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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Your Essence is Divine Son

"Realize that your essence is divine son."

True Royalty.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Source April 1994: Gang Starr Cover Story

More essential reading to help you reflect. This one is a vintage cover story written for The Source by Ronin Ro. To read the entire article, click here.

If I Haven't is killing it with scans of old and forgotten Gang Starr articles and interview. Click on the site name to check out the goodness they've been posting.

DJ Premier Rap Pages Interview

This one comes from the April 1996 DJ issue of Rap Pages and is written by hip hop journalism vet Chairman Mao. Great read; in particular where Premier talks about his relationship with Guru. Apparently the two of them had a pretty volatile relationship that included some fist fights. But, Premier assures readers that, "We always gonna come out. No matter what. Ups and downs, we always gonna come out." It's sad to read that quote now.

To enjoy the full article, Via Press Rewind (which is now If I Haven't), click here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Check The Technique: Brian Coleman Discusses Guru

While trying to organize some tribute pieces for Guru, I asked my main dude Brian Coleman to say a few words for Heavy In The Streets readers. Brian did far more than what was asked of him and wrote an unforgettable tribute for me to share with the world wide web.

For those who don't know, Brian is the author of the indispensable book Check The Technique.

Read below as he breaks down the significance of the one and only Guru.

Hearing about Guru's passing the other day was sad to me on many levels. It made me think back on all the good times that his music brought me over the years. There were a hell of a lot of them, and there will be many more. That's the one and only blessing when any artist passes away - you have their art to keep you company when they have moved on.

I originally had a second paragraph here, which talked about his post-Gang Starr career with Solar, but I erased it. I don't want to dwell on anything negative about Keith Elam, because he made so goddamn much amazing music in his not-long-enough life.

Even if Guru's career had ended ten or fifteen years ago he would still be considered legendary. And he should be considered legendary. Think back to any MC you like right now who hit the scene after 1991 (when the group's first classic, Step in the Arena, hit). They wouldn't be who they were without Guru, I promise you.

I won't write an 37-page essay about why I think Gang Starr was important. I would have preferred to have let Guru and Premier discuss the matter, but to be honest, Guru rejected my request to interview him as part of my Check the Technique book in 2006. I couldn't allow that chapter in the book with just Premier's input, even as much as I worship the man as a producer. And now that Guru is gone, I'm even more saddened because that chapter will never be.

But I digress, and since my man Sorce-1 asked, I'll chime in, because Guru and Gang Starr were important to me, as a person and as a music fan. They were - and should be - important to anyone who claims hip-hop in their life (as opposed to someone who shrugs, "Yeah, I like rap", and then downloads a Soulja Boy album).

Simply put, Guru was a dude who rhymed with intelligence, supreme confidence and - most importantly - two feet on the ground, keeping things balanced with more humility than maybe any so-called brag rapper ever. I didn't always believe that he packed as much heat as he claimed (maybe I was wrong), but that didn't really matter that much. Because it seemed that he never really rhymed to cut people down or just to talk shit or waste his listeners' time. If he was dissing the ever-present but unnamed "wack rappers" it was because he seemed to be pissed, and I was curious why that was.

He also used something that many rappers don't have the brains to enlist - a conversational way of rhyming. Such a basic thing, but so amazingly important. When you hear a verse, you usually feel like Guru is talking to you, AT you, looking you in the eye. That automatically draws you in. "Oh, shit, Guru's really laying it on the line." Sometimes you also got to eavesdrop on conversations he was having ...

"Ex Girl to Next Girl"

or "Take It Personal"

or "Lovesick." Connecting with your audience is so important in the rap game. So many MCs who came before and after Guru just never had that in their toolbox.

In the past couple days I've been having an internal tug-of-war about my favorite Gang Starr album. I used to think it was Step in the Arena. But I think now I have to say Daily Operation. That's because I think that's the album where Guru really started to understand the importance of having conversations with listeners, as if it was his duty. And as an entertainer it, in fact, kinda was.

Premier's beats were amazing before and after Daily Operation, and Guru still spit a great deal of illness after that classic from 1992. But that's when Guru climbed the mountaintop and it seemed that on those cuts he and Premier reached that perfect balance, fueled by a combination of confidence and a desire to still push and stretch the limits of music and words. I even like "The Place Where We Dwell," in fact I LOVE it, even though it pissed me off at the time because I'm from Boston and we all knew Guru wasn't from New York. But I could never argue with the power that the two of them unleashed with a track like that. Mellow, wig-flipping power.

As for my favorite Guru song, I might have to say "The Planet". Because it's a heartfelt story, because he tells it like he's writing in his journal or telling you over a drink at a dive bar after a long day at work. And because he takes a brilliant, slower, gritty Premier beat and he pours himself all over it. If the beat had been different -- faster, busier, with different samples or cuts -- he probably would have told a completely different tale. But he was an artist who fed off music, and luckily he had Premier as chef.

My second favorite might be "Above the Clouds", in part because of the ridiculously good Preemo track and in part because of Inspectah Deck's cameo (Gang Starr pretty much pioneered the practice of putting people on tracks just because they were dope, whether they were known or not.... see Group Home or Jeru the Damaja, among many others, for proof).

But mostly because of Guru's wisdom and way with words, which steps out onto a higher plane than usual, with stunning results:

"Bear in mind
Jewels be the tools of the trade
Sharp blades, heavenly praise
And dues are paid."

Amen to that. Guru, I hope you Rest in Power, we miss you.

-- Brian Coleman

Shout outs to Dig It Out, DJ Premier Blog, Noz, and Upnorthtrips for having some crazy images on their sites that helped me put this post together.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Selected Guru Tracks

"It's like Keith Richards. Nobody is going to remember him as the worlds greatest guitar player, but when you needed an iconic lick for your song, he's your guy. That's what Guru did; his sound really set it off."- Branford Marsalis

A few older/random/more slept on Guru cuts, including a great (but criminally short) blend by DJ Supreme The Silencer over "Busta's Lament". I'm gonna hit up Supreme and see if I can get a longer version.

"Guru's Lament"- DJ Supreme The Silencer


"Salute Pt. 2"- M.O.P feat Guru


The following songs are a few tracks I love off of Guru's Jazzmatazz Vol. II.

"Lifesaver"- Guru


"Looking Through The Darkness"- Guru


"Watch What You Say" (Prod. by DJ Premier)- Guru feat. Chaka Khan


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Guru Belongs To Hip Hop, And Hip Hop Belongs To Guru"

If you've ever heard one of Mr. Cee's Best Of tapes or tribute mixes, you know that he pays tribute to the great ones like no other. His tribute to Guru, which you can listen to streaming and download by clicking here, is no exception. I teared up when Mr. Cee got on the mic around the three minute mark and choked up. Thank you Cee for giving us another great piece of music to remember Guru by.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We All Must Meet Our Moment Of Truth

Damn...what can I say about Guru's passing? To this day, Moment of Truth is one of the greatest rap albums I've ever listened to. I can still remember walking downtown to buy it with my friend John after a long day of school. We were in 8th grade and the record store that we bought it from, For The Record, no longer exists.

I have so many great memories of listening to Guru and Primo's masterpiece that it's tough to process them all at once. To get some insight on how much Moment of Truth means to me, you can read an old review of the album that I wrote for The Smoking Section. If you can get past some of the grammatical issues of the piece, I think it does a nice job of showing my love for the great music Guru and Premier made.

I will continue to share my thoughts about Guru's passing as well as his music, but for now, I'd like to share two songs off of Moment of Truth that seem fitting for today.

"Moment of Truth"


"In Memory Of"


Nineteen Ninety Now

During our frequent hookah/booze/whatever else fueled 3 a.m. tirades about music, my cousin Ian and I often talk about how we'd like to see more collaborations with legendary producers and a whole mess of MC's; much like a Statik Selektah album. How great would it be to see more incredible beat makers dropping full length albums with rappers from all over? One producer that we often lament not hearing enough from these days is DITC's Buckwild. Well, it looks that is about to change, and our dreams of a great collaborative project are about to come true.

From the press release for Nineteen Ninety Now:

"Celph Titled and Buckwild’s upcoming collaborative Nineteen Ninety Now will feature Celph ripping over vintage unreleased Buckwild beats from the mid 90’s. Guest spots will include Treach (of Naughty By Nature), Vinnie Paz (of Jedi Mind Tricks), Ryu (of SOBs), A.G., Diamond D, Sadat X, Grand Puba, R.A. the Rugged Man, O.C., Lord Digga, Majik Most and more."

If this lead track with Celph, Apathy, and Chino XL is any indicator, this could be a serious project. To preview and download the song, click here.

New WC Song

There seems to be a serious West Coast legend comeback happening as of late with great stuff coming out by people like DJ Quik and now...WC?! Damn, I was never his number one fan to begin with, more of a casual appreciator, but I haven't heard from Dub in a MINUTE. This song thumps hard and the video comes complete with crip walking and forty dumping. What more can you ask for?

Anyone who feels like chiming in and adding helpful info on WC's upcoming/recent projects is more than welcome to.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Flea Market Findings

After getting a healthy dose of inspiration from Twankle & Glisten, I decided to hit up my local flea market this Sunday in search of some random and forgotten rap treats to share with the three people who read my blog. One of the most intriguing finds was Bankhead Courts by and artist named Skitzo.

After doing some research, I found that supplemental information on the man is rather scant. Since the release of this record on Platinum Atlanta Records, Skitzo has released one solo album, Wanted (which includes songs such as "If I Was Yo Celly" and "T.I. is a Hoe"), as well as a mix tape with his group Kulte Klick. Skitzo also made a cameo on Loose Screw's 1996 album Hell on Dry Land, which I've never heard, but gets some internet love from the blog scene.

I want to like this CD more than I do, but so far only one song has caused me to lean. The track "Mo' Money", which is produced by the albums main beatsmith, Richard "Big Daddy" Gray, has an amazingly minimalist/amateurish sound that is a perfect compliment to the R & B crooning used on the song's hook. While I'm loving this track, I have yet to find another post worthy song on the album.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed with the overall listen-ability of Bankhead Courts. In the end, I guess I have to keep some perspective on purchases such as this one. After leaving the flea market yesterday, my boy Al made the point that if you pay $1.50 for a CD and find one killer track on it, that alone makes it worth the purchase. I concur.

"Mo' Money"


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Screw Done Already Warned Me

Lately I've been listening to a lot of DJ Screw tapes. After repeated listens I've come to realize that what Screw did with his music goes far beyond slowing it down and doubling it up. Screw was serious on the cut and could do beat on beat blending as well as cats like Chill Will and Ron G. Peep the track below to get a taste of his mixing skills.

"Paul Revere" b/w "Bonita Applebuam" by The Beastie Boys


His tapes were diverse too; he fucked with a whole range of era's, regions, and styles. Check out below as he adds the Screw touch to The Blackbyrds classic joint "Dreaming About You".

"Dreaming About You" by The Blackbyrds. (Note: This is incorrectly labeled on the CD as "Visions of Love" by Robert Plant)


One of my favorite Screw tapes, Chapter 97: Players Choppin' Game, features 8-Ball and MJG, Kurupt and Daz, Lil' Wayne, Nas, and Nate Dogg, amongst several others. I appreciate that Screw's focus seemed to be introducing his audience to new music presented in a way that nobody had heard before.

Screw's re-working of "Daylight" by 8Ball and MJG is phenomenal. The track is a favorite of mine to begin with, and Screw, as always, manages to make his version an essential addition to the original. The beat sounds eerily somber when slowed down, and Ball's classic first verse is incredibly effective as lines like

"Vampire...circulate when the moon rise, do dirt when most people got closed eyes, rodent living off garbage and scraps, niggas wouldn't even fuck with me if I didn't rap."

seem to have added weight when played at an unnaturally slow pace.

"Daylight" by 8Ball and MJG


Please leave feedback, other thoughts on Screw, and whatever else in the comments. Shout outs to Bottom of the Map for helping educate a northeast whiteboy on Screw's back catalog.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

BTABTM: Blogs That Are Better Than Mine

As of late, I can't get enough of the amazing Twankle & Glisten blog. Kid Slizzard and his seemingly endless slew of unheard of, slept-on, and forgotten rap tapes and CD's can keep me occupied for hours. The site is straight up addictive; I find myself browsing it now on the daily.

One of my favorite joints that I've discovered on T & G is a obscure bounce tape titled B for Bounce by Ricky B. There is a great reggae mix of one of the songs, complete with amazing mouth made horns to round out the production. Much like a lot of the other music on T & G, it kind of defies conventional description.

Check out the song below and be sure to add Twankle & Glisten to your list of regularly visited blogs.

Download the entire Ricky B tape by clicking here.

"Shake It (Nite Time Version)"


Money in the Sky

Ok, so I said I would start posting again damn near four months ago. Obviously, that didn't happen. I don't want to get into the excuses game, but this is the first time in a while that I've had a solid internet connection and a fully functioning computer of my own. While I may have fallen off, I'm planning on getting back into this here blogging game.

The first post I wanted to make was of a new song by the Alabama duo G-Side that I found on the website Huntsville Got Starz. Titled "Money in the Sky", I'm loving the insanely mellow production and DIY video. G-Side has been making major moves as of late, killing it at SXSW and making serious internet noise with their recent remake of Nas's "The World is Yours". Currently on tour in Europe, I hope these guys continue to rise to the top.

For a superior write-up on the song and a free high quality download, head over to Southern Hospitality, an incredible source for discovering good new music.