Friday, April 23, 2010
I won't lie. As much as I hate listening to rumors and hearsay about anyone, I have to admit that the circumstances surrounding Keith Elam aka GURU's death sounds like a soap opera. It is sad not just for his fans but his family as well. It is unfortunate that the story of his ending has yet to be told and it's unfolding will be even more painful and ugly.
However, I am a fan. I have always been and always will be a fan of Gangstarr. Looking back at their extensive body of work, which for most hip hop groups 6 full lenth albums is an almost impossible feat (accomplished only by De La Soul, Public Enemy, Outkast and The Roots -- although the Roots have had several roster changes during their tenure). I knew that when I saw the chain and the star, I was going to get quality hip hop music.
When any of us here that gruff monotone voice, we will think of Guru and Premier, the dynamic duo that made up Gangstarr. Dj Premier, an accomplished producer on his own, did his best work with Guru. I don't think anyone can argue with that. The same can be said about Guru, who also has an extensive catalog without his partner in rhyme, sounded best alongside Dj Premier.
I remember when they released their first single "Manifest" back in 1989. I was at a high school jam at Rice High School and one of the cats I used to cipher with had an ill routine for this song even before I heard it. While the brother killed it on the dance floor, I remember almost snapping my neck when I heard the song and asking the Dj who it was. Everyone looked at me like I was nuts for not knowing who Gangstarr was. That following week, I heard Kool Dj Red Alert play "Words I Manifest" alongside another track "Positivity." I immediately knew that I was a hardcore fan.
I recall being in the Navy watching the first shots fired during Desert Storm on CNN. Then tuning into Rap City to watch "Who's Gonna Take the Weight." Guru's words were poignant and spoke directly to me. While listening to "Lovesick," I was recovering from a night of worshipping the porcelain god after drinking several bottles of yak when my then girlfriend dumped me. My eyelids were heavy as I continued to rewind the tape to listen to his words.
We were steeling ourselves to "Soliloquy of Chaos" in the safety of our ship. We were gathering up our troops to find the idiots who jumped one of our own. Yup, even in France we were participating in the "stupid nigga playoffs." Everytime I hear that track, I think of Kazoo (Rest in Power) and his cousin Capone who always seemed to have a Guru line for everything.
While chilling in my mother's project apartment, my brother Dj Dolo and I listened to a white label promo of "Question Remains" and were just awed. There was many a late night when my brother backspun "Mass Appeal" over and over. That track was consistently played on the radio and BET (yes! I said it).
When I was a bachelor living in god forsaken Virginia Beach, Virginia, my roommate Billie Wheelz and I blasted Moment of Truth each day. We would get up in the wee hours of the morning and one of us would already be blasting "Above the Clouds." The album Moment of Truth always brings back memories of my late bachelor years.
My children will always remember "Skillz" from the last Gangstarr album Ownerz. It was through this song that I was able to show them the fine art of uprocking. The babies continue to love this track and I am so glad to pass on the the voice and sound of the chain and the star.
Premier was right in his statement. Guru's voice will be forever etched in the hearts of his true fans. I doubt anyone can make a wack Gangstarr mix tape. As I grew into manhood, I can picture times when I took a deeper listen to Guru's words and found severl jewels. To this day, I find myself quoting him consistently. While some might doubt that he was one of the greatest, we can't argue that he was consistence, influential, and one of the illest. That's enough for me and no one can take that away.