felt when I woke up in past years to find out Jam Master Jay, J-Dilla and Proof had died. Guru had been in a hospital for a month and to end up dying from cancer?

It's a sad loss for hip-hop and especially for Boston, Guru's hometown. He put them on the map despite seemingly defining New York boom-bap.

"Your head'll bop, when I drop my crop/Of pure bomb, just like the sea shore I'm calm/But wild, with my monotone style. Because I don't need gimmicks. Gimme a fly beat and I'm all in it."

Mass Appeal is probably the most recognizable Gang Starr song. The first one I recall hearing without knowing who it was. It had quotables for days. Guru just had a way to pound you to sleep without bashing you over the head with a Chuck D delivery. He was almost like Rakim - smooth, jazzy and prolific with the pen.

Gang Starr stood for integrity and principle. No wackness or fakeness allowed. No dances or corny mess either - it's all about stepping to the mic and keeping it real. Guru never changed what he was about with Gang Starr - it was a formula that worked to perfection because when he spoke, you listened.

Gang Starr's jazzy vibe should be credited to Guru as much as DJ Premier. It was Guru who started the Jazzmatazz series. It was Guru who penned the lyrics for "Jazz Thing" in Spike Lee's "Mo Betta Blues". He loved jazz and it showed the way he delivered his rhymes - subtle but strong like a saxophone or trumpet. It was cool and collected, always in control because he had a message for you.

I'll never forget in 2006 when I discovered Moment of Truth. I was getting ready to graduate and the title track kept replaying in my mind. Reaching that moment where I was on the cusp of leaving college to the real world, that album helped me stay reflective and consider what was behind and before me.

It's no surprise that it was seen as a victory lap by fans who watched Guru and Premier build an impressive resume of classic singles and albums. It went gold and Top 10 on the Billboard Charts and was a perfect way for Gang Starr to end the 90's. On top after a legendary run.

I saw love on Twitter from unlikely sources - Joel Madden? David Faustino from Married With Children? That lets you know that people loved Gang Starr and respected what they did. DJ Premier got a lot of shine but Guru's words stood out too. It showed that craft paid off and their legacy touched a lot of people.

I won't dwell on the end of Gang Starr and Guru's strange relationship with producer Solar, but let's remember a great MC who was sadly taken far too soon.

My Favorite 10 Gang Starr songs
1. Moment of Truth (Electric Relaxation post to explain more coming this week)
2. Mass Appeal
3. Check the Technique
4. Dwyck
5. You Know My Steez
6. Above the Clouds
7. Just to Get a Rep
8. Skillz
9. I'm The Man (sampled by so many)
10. Ex Girl to Next Girl

1 comment:

  1. ur number 5 is my number one and ur number 2 is my number 2