A year today since we lost the legend that is Keith ''Guru'' Elam........... This interview was done 2 years ago for the hot 110 blog when Guru was over promoting his last album..............Shouts to jay cube ...................Legends never die................
We caught up with US Hip Hop veteran Guru and his new producer Solar prior to their gig at the King store and grilled them on the past, their critics and the future…
The release of 8.0 Lost and Found has split the Hip Hop community in two, die hard fans standing strong and supporting Guru’s legacy whilst his new material has also come under heavy scrutiny from critics quick to dismiss. With Guru and Solar set to perform at the brand new King Apparel pop up store in Covent Garden we caught up with the duo prior to their gig to find out more…
So you guys are here to promote your new album Guru 8.0 Lost and Found and your new track Divine rule, how is it all going?
Solar: It’s been going great, we started at the Sundance Film festival in Utah, then went to Aspen and closed up the X Games, then went to L.A, Vegas, Atlanta, then to Tokyo and then onto Europe for the festivals…
The album has been out a few months now, how has it been received?
Solar: It’s done very well, everyone has said we have succeeded in what we wanted to do, which was to make a real Hip Hop record.
Guru: Since we’re an independent label we don’t have singles, we threw out a bunch of tracks and the first video from the album was Divine rule…
You’ve got to recognise that MCs used to rhyme over breaks and our concept with our record label 7 Grand is a ‘back to the future’ concept. Everybody is talking about how they want to go back in time and in my opinion you can’t go back, you’re not going to recreate the golden era, it’s not going to happen. What you can do though is take those principles, feelings and emotions and move forward with a progressive, futuristic point of view - try and make Hip Hop grow.
The concept of Divine Rule is that MCs who used to rhyme (before jazz, funk & rock breaks) used to rhyme over disco breaks, so I’m rhyming over a disco break. I’ve rhymed about a glamorous era - a glorious time:
‘No digital scales, fish scales & metal beams,
Shell toe’d Adidas, rope chains, Lee jeans,
Champagne wishes, caviar dreams,
Nissan Maximas with the gangster lean,
A nigger had to have a whip with a kit,
360 waves and a rep legit,
Divine rule was the order of the day,
Original hustlers - no games to play…’
You know, and it goes on and it describes a feeling, it describes a time, it describes something that was one of the realest moments in Hip Hop, that is what Divine Rule represents.
I think it’s fair to say that some of your new material has had a mixed reaction from critics. Why in Hip Hop are we less open to our heroes doing something different than we are perhaps used to?
Guru: I don’t think you are, I think it’s a certain age group, and I think it’s really stimulated by a small group of people, if that was the case then Common would not still be doing stuff.
Solar: Guru’s music is reaching a new generation now…
Guru: Don’t deny the new generation to have access to me, they come in through the new music that Solar and I are doing and then work backwards and learn about Gangstarr.
Solar: Half the kids at the Southampton show last night did not know the Gangstarr stuff, they knew a lot of the new lyrics. About the same amount every night will know the lyrics to Mass Appeal or Just To Get A Rep will know the lyrics to Hood Dreamin’ and State of Clarity and that’s a beautiful thing…
This is organic, we don’t have the major bucks behind us, we are not coming up in the golden era where everybody wants to hear it, we are coming up in the ‘dirty South era’.
To see the young embracing it is great, I have worked long & hard to make sure the music is not as far away as it was, but at the same time I do nobody any service to sit down and study DJ Premier’s work and give you a new version of Premier, that doesn’t make any sense.
Guru: I said on the title track lost and found, on the second verse, ‘You don’t belong in Hip Hop, you fake ass critics, you half-witted, mass bigots!’; now what I’m talking about is a couple of dude’s writing and twisting my words saying I am running from my musical legacy - how the fuck am I doing that? I love this, I live this - it’s the greatest thing!
What have you got planned now? Tell us more about the label?
Solar: First and foremost the plan is to survive this brutal era that we are in now - the worst time to start a label. What we want to do is put out new artists and find the new Gangstarrs the new Talibs and so on but that takes money; we are not funded by a major label so we depend on the fan base and that they buy records - we are an independent and the sales count. A major needs a million, a hundred thousand for us allows us to put out more artists and pay our bills, overheads & stay in business.
So you own the label yourselves…
Solar: Yeah we own the label, look at us as Russell Simmons, as Puff, or Jay. We manage to stay creative & pay a few bills and do what we do, we are men of the people we live in modest homes, everybody knows us and that’s how it is. We love the music and are committed to it and like Guru said we are totally committed to make sure that Guru’s legacy of Gangstarr and Jazzmatazz stays relevant as well as our material.
Guru: Here’s the thing, 7 Grand is the continuum, before with these other majors that I was making rich, they fragmented everything, they had Jazzmatazz over here, Gangstarr over there, there is only one vocalist, there is one member that brought it all together, why is all fragmented? That was the first thing that Solar said when we started to talk business, he said we have to bring it all together.
What artists have caught your eye here in the UK?
Guru: I’ve been down with the U.K scene since I first came over, since the days of Hijack, Outlaw Posse, MCM, Rodney P, you name it… The problem they would ask me was always why is it not popping off over here like U.S Hip Hop? I said first of all you need to really believe in yourselves - and that is happening. You guys created a lot of music on your own that has spanned the globe: Jungle, Drum & Bass, Acid Jazz, UK Garage, and now Grime - I have to big up Bashy, Chipmunk and Wiley of course!
Solar: You got some really great talent over here, you got a great scene…
Considering how long you have been in the game, what has been the highlight of your career so far?
Guru: I have had a few highlights: the classic success of Gangstarr and the groundbreaking mark that Jazzmatazz made on the music world. The 3rd highlight would be putting a whole new illustrious chapter to an already great career. What I’m doing now with Solar has never been done before, some people can’t get their minds around it but a lot can…
Interview/Images: DJ Getz