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Two Years After his Death, GURU of Gang Starr's Legacy Lives On

Posted by Billyjam, April 19, 2012 10:39am | Post a Comment

Gang Starr "Code of The Streets" (from
Hard To Earn, 1994)


It was on this date exactly two years ago (April 19, 2010) that hip-hop icon, emcee GURU of hip-hop golden era legendary duo Gang Starr (with DJ Premier) died succumbing to a year long battle with cancer combined with a serious heart attack from a month earlier.  The name of the super-gifted and highly influential MC, born Keith Elam and who was only 43 when he passed in April 2010, appropriately stood for "Gifts Unlimited Rhymes Universal" which perfectly summed up the artist. GURU will always be remembered most for his Gang Starr recordings. Yes he did a lot of other work with artists over the years including the ambitious Jazzmatazz series with Branford Marsalis, Donald Byrd, Roy Ayers and Ronny Jordan but it is his Gang Starr recordings/catalog that will forever remain in the hearts & heads of music fans and the general hip-hop consciousness.

There have been, over the years, countless club nights whose names have been taken directly from GURU lyrics, and/or Gang Starr song/album titles. Dave Paul of BOMB Hip Hop once had a party called Step In The Arena. Additionally GURU's fondness for confrontational, battle style lyrics were tailor-made for DJs to utilize in battle scenarios. As UK DJ/producer Pete Sasqwax so accurately noted today on this sad anniversary, "So many quotables & without him, how different DJ battles would've been over the years. I believe there was a significant period of time whereby it was mandatory to use a Guru dis in your DMC [DJ battle] routine otherwise you would automatically fail to progress." Above and below are videos to some of my personal all time fave Gang Starr cuts. Rest in peace GURU - your music keeps you alive forever!

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Amoeba SF Chart with Luis, Frisco Legends Tour, Coolzey's Summer Series, Guru + more: Amoeba Music Hip-Hop Weekly Round Up: 04:30:10

Posted by Billyjam, April 30, 2010 10:20am | Post a Comment
Amoeba Music San Francisco Weekly Hip-Hop Top Five Chart: 04:30:10

Andre NIckatina
1) Andre Nickatina Khan! The Me Generation (I-Khan Dist)

2) B.o.B. presents The Adventures Of Bobby Ray (Rebel Rock/Grand Hustle/Atlantic)

3) Cypress Hill Rise Up (Priority Records)

4) Little Brother LeftBack (Traffic)

5) Truthlive Patience (Interdependent Media)

Bonus pick of the week:
Sick Jacken Stray Bullets (Urban Kings Ent.)

Many thanks to Luis at Amoeba Music San Francisco for supplying the latest hip-hop top five chart, in both text and video formats, which also includes the Bonus pick of the week & featured vinyl releases (new & classic) at the Haight Street store. As Luis says in the video below, the recent Record Store Day (RSD) two Saturdays ago at Amoeba SF was off the hook, with records like the new Cypress Hill vinyl (RSD special release) and the Beastie Boys' "Mystery RSD" 12" attracting a lot of record collectors. "We sold out of all fifteen copies of that Beastie Boys record we had in like five minutes," Luis told me. As far as new releases on CD, the number one release this week is from longtime hometown artist Andre Nickatina, Khan! The Me Generation. Since arriving on the local rap scene back in 1993 with his debut The Real Jim Jones on In-A-Minute, back when he went by the moniker Dre Dog, Nickatina has not only been extremely prolific (systematically dropping an album on average of B.o.B.every other year), but more importantly he has remained consistently in-demand with the every fickle rap fan.

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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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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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