Sunday, July 1, 2007

Guru interview

Due to a question I asked Guru and his new "super-producer" Solar regarding how many people hated his Street Scriptures album, this interview couldn't go to print because the two artists wouldn't be cooperative with me. But let me explain.

If any of you know me, you know I wouldn't just state a comment that many people didn't like one of his albums if it wasn't true. And after reading on MANY message boards that people didn't like it, I brought it up as one of the questions. Needless to say, Guru wasn't happy.

Feeling bad for awhile that I had apparently stepped on a toe I shouldn't have, I was reassured that HE was the one who was acting out of line after I asked a friend of mine who's very involved with the hip-hop community (He's the online editor for XXL) why he might have gone off on me the way he did. I found out that many publications haven't been interviewing Guru lately because he's been very confrontational with the press as of late. And while this article would beg to differ--basically, it just makes him look very laconic as Solar does most of the talking--I can tell you that after I was finished with the interview, the next day when I called up for more quotes, I got an earful of "You're a faggot" this, and "Watch your back on the streets" thats. And this is all for stating something I found out on a few message boards. Talk about a tough crowd. So, without further ado...The Guru interview.

For better or worse, Guru has always stayed true to himself and his beliefs, and never allowed the critics or even his fans to dictate what he was going to do with his next project. With a long run of glory as the other half of the critically acclaimed duo, Gangstarr with DJ Premier, it wasn’t difficult for Guru to keep his braggadocios ways intact, as he had definitely earned it—Daily Operation and Moment of Truth are legendary albums in themselves. But after the supposed separation of the group and his new, more recent work with Superproducer Solar, some have gone on to say that Guru has lost the spark of creativity he once had when he was with Premo. His solo projects have received iffy responses from some of his fans, and it’s gotten to the point that even his beloved Jazzmatazz series has been slightly tarnished. XXL-Mag takes an in depth look at his latest project, his current status with his new producer, and what the two of them have to say about DJ Premier.

Every Jazzmatazz album has a different vibe to it. What’s the vibe with this one?

Guru: The vibe with this one is energy. And perfection. It’s star-studded, and all of the feature artists gave it their all. It’s more than just a collabo. It’s 110%. Solar probably has more he can say about that.

Solar: They’re all great.

So, what’s the deal with 7 Grand Records?

Guru: 7 Grand is a movement. It’s putting a better face on music in the North East. It changes it all.

Okay. So how’d you guys go about picking out the guests this time around? I kind of miss Herbie Hancock.

Guru: First of all, no artist has been on these albums more than once except Donald Byrd, and that’s because he was my mentor.

Solar: Yeah, how we went about it, we brainstormed, traded, and vibed about it. Then we reached out to them and got them on the record.

And nobody declined when you asked?

Guru: No.

Solar: It was like, when Guru asked me to do this album, I said, let me listen to the past albums and take it all in so I could make a fresh Jazzmatazz album. And then I said, well, let me take a look at Jazz fusion with hip-hop, and I found that Guru really was the father of it. So with the hip-hop and jazz, I took the influences and found that they’re really the same thing. Jazz is a subculture, and it’s a mixture of people from different cultures. I looked at hip-hop and said, yeah, this came from New York, and Manhattan, and then I’d look at Jazz and said, this and this came out of Harlem, and I took all the things that I could personally dig into. Because even though I was born and raised on the streets of New York, a lot of the things I grew up on came from a jazzy influence. Like Bob James, who did the intro to the show Taxi. To get him on this album with Common, and of course, Guru, was great. Another example is one of the breaks from Good Times. They got that song from an upright bass (*makes jazz beats with mouth*). So, how I see it, jazz is right here, right now. We’re bringing it back to the forefront.

And so that’s why the new Jazzmatazz album got the title, Back to the Future? Because you’re bringing it back, but still making music towards the future.

Solar: Ex-ac-tly! Without the past, you can’t have the future.

A complaint some people have with these Jazzmatazz albums is that it’s not as jazzy as it used to be. What do you think about people who say that?

Guru: Can’t please everybody! But I think this one will satisfy those people [who say that]. It’s lyrical, New York, and it’s got that BOOM BAP. It has everything.

Solar: It also has a laced up production. As a New Yorker, my soul is unique, and the musical composition has a very futuristic sound. And it’s kind of like the Street Scriptures album. I don’t mind that a lot of people haven’t caught up to that album yet. Like, we’re on the Redline soundtrack, and that’s big. So I have no problem being ahead of the creative curve. Not on the commercial curve, but the creative curve.

Speaking of Street Scriptures, a lot of people hate that album, why do you think that is?

Solar: I think a lot of people didn’t even listen to Street Scriptures, and people were just comparing me to Premier. Those people got stuck on one point, and didn’t know how to get off it. When you look at the world wide appeal, that shows and proves. So far, we’ve sold 100,000 copies.

Guru: And to add to that, the New York Post, Black Beat, Critical Beatdown, all gave it great reviews.

Solar: The people who talked about it seemed to get more attention than the reviews themselves, and from the critics who actually matter.

You guys seem to be more famous overseas, why do you think that is?

Solar: For me, this is a new thing. BBC UK just put me in something they were making, and this is from me coming right out the box. Russell Simmons was in it, and they of course had Guru because of his legendary past. But I wouldn’t say that’s still how it is now. Coming up, we have a five week sold out tour. Now we’re getting huge shows, but we’re still not going to go pop. We’re not going to go all out.

Guru: I couldn’t say it any better. We’re real people with real passion.

Solar: We love what we do and we’re real passionate about it. It’s like with great painters like Renoir, or, and I’m into martial artist myself, like Bruce Lee. How he dedicated himself to his art, that’s what we do.

What ever happened to Ill Kid Records?

Guru: That was a good start, and it came from the ground up, but this [7 Grand Records] is the real deal. Now we have the hottest new production, it’s on a whole new level.

Solar: It’s like with J-4 (Jazzmatazz 4). Just look at what’s going on [around you]. Some albums are all over the place, not from somewhere close. This album applies to the times we are living in. Because really, what album speaks to the streets like Street Scriptures? This album is for thinkers who care about what’s going on, not for people who care about what kind of new hairdo Sanjaya has.

Guru: Just to add to that, there was a story about a big riot at the M&M store [near Times Square] where 5000 people applied for only 188 jobs.

Solar: And who else is going to talk about that? If you don’t want to hear what we have to put out, I’m going to have to direct you to somewhere else. Like the porno section.

Going back to Street Scriptures and Premier, what do you think about people who still talk about him?

Solar: Honestly, I think it’s only a small group of people who do that, and I think it might have been over business relations. With this album, we have some outstanding people. And to be completely honest with you, I don’t have anything against Premier, I’ve worked with him, I know the man, and I have nothing against him and I never will.


Guru: I’d just like to say that it’s industry wise, not street wise.

Solar: Some of the people who talk about it might just be trying to get me and Guru to start a beef. But this is how it is, if I have a problem with Premier, I’ll take it up with Premier. But I don’t, and I wish him all the best with his career, and I’m sure he wishes me the best for mine, too.

Guru: There it is.

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