In the present world of Rap Music, new artists are flooding the airwaves pushing us further and further away from its creative origins. While bringing in new talent is always welcomed, over time the initiators tend to become a distant memory. Fortunately many have managed to continuously stay relevant by putting out hot albums, and one of those originators in question is Guru. The lyrical half of Gang Starr has been blessing us since the late 80s with his fusion of Jazz and Hip-Hop. His latest solo effort Jazzmatazz/The Timebomb: Back To The Future Mixtape (7 Grand Records), is like icing on the cake to its predecessor Jazzmatazz, Vol. 4: The Hip Hop Jazz Messenger. Each artist present lends their niche on Gurus newest project making this a great companion piece.
With a Back To The Future theme in full effect, you will find that many of the tracks sample beats or borrow lines from other notable artists, yet Guru still refreshes them by putting his own twist. The twenty track effort includes contributions from artists such as Chi-towns own Common on State of Clarity. Proving that MCs look to his lyrical genius to creat their own brand of tough talk, Guru establishes himself as one of the greats with lines like: Ive lost and gained at the same time / MCs biting and swagger-jacking commit the same crimes. Even though this cut was featured on Jazzmatazz, Solar’s remix gives this lost gem a new life. Slick Rick is also heard on the hook saying I just love your jazzy ways from his classic La-Di-Da-Di on the laid back Jazzy Wayz.
Unlike other mixtapes, theres no beef addressed by Guru or any other MCs featured. In fact, he invites many different artists to bring a diverse sound to his Jazz and Hip-Hop union from Caron Wheeler on the horn-driven title track which channels her hit with Soul II Soul Back to Life (How Ever Do You Want It), to Lord Tariq on the club-ready
Knowledge and Yun-Gun from the UK on the old school inspired Too Slick.
The most disappointing selection is Stand Up (Some Things Will Never Change) with Damian Marley. Sonically it is very simple and not one of the Reggae artists best collaborations. Additionally, B-Boy Kamikaze featuring Tony Touch & Doo Wop of the Diaz Brothers might throw the listener off. While this record would have stood out more had it been on a more up-tempo project, its still one of the few tracks where all the instruments can be heard very clean and crisp.
Nonetheless Back To The Future is worth listening to not only for Gurus continuous streak of reinventing different ways of appreciating Jazz music, but for his broad variety of sounds that everyone can appreciate from young to old. This is one of the few Hip-Hop mixtapes that is much more than a few tracks making it on your iPod. Guru is still slicker than most.
GURU featuring Common Market & Blue Scholars
“The Game Needs Me”