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1991 Interview with Gang Starr's DJ Premier and the Late Great Guru

Posted by Billyjam, April 26, 2010 09:44am | Post a Comment
Gang Starr
Exactly one week ago today Keith "Guru" Elam (aka G.U.R.U.) of legendary hip-hop duo Gang Starr tragically died at the age 43, a month after the cancer-stricken emcee collapsed and went into a coma. His passing hit all hip-hop fans hard, including myself, since I have been a die-hard fan of Guru and his production partner, the ever talented DJ Premier, from day one and had had the honor of meeting and interviewing them several times over the years. Earlier today, after digging, I discovered one of these old interviews. It's from mid 1991, when the duo were out visiting the Bay Area for a show at the DNA (which was off the hook!) and visiting local retail and radio, including KALX, where I conducted the interview that follows below.

At this stage in their career the Brooklyn based (Boston formed) duo was riding high off the reception to their January 1991 released second album Step In The Arena. In hip-hop it was a time many when rap acts were jumping on the jazz fused musical tip, something that Gang Starr had pioneered -- melding jazzy grooves (rather than the standard James Brown and other funk breaks) into their hip-hop sound. In fact, it was Gang Starr's track "Jazz Music" off their 1989 debut album No More Mr Nice Guy (Wild Pitch) that caught the attention of director Spike Lee, resulting in his inviting Gang Starr to contribute "Jazz Thing" (with saxophonist Branford Marsalis and featuring Kenny Kirkland and Robert Hurst) to the soundtrack of Lee's 1990 film Mo' Better Blues starring Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, Samuel L Jackson, and Lee himself.

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Hip-Hop Icon Guru Dead At Age 43. Gifts Unlimited Rhymes Universal, Rest In Peace

Posted by Billyjam, April 20, 2010 10:13am | Post a Comment
Gang Starr "Mass Appeal"

Yesterday  hip-hop icon Keith Elam, aka the emcee Guru, died at age 43 reportedly succumbing to cancer following a heart attack last month. GGang Starruru, whose name stood for Gifts Unlimited Rhymes Universal, will always be remembered for having been one half (the emcee part) of legendary hip-hop duo Gang Starr along with DJ Premier. Together this emcee and this producer created some of the finest, most memorable hip-hop during the genre's golden era. And despite all of the work over the years Guru did apart from Premier, including the ambitious Jazzmatazz series with Branford Marsalis, Donald Byrd, Roy Ayers and Ronny Jordan, it is the Gang Starr recordings that will forever remain in hip-hop consciousness.

Proof of the power and influence of Gang Starr's music lies in the sheer volume of later hip-hop songs that have sampled or paraphrased Guru's words. Over the years and up to this day Gang Starr song titles and Guru lyrics such as the classic "Just To Get A Rep" or "Mass Appeal" (video above) continue to lend themselves to club night names and mixtape titles. Expect to hear a lot of Gang Starr, songs like "Code of the Streets" (below), on the radio for the next week. Rest in peace, Guru.

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HIP-HOP HISTORY: TOP 30 RAP SINGLES CHART, FEB/MAR 1993

Posted by Billyjam, January 30, 2010 08:00pm | Post a Comment
Black Moon
The following Top 30 Hip-Hop Singles chart from February/March 1993, which was originally compiled and published by long defunct East Coast hip-hop zine One Nut Network, was put together based on rap singles' airplay on both college hip-hop radio shows and commercial radio mix shows at the time. The time was early 1993, considered by most as the tail end of hip-hop's much celebrated and oft lamented so-called "golden age" or "golden era," when, it seemed, every new hip-hop release was a noteworthy (and worth owning) release. And while that belief may not be 100% correct, it is, as the following chart indicates, pretty darn close to the truth.

By just eye-balling the 30 singles on the Feb/March 1993 chart below, many of which, including Black Moon, Dr Dre, Young Black Teenagers, and Ice Cube, got released towards the end of 1992 but still had airplay into the first quarter of 1993, you can tell a lot about the status of hip-hop at the time and where it stood in its historical development. For example, many of the acts most associated with the aforementioned "golden age" of hip-hop were represented here, including Kool G Rap ("Ill Street Blues"), Gang Starr ["Gotta Get Over (Taking Loot)"], Brand Nubian ("Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down"), Diamond D ("Sally Got A One Track Mind"), Naughty By Nature ("Hip Hop Hooray"), and Lords of the Underground ("Funky Child") -- each of which happened to be East Coast (NY or NJ) acts.

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Saluting Hip-Hop Greats: Gang Starr

Posted by Billyjam, August 21, 2008 01:57pm | Post a Comment
gang starr
(Update: 04/20/10 Guru died at age 43)

Gang Starr, formed back in 1986 and comprised of DJ Premier and emcee Guru, are no longer officially a group -- at least according to Guru in an interview a little while back. But then, who knows if they ever will perform or record together again? A Tribe Called Quest have gotten back together -- more than once -- so maybe Gang Starr will too.

Regardless, the hip-hop duo's rich back catalog is enough to satisfy this hip-hop fan for hours on end. If you don't already have any of the incredible duo's six albums (plus two greatest hits compilations), I suggest you pick up the double CD retrospective Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr (originally released in '99) at any of the Amoeba Music stores.

Full Clip is a great starting point, as it  includes all but one ("Arena") of the songs in the six Gang Starr videos begang starr full cliplow, including "Words I Manifest,"  "Step in the Arena," "Mass Appeal," "Who's Gonna Take The Weight?," "Take It Personal," and "DWYCK" featuring Nice & Smooth. Listening back the other day to this 2 CD set from start to finish made me realize not just how amazing Gang Starr's music is, but also how influential their work has been on hip-hop.

And are the videos/songs below a comprehensive best-of Gang Starr? Hells no! Just enough to whet a hip-hopper's appetite.

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GANG STARR's JUST TO GET A REP - A HIP HOP CLASSIC

Posted by Billyjam, August 28, 2007 05:00pm | Post a Comment
Mad brotgang starrhers know his name....It's a daily operation

These infamous hip-hop words are among some of the numerous memorable lyrics uttered by GURU (Gifts Unlimited Rhymes Universal) over DJ Premier's track on the February 1991 Gang Starr single "Just To Get A Rep" (Chrysalis/EMI) which, with "Who's Gonna Take The Weight" on the single's flip side, is a true hip-hop classic! Same for the January 1991 Gang Starr album Step In The Arena that "Rep" was culled from. Both are key parts of hip-hop's legacy, with each phrase and rhyme known by heart to any true hip-hop fan. "Just to Get a Rep" harks from a time (late 80's/early 90's) that many agree was the "golden age of hip-hop" and a time that is very close to my heart as a longtime hip-hop fan.

And listening to "Just to Get A Rep" again (see the video below and read the lyircs under video screen) brings back memories of that time when the single and the album had just dropped, a time that was brimming with amazing new hip-hop joints that (as a DJ) I was dying to play. Back then I was doing Bay Area hip-hop radio and TV shows and interviewed Gang Starr many times. It was no big deal back then.   At the time, rap had still not gone 100% fulltime mainstream -- it was pre Dre's Chronic, which ushered a new, more mainstream era in rap's consumption. This meant that if you were a Bay Area DJ on such independent small stations as KUSF, KALX, KZSU, KPOO, KPFA, or KFJC, you could get artists like Gang Starr to make a live appearance on your show with little effort (today you are competing with David Letterman and People magazine). Back at that time Guru and Premo made numerous trips to the Bay regularly to perform (shows for example were at one of Dave Paul's BOMB Hip-Hop Showcases at the DNA) and do the rounds of local radio stations and retail outlets (big up to Leopolds in Berkeley and T's Wauzi at Eastmont Mall in East Oakland). If you have any memories of this hip-hop classic or wish to nominate one of your personal fave hip-hop classics, please do so below in the COMMENTS. Thanks!

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