Editor’s note: The following interview was conducted by Bill Zimmerman in 2007 for the now defunct print edition of Modern Fix magazine prior to the release of Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 4: The Hip Hop Jazz Messenger. This Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of Guru’s passing.
The self-proclaimed “king of monotone,” Guru possessed one of the most unmistakable voices in hip-hop. Honest and authoritative, he delivered music over three decades, most notably in Gang Starr with DJ Premier as well as through genre-bending Jazzmatazz solo efforts. What follows are excerpts from an unpublished interview with Guru and Solar in 2007. It’s a snapshot of Guru’s late 2000s, post-Gang Starr career. It shows two men focused on making their own lane and taking creative chances in the leadup to what would be Guru’s final Jazzmatazz project. Despite all the drama and confusion that would ensue, Guru made a mark on hip-hop. That’s indisputable.
Bill: Guru, one the previous Jazzmatazz projects you were working with multiple producers. What was it like just sticking with Solar on this one?
Guru: Actually, the only one with multiple producers was the third one (Street Soul). The first one (Vol. 1) I produced, the second one (Vol. 2: The New Reality) I produced and then the third one multiple (producers). Actually, after the third one I said I wanted to go back to working with just one producer because I left like the third one – even though I had like a lot of big name producers – it came out more like a compilation than it did an organic work. It’s still one of my favorites joints, but it was something about the cohesiveness of one producer bringing everything together. After teaming up with Solar – first of all when I first started hearing his music that was after we were friends already for two years. Then we decided to do the label. We were introduced six years ago – he took me to his lab so I could hear some tracks, and it was crazy because it was almost like he read my mind because I was looking for a future sound, a new sound for myself. All my favorite artists are able to do that – to recreate and renew and then reinvent. So, when I heard his tracks, I was like, “Oh, man.” I was blown away and actually took some stuff home right then. Our first release came out in 2005 on 7 Grand. That was called Guru Version 7.0 The Street Scriptures, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. That was just the introduction to this new chemistry. Now, at this point, the chemistry is just more intense, so this album is definitely proof of that. (more…)
After a number of delays, the latest release date for Sha Lumi‘s posthumous second album is 1 April 2015. Considering that I’ve heard the entire thing at this point I can attest that it does actually exist and that it’s dope. Fingers crossed we can get an official copy in April.
02. ‘Full Command’ feat. G.O.D 3, Foul Monday, Ruc and Tragedy Khadafi [Produced By Shroom]
03. ‘Black N Understanding’ [Produced By DJ Rated R]
05. ‘Give It Up’ [Produced By Carnage]
06. ‘Pressure Up’ Feat. Tragedy Khadafi [Produced By Nick Speed]
08. ‘Stop Hating’ [Produced By Shroom]
09. ‘Tell Me’ [Produced By Carnage]
10. ‘1712’ [Produced By Jewelz Polar]
11. ‘Work It Out’ [Produced By ThoroTracks]
12. ‘Keep The Faith’ [Produced By DJ Steady]
13. ‘Cash’ Remix [Produced By Audible Doctor]
14. ‘Pressure Up’ Remix [Produced By: DJ Phantom]
Larry Smith passed away on the night of Thursday 18 December 2014, seven years after suffering a stroke that left him incapacitated. His son, Larry Smith Jnr. apparently read Larry the article I wrote about him for Cuepoint in October and he is said to have enjoyed it, so at least he knew that there were a lot of people who still appreciated his contributions before he left us.
While his the tributes are flowing on Twitter, there seems to be no mention of the fact that Larry was a ward of the state since his stroke, receiving the minimal attention from the staff for the final years of his life. Where were all these hot shot celebrity friends of Larry when he really needed their support and financial assistance? People such as Talib Haqq, Akili Walker and Spyder-D took the time to visit Mr. Smith in his time of need. I wonder when was the last time that Russell Simmons or Reverend Run took the time out to check up on the guy who helped to get them where they are today?
Russell Simmons actually sold-off Larry Smith’s half of the publishing from their Rush-Groove company to fund the deposit that Columbia Records required to give Def Jam their distribution deal, effectively selling him up the river so he could hand Rick Rubin the keys to the rock/rap blueprint. I can’t help but feel like the hip-hop world let Larry down when he needed them most.
DJ Father Shaheed of Poor Righteous Teachers was killed in an accident while riding his motorbike on 26 May, 2014. After releasing “Time To Say Peace” on the independent North Side Records in 1989, Wise Intelligent, Culture Freedom and Father Shaheed (who was going by the handle of Devine on the original pressing), they were picked up by Profile Records, who re-issued the single with a remix and followed up with the Holy Intellect LP the following year. This contained what turned-out to be their breakout single – “Rock This Funky Joint.” Offering perhaps the rawest 5% rhetoric of the era over addictive rhythms, PRT made quite an impression and quickly gained a loyal fanbase. Their manager at the time, Kevon Glickman, who I interviewed in 2007, had this to say: (more…)
Just read this wonderfully comprehensive feature on Big L over at Complex, titled Casualty of the Game: The Big L Story, and was inspired to collate a few stories of my own from past interviews. T-Ray, Peter Oasis, Milano and AG all share some memories involving The Devil’s Son… (more…)
Today would have been Sha Lumi The Great‘s birthday, if he hadn’t been taken from the physical in January 2010. I’ll be premiering the first release from his second album, The Shepard, later today, but in the meantime let’s take a minute to reminisce about his time on this small planet…
Melbourne’s own Debonair P, who’s recently dropped some quality music with Omniscence, Is dropping new remix and instrumental vinyl, which you can cop here. All the filtered bassline, crisp snare goodness you could need for your steering pleasure…
Grab a free digital version of both projects here.
Kenny Lou aka Kamakazee from Screwballpassed away five years ago. Here are sixteen examples of this Galaxy of Queens representative doing his thing while we pour out a little Henny/Jameson, including tracks from the aborted Warner Brothers album with Kyron that eventually dropped as singles on Pirate and Hydra. Hoo Ha!
Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly of Kriss Kross fame has been found dead at his home in Atlanta at age 34.
As annoying as “Jump” was, I have to admit I kinda fuxed with “Warm It Up” at the time. Hopefully Jermaine Dupri helps out with the service, since he stayed eating off these guys for years.
Seems like the perfect time to revisit Uptown‘s memories of his friendship with Biggie Smalls…
Uptown: I was about 10, 11 years old. I grew up in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York – about three blocks from where Biggie Smalls lived. Me and a whole bunch of friends would go around in the neighborhood and do these little block parties. They would stop the street off, put a DJ out there and we would grab the mic. Biggie, Half-A-Mil, there’s a couple of us that was out there together in the neighborhood, used to go ‘round to all kind of block parties and do the shows. Me and Biggie Smalls, we would bump heads a lot. He lived three blocks away from me – I was on Nostrand Ave and he lived closer to Clinton. My people knew his people and they were always trying to get us together, ‘cos they knew it would be a great fuckin’ show. Big was a cool dude. I have a homeboy right now, if he could find some of the cassette tapes that me, him and Big did in the crib, rhyming while we smoked a blunt and shit like that, he would probably be a millionaire.
Even though he was big-time, he was known to come back in the neighborhood, sit down and chat with us when he didn’t have to. He used to make jokes at me, ‘cos he had first took a ear to the Buckshot LeFonque project. “Let me find out you a jazz rapper now? So now you don’t do parties? You do fuckin’ jazz?” We grew-up respecting each other – he knew the skills I had, I knew the skills he had. We just used to make fun of it. He was like, “Well I’m glad you took that route, now I can get all my money!” Just to know that he was still paying attention to the stuff that I did was an honor to me. (more…)
Two fatties at the height of their respective powers were taken from this small planet in the month of March – one, a waffle-guzzling comedian with an appetite for destruction. The other – the brother of the guy from K-9. Sixteen and thirty-one years ago, respectively, these two hedonistic maniacs checked-out, leaving gigantic shoes that have yet to be filled. But who was the most brolic of these two foodaholics? Here’s a super-scientifical breakdown:
Keyboard Money Mike: You know Tim Dog? I used to DJ on tour with Tim Dog for a good two years.
Robbie: From the “Fuck Compton” period?
Oh my god…we went to LA to perform that song! We went to Compton to perform the song “Fuck Compton” and the police had to escort us out, ‘cos the Crips and the Bloods were not gonna let us leave alive!
Who’s idea was that? Seems kinda dangerous…
I would say the record company. It was Tim Dog and Cypress Hill on a tour bus, we toured all over the United States. Of course Cypress Hill lived in LA so they were gonna do a song in LA. We couldn’t get on stage at all! But then we had a college show to do the next day, and Ice-T came to the rescue. They were telling us at the university, ‘You guys won’t be able to perform here or leave the campus because all y’all niggas are gonna be dead’. Ice-T came to the rescue, because Tim Dog and us was all part of the Zulu Nation, so Ice-T was Zulu Nation so he came through and made peace between Tim Dog and the Crips and the Bloods. So we still got to perform at the university, but we didn’t perform the song “Fuck Compton” – which everyone wanted to hear! I don’t know what part of LA we was in, but they hated Compton!
Tim Dog was in a league of his own. After his debut on Ultramagnetic MC’s “A Chorus Line” (the b-side of their “Travelling At The Speed of Thought” single), it would be another two years until he dropped the hilarious “Fuck Compton” on Ruffhouse Records in 1991, a record which spoke on the frustrations that many New York rappers felt in light of West Coast chart dominance in the wake of the rise of NWA, MC Eiht, DJ Quik and the like. His Penicillin On Wax LP had a major impact on hardcore rap fans in part because it saw the return Ultramagnetic to the game after an extended hiatus. (more…)
The music world lost a giant this week, as legendary trumpeter Donald Byrd passed away at the tender age of 80. Having bridged the spectrum from be-bop to funk without missing a beat, Mr. Byrd released a massive catalog of great music, much of which provided perfect source material for classic rap tracks. In honor of the great man, here are my ten favorite uses of his work. (more…)
Rest in peace to Baby Chris Lighty, the original Intelligent Hoodlum.
DJ Kenny Parker: As a matter of fact, a lot of the fights that used to go on in Union Square and Latin Quarter was these Brooklyn dudes that used to run with Kane…they was always fighting guys from the Bronx. They was always fighting Chris Lighty and the Violators! [laughs] Back then, Chris Lighty was a Violator and he was a thug. You couldn’t even run-up on Red Alert! You think Red Alert is just the coolest guy in the world, and I love Red Alert – that’s my brother – but back in the day, if you ran-up on Red Alert like ‘Yo! Play my record!’ you was gonna have problems! You follow me?
Allindstrom.com video interview with Baby Chris: (more…)
I didn’t get a chance to write anything about MCA when he passed earlier this year, but this is how I’d like to remember him – pouring beer over his head and then slipping over for a face plant. The bratty, obnoxious Beasties who had girls in cages were always my choice over the bohemian, thoughtful Beasties anyway. …Ill will always be better than …Boutique to my ears, unorthodox sampling be damned. ‘Three Jerks Made A Masterpiece”, indeed.
A new collection of unreleased Big L material, titled Return of the Devil’s Son, is due next month:
‘This album is supported 100% by the Big L family.” Said Big L’s older brother Donald Phinazee “I’ve been talking about this album for the last six years and it means everything to me. This is an original Big L album and I’m excited to put my brother out. This album will show where he should have been and where he was about to go. It’s going on 12 years since he’s been gone. He would have been that one; this project will show where he should have been at’.
Return of the Devil’s Son on Distrolord/SMC Recordings will be available online and in stores November 23, 2010.
Phone conversation with myself and Rammellzee (first voice), from October, 19th, 2007:
“You like oysters, boss?”
“I’ve got a spot over here for you. We can watch the boats sink.”
“I’ll let you hold the bomb.”
“Do you know anyone at the Smithsonian Institute?”
“Working on that one.”
“You need to talk to someone in the Department of Space.”
“The Andromeda Galaxy is going to be here in 5 million years. It will consume this galaxy.”
“This means something to me.”
“It’s sending a master blaster radio cloud ahead of itself.”
“That one will be here in 10,000 years.”
“I know it’s a little far off, but you might want to take a look at it.”
“And finish my book before it happens?”