Editor’s note: This interview was originally published in June of 2009. The story was to be a retrospective look at Gangstarr’s very first album, No More Mr. Nice Guy. Guru did not want to talk about it, but he was just as upset that I did not want to include his business partner Solar in the interview. For me, it was a talk with Guru and only Guru. Also, it should be noted that Guru referred to producer DJ Premier as his “ex-DJ” in this conversation. On his date of death, Guru’s parting letter had some very choice words regarding Preemo, who is revered and beloved by anybody that’s a Hip-Hop junkie. Today many are questioning the validity of this letter. While we are trying to determine if the words in the letters are those of Keith Elam, one thing is for certain, the hostile notions expressed below are not foreign or new. Gangstarr is one of my absolute personal favorite groups and I cried over this man’s passing as if I knew him personally. I knew him though years of listening to his music and that’s it. My feelings and emotions don’t change the fact that Guru was hostile in this interview and towards Preemo. Afterward, I had a lengthy conversation with Guru and Solar’s then-publicist who said she was trying to work with them on changing their approach. Another company presently represents the group. REST IN PEACE GURU. GANGSTARR IS FOREVER.Below is the article exactly as it was printed on June 24, 2009.– Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur****“People ask me about my ex-DJ (DJ Premier) and all that. We were never all that close. We hooked up in the studio and did great music, but we were never hanging and all that cool. Solar and I, we got tight before we even started doing music.”
I just didnt see eye to eye with Guru on this one. The legendary rapper and I disagreed from the onset of this conversation. I was looking to do an interview that discussed – in part – the 20th anniversary of Gangstarrs No More Mr. Nice Guy, the seminal album constructed with the equally iconic DJ Premier. Gurus primary musical priority is his new album Guru 8.0: Lost and Found, a collaborative effort with new partner/producer Solar. He’s got his mind made up and he moved on a long time ago.
Read on as Guru explains his annoyance with the politics of the rap game as well as his reluctance to discuss the glorious past known as Gangstarr.
AllHipHop.Com: I’ve heard some of the album- I actually heard the whole album, but I listened to it again today. Can you sort of speak on it in terms of what you thought you achieved with the album?
Guru: Well first of all, you know the title is pretty self-explanatory you know- Hip Hop was lost, but now it’s found. It’s found with myself and my partner Solar- 7 Grand Records, being that we’re those intelligent, creative leaders that Hip Hop needs, to take Hip Hop to the future. I travel globally- we travel all over the world and everyone’s like “Hip Hop needs this, it’s lacking that, it’s missing this, it’s half a lie, it’s fed” whatever. And so this is real Hip Hop for ’09.
And I wanted to say real quick before we continue that I don’t know whose decision it was to exclude Solar from the interview, but it’s just a collaborative effort and it wouldn’t be going down with Solar- he’s the CEO of the record company as well as the producer, as well as the director of all the videos. We been around the world, his production has been critically acclaimed on the previous records, you know around the world, and you know the politics that’s involved in this are not really to my liking. As a legend it’s a little bit-
AllHipHop.com: What do you mean when you say politics?
Guru: I mean to be say “Oh we just want to interview Guru” or “We don’t want to interview his partner.” It’s very you know- I’m a legend, and at this point in my career, I mean, I want to do what I want to do. I don’t really have to dictate in what I want to do, especially when it comes to promoting my record- it’s no f**king charm. I mean if it’s going to be something that’s not about this record and a trip down memory lane, then I would respectfully decline from even doing the interview.
AllHipHop.com: Okay, well I mean if you don’t want to do it, then we don’t have to do the interview. I do want to talk to you about- you know it is the 20th Anniversary of your 1st album
Guru: See that’s what I mean! That’s something I don’t want to talk about. I don’t want to talk about the past. The past is the past. It is what it is. It was great, but that was then and this is now. I mean, you know, that’s just what it is. I mean there may be some artists that’s doing new music that’s irrelevant, but my music’s relevant. 7 Grand is a successful, important, independent label. At a time when the music industry is tight, when CD sales are low, we’ve been successful. We’re still running- we’re up and running, and we’re going strong. So to be forcing me- to try and force me to go down memory lane when I don’t want to is kind of insulting. It’s not even kind of insulting.
Guru & Solar Divine Rule
AllHipHop.com: Nobody’s trying to force you go down memory lane. We have a series that we have artist do a retrospective on their previous records.
Guru: Oh Ok! Well in that sense, I will just say that it was a great era and that was then and this is now. Now I’m adding another luxurious chapter to our already great career.
AllHipHop.com: Everybody knows what’s going on with you and Premier- that’s old news now but are you.
Guru: I mean what do you mean by that? There’s really nothing to talk about as far as that was then and this is now. There’s no drama attached to it you know, I don’t get it.
AllHipHop.com: I’m just so curious as to why you’re so dismissive of such a rich legacy of music that you had, that you-
Guru: I’m not. I’m not. Now you’re putting words in my mouth. I’m not because when we performed live in our live show, we had the number one Hip Hop/Jazz Ensemble on the planet. In our performance, we do a whole musical journey and part of that is through the Gang Starr classics, but they’re ranged by Solar and we have live instrumentation, which is incredible. How can I be dismissive of something I created? I created it. I own it.
AllHipHop.com: Well I’ll just put it like that, you know from a fan stand point- because that’s what I am, a fan, I would like to hear about how those records were made and what was the thought process behind them.
Guru: Yeah see that’s not what I chose to do at a time when- as a businessman and as a- let’s say I was signed to a major. The major record company would be like “You know he has a new record out that he’s promoting so he’s not going to want to talk about that”, and that would be that. You know what I mean, that’s just the way it is. No hard feelings or anything. That’s just how it has to be.
“I don’t want to talk about the past. The past is the past. It is what
it is. It was great, but that was then and this is now. I mean, you
know, that’s just what it is. I mean there may be some artist that’s
doing new music that’s irrelevant, but my music’s relevant.”
AllHipHop.com: Okay. No problem. So this particular project, are you feeling that it’s addressing some of the deficiency in music these days?
Guru: Definitely because rather than to try and go back to an era that’s gone already, we’re providing new Hip Hop for ’09 as oppose to 1999 or oppose to ’95 or whatever it is. Again, this is something that has never been done, so it’s taking people- some people some time to get their minds around it. Some people are definitely stuck in the past. Some people are stuck in the past, but not the audiences because our shows are sold out. You know it’s weird, it’s like it’s really an industry thing.
Guru and Solar – 2009
AllHipHop.com: Now, what about the comments that were made? You guys made a lot of people talk as far as the comments about down south music not being real Hip-Hop. I know mostly towards Solar, but do you feel the same way?
Guru: First of all, it was kind of taken out of context, but first of all he was saying it was good music, that we vibe to it and all that. It’s not that we don’t listen to it or whatever, but he was saying that it was a hybrid, that it’s not necessarily connected to the root, it’s derivative of pure Hip Hop. Especially that a lot of those artist do not have the respect or show any knowledge of where it came from. Again, to get a more in depth comment, you should ask Solar because he will break it down for you very articulately.
AllHipHop.com: Well I think that his point was fairly clear in the video. I didn’t see that it was edited in any way or even taken out of context from what I see, but perhaps we’ll do that.
Guru: Some of the stuff I read was, but go on.
AllHipHop.com: Okay. No doubt. As far as some of the down south artists that you do appreciate, would you mind sharing that with us?
Guru: T.I.- I always thought T.I. was lyrical. I like Lil’ Wayne. He’s got some ill metaphors. I think what it is is that the medias sensationalized Lil’ Wayne, but I think Lil’ Wayne is a dope artist. So I would listen to Lil’ Wayne for the music, not for the hype. Who else, a couple others… I like Jeezy.
AllHipHop.com: Oh yeah, what do you like about him?
Guru: I like his voice, his delivery. I like the fact of what he talks about. When you meet him you can tell he represents what he talks about so it’s not some act so to speak.
AllHipHop.com: Right. He’s one of the guys that people blamed on destroying Hip Hop. He’s actually rapped about that considerably. The people think that he’s not lyrical enough or his content matter is too negative, so that’s just something to note I guess. I guess it’s a little ironic, but not so much.
AllHipHop.com: Somebody wanted me to ask if you miss Boston.
Guru: I travel to Boston to see my parents, you know they’re still there. As far as Boston goes, I get love to where I’m getting love from and I a lot of love in New York so I’m here showing love back. Boston has been a bit kind of funny you know. They don’t want to give you that hero’s welcome that I deserve. They want to put me in the little underground spots and so forth to perform- spots that I’ve done a million of times, not really trying to do all that again. So Boston has to step it up as far as showing me love. I’ve done a lot to put Boston on the map and you know if they were to get behind me, there’s a lot more. But I’m not going to show love if I’m not getting love. That’s just the way that is.
AllHipHop.com: One thing I noticed on the album that you is there’s one song on there when you use the autotune. I was were curious to as prompted you guys to use that device.
Guru: I’ve heard autotune on Red and Meth’s album and you know, did [you] ask them that (laughs)? I mean, I’ll put it to you like this, it’s used in a way that it makes sense for us, not in a way that’s used indicative of whatever “Pop Hop” that’s out there. It’s totally different. It’s just a song, it fits the style of the production for that song, and it made sense. Solar’s production is brilliant. It all comes together to form the lost and found theme.
AllHipHop.com: Have you felt any resentment from people in the industry?
Guru: In the industry yes because a lot of them are from that era where they just want to talk about Gangstarr, they just want me to do what I used to be doing or whatever. And like I said, Gangstarr was great, it was great till that time and it represented a lot of important things. Gangstarr is me. It runs through my veins. I got it tattooed on my arm. But at the same time it’s ’09 and I’ve moved on, and I’ve moved on to join forces with New York Citys brightest producer, visionary film director who connects with that next genius producer or the next genius artist. I’ve been known to do that.
I’ve connected with Solar so it is what it is. Some people are just stuck in the past. It doesn’t discourage me at all. In fact, it motivated me more. At the same time while there’s people doing that in the industry, there are people at our shows, at our concerts, and people that are supporting the records that love what we’re doing. And there are bunch of new fans. See thats the whole new element that’s not being spoken on. There’s a whole new 7 Grand fan base that’s new and never really knew about Gangstarr – that’s learning about Gangstarr from the new material. They get the new material first and then they do the history.
AllHipHop.com: I’m not trying to dwell in the past or anything, but do you stay in touch with any of the other host of the Gang Starr Foundation members- aside from the Gang Starr part. I’ve seen Jeru Da Damaja out and about…
Guru: No, I haven’t. I haven’t seen anybody. It was just a situation where people grew apart. People ask me about my ex-DJ (DJ Premier) and all that. We were never all that close. We hooked up in the studio and did great music, but we were never hanging and all that cool. Solar and I, we got tight before we even started doing music. We were friends for a couple of years before he even started playing me the hot tracks. I knew he had the heat, but it was more like we were building as men. So, it’s just a different situation. I guess that’s why I’m so I’m passionate about what I’m doing you know what I mean. It’s just a whole different level.