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You Know I Got Soul: Guru and Solar

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Jazz & Hip-Hop go together like peanut butter and jelly, and it is no surprise that Jazz has been one of the prominent forefathers of Hip-Hop’s existence. For every B-Boy breakbeat that exists lies a premium Jazz/Funk fusion from prominent musicians willing to create music outside of their box. Without the Donald Byrds or the Herbie Hancocks, Hip-Hop would be devastatingly different. Without the Cab Calloways and the James Browns, would Guru & Solar still exist?Since the time of his career’s inception, Guru has spent his time injecting Jazz into the very soul of Hip-Hop by way of the Jazzmatazz collection (1993-2007), his first solo album Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures (2005), and his earlier work with former collaborative partner DJ Premier in Gang Starr. Under his own imprint 7 Grand, Guru has managed to float above the recession by releasing his latest solo project Guru 8.0: Lost and Found where he’s been under a rigorous global touring schedule providing a Jazz/Hip-Hop show for his international fans. Both him and producer Solar make a conscious effort to keep Jazz/Hip-Hop alive in a world where Hip-Hop music has currently overdosed in Auto-Tune usage.  To get a sense of where they stand in their love affair with Hip-Hop, the duo discussed their ultimate Jazz & Soul songs that have sculpted them into the international musicians they have become today. After pioneering the culture with his Jazz/Hip-Hop fusion, how much soul does Guru really have? Plenty.Guru’s Got Soul:James Brown – “The Payback”James Brown is an icon. His passion and love for the music you get to see in every aspect of what he did, and it went beyond the stage. He was such a trendsetter at the forefront of what he did. That particular song-just the whole…the lyrics behind it and the whole concept of that song is, like you don’t need a video for that song. You can envision it. That song is classic.Donald Byrd and the Blackbyrds – “Rock Creek Park”Donald Byrd is known in the classical Jazz realms with his work on Bruno. I worked with him on Jazzmataz as well and he’s been a great mentor to me. What he did with the Blackbyrds is just phenomenal. He went and did fusion with Funk and Soul and took Jazz to a whole ‘nother level and he was one of the first to do that type of fusion. “Rock Creek Park” was just the classic. We used to hear that from block parties to cookouts and it’s just been the classic.  It’s almost even a B-Boy classic that cats were break dancing to to this day around the world, so I have to big up Donald Byrd on that one.John Coltrane – “My Favorite Things”Coltrane was the quintessential horn player. Not even influencing saxophones alone. He influenced all horn players alike and just his style and what he did with that horn.  Again, he was at the forefront of his era, and actually ahead of his time with what he did, and that song in particular with just the melody.  It translated to…it went so far to cross so many barriers that it went all the way to be over by Mary Poppins. [laughs] You know, that’s a classic. In fact, we have a Hip-Hop version that we do in our live show.Herbie Hancock – “Rock It”Of course, Herbie Hancock won a Grammy for that. I know that from talking to him and working with him on Jazzmatazz that he had no idea [“Rock It”] was going to have the effect that it had. He, like Donald Byrd, was a fusionist and he wanted to experiment and think outside of the box and do something different. Of course, he was known in the realm of pure Jazzhood, but he was interested in doing something different and he got with Grand Mixer DXT and did this incredible tune that became a Hip-Hop classic.  I remember going to the spot to watch breakers go off to that and I was amazed by the reaction to that song. That song was just a classic everywhere from New York to around the world.Dave Brubeck – “Take Five”That’s just a classic Jazz joint. The thing about that is Brubeck is an instrumentalist, but he made a song that’s been remade by vocalists and instrumentalists. That’s when you know you’ve done something as a musician when you have vocalists doing your songs.   I’ve heard it done by so many people and we actually have a Hip-Hop version that we do at our live show that Solar laced. People got to come see us live to see these things.  Big up to Dave Brubeck, a great musician, definitely ahead of his time and definitely respected and pushed the art form in is genre.Solar’s Got Soul:Billie Holiday – “Strange Fruit”I was a little kid when I first heard that and I had no idea what she was singing about and it sounded very…as a child you can’t really express…you knew it was important, but “important” is not the correct word. Of course as I got older and became a young man and listened to the song, I realized how powerful the thing she was singing about was and I stopped to think about it, it dawned on me that the images were horrific! That affected me in a since that social consequence, before there was even a word for it, was a part of the black music experience and the Jazz music experience.Cab Calloway – “Minnie the Moocher”It was just inspirational on every given level of what an entertainer is and I can’t not mention MC Hammer or some of the great Hip-Hop artists that have been instrumental in bringing the music to another generation, Guru and myself to some degree. I was a child in the movie theater watching the Blues Brothers cracking up but I was seeing this guy do his music with a big band and at that time and there was nothing like it when I was a child, it was R&B, Soul, and Rock. I was just blown away. Still, a great performance and it’s fun to watch, just enjoyable music coming from a whole other perspective.Steely Dan – “Peg”There’s a Rock group that I particularly like by the name of Billy Daniels that I refer to as Jazz Rock. When I started producing Jazzmatazz Vol. 4 I didn’t quite realize what that meant, Jazz Rock/ Jazz Soul. I could say as a producer and also just as a fan of music that they’re one of my all time favorites and their tracks have been sampled a ton of times by many different eclectic artists like Q-Tip and others. Their musicianship, that kind of opened my eyes a lot to Jazz and Hip-Hop.Bob James – “Take Me to Mardi Gras”I grew up in Hip-Hop and I always grew up being musical, so I was there with Hip-Hop from the very beginning. Almost every record that you heard in one way, shape or form came from a break beat and a large number of break beats were Jazz breaks. Out of all of those Jazz breaks, one of my favorite breaks came from a song called “Take Me To Mardi Gras” by Bob James. I also had the pleasure of working with him on Jazzmatazz Vol. 4 which was one of my dreams come true. Matter of fact, outside of James Brown he is the most sampled artist in Hip-Hop history.Ray Charles – “Georgia On My Mind”Before Ray became a movie, I was really into Ray Charles. I always found his story to be incredible that somebody with no site was able to navigate with that type of pressure of racism and all the conditions that go with that. To become one of the greatest musicians, a heroin addict, he actually handled his business. He’s a very inspirational individual in music that he overcame so many obstacles as of not having site, being able to tour, write music, work with musicians, marry and be fruitful. All of his big sings are favorites of mine, but I particularly like the notability of “Georgia.”

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