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Guru (Gangstarr) - conducted by Hugo Lunny  

Guru: Seven Grand

August 2005

For fifteen years now, above (most famously) Premier production, we've known Guru as the frontman for Gangstarr. Yes, his solo endeavours (Baldhead Slick & Jazzmatazz) were great albums; however they failed to deliver the same punch that those with Primo did. After their major label commitments finished, so did Gangstarr in favour of placing a legacy for all to revere.

Guru now co-owns the record label Seven Grand with producer Solar. The two are a new team; Guru compares them to Pharell and Snoop after Dre and him. Earlier this year, Guru released "Street Scriptures" his first album since the split and plans to release another Jazzmatazz next year.

MVRemix: How did you and Solar meet up?

Guru: We met through a mutual friend and we were hangin', we been friends. During the time that we were recording "The Ownerz," we were hanging around a lot, runnin' around New York and shit and I was expressing to him my frustrations, and literally my disgust with the whole major label influence on my music and my career and my creative visions that I had during the whole Gangstarr situation - six albums, seven albums. He said to me, "Why don't you start your own label? Jay-Z did it, Puff did it, what've they got on you? Make it a plan." So I thought about it and I called him a few days later and was like "You know, I really wanna do that." I took my time and finished my commitments to what I had to do with Gangstarr, finishing the rest of our tour etc. and Solar was right there, touring with us.

After that, we started working on putting Seven Grand together but he was a bit reluctant because he wasn't into all the fame stuff. He's already successful in his own right, a self-made man from the hood, which to me was very inspirational because everybody around me which often happens in a celebrity realm is that too many people were tryin' to push beats at me, or fake homies that were just around tryin' to take and never had nothin' to bring to the table. When I met Solar, I was inspired and impressed. Again, we're of the same belief system, so that made it a closer connection.

We started building, he played me some tracks one day and I went nuts like "What the fuck? Where have you been hiding this shit?" And "Hall of Fame" was the first one we done. I came back with the lyrics, the hook, ready to do shit. Chemistry was there. We took two and a half years to make it happen and as it went along, the more and more convinced I was that this is the new sound for me. I knew it from the gate but more like with "Jazzmatazz" and "7.0," it's bananas. I'm on a serious creative high.

MVRemix: As I've read, most of the tracks were co-produced by you. What were your responsibilities as a producer?

Guru: It was that part that was pretty similar to my responsibilities when I was working with Premier in that I've produced on my own, "Jazzmatazz," and a few Gangstarr songs, "Code Of The Street." I learned my stuff in the early days of Hip Hop from some guys like 45 King and so forth who taught me. But when I work with Solar, he's the producer of the new age. So, I like to let him do his thing and the only time that I give input is when he's askin' me. [chuckles] I pretty much really just listen. I contribute creatively and I have a great ear, so I contribute as far as the mixes and stuff like that. But in the whole track making process, I let Solar do his thing 'cause he's nuts. He just gets me more and more inspired as he goes along, so it's a great thing. As an artist of my stature...

Solar: [interrupting] Sorry to cut you off there, but me, workin' with Guru, just havin' him involved in the process is an inspiration for me. He keeps me motivated to push the envelope because I realize that I'm workin' with a legend and somebody of his stature - it just makes me that much more creative and makes me push the envelope that much further to give the most advanced level of production for this time as possible.

Guru: Indeed, indeed. So with that, for me it's a recreation, a re-invention. I've always been wanting to take my career to the next level or to take my creative visions to another level and I've always been a dude that evolves with the times and so forth. I look at all my favourite artists, not just in Hip Hop, who re-invent or re-create. I never wanted to keep banging Gangstarr against the wall and milking it and draining it because it's legendary. It needs to stay as a legendary, historical group in Hip Hop. In order to do that, I thought it was best to leave it at that and start on something new. You can look at Snoop and Dre, and now Snoop and Pharrel. That's a good comparison, a good analogy as to where I'm coming from. There's no animosity or extra emotionality with that, it's just that that's what time it is for me.

MVRemix: Where would you rank "Street Scriptures" in comparison to your other albums?

Guru: I would say it's classic and it stands a long way there. In some ways it stands above because this has never been done. What I'm doing has never been done. I'm not trying to brag about it, but it's not easy to do and its never been done. We're making history. There's a niche for it. There's an audience out there that wants to hear what I've got to say and the way I say it - there's pretty much no one else who's gonna do it but me. So...

Solar: Because these corporate empires, all these dudes is bloated. They're supposed to be representing culture and all they've turned into is bloodsuckers of their own people. They're sucking the life out of these people, selling them overpriced clothes that they make for a dollar, two dollars in Korea - they're selling them over here for two hundred dollars! They're selling three-piece suits that cost upwards of five thousand dollars. They've become vampires of their own culture and their own people. So what we represent is the people that give back to the youth, support Hip Hop and take it to the next level. Let it grow, let it evolve into the beautiful artform that its always been designed to be.

MVRemix: Do you feel that your releases outside of Gangstarr, the Jazzmatazz' and the Baldhead Slick albums, have been overlooked in comparison to Gangstarr?

Guru: Jazzmatazz was looked at by different people. You can look at from the crowds that come to the shows, to the people that buy the records - the people that told me that Jazzmatazz was the first Hip Hop record they ever listened to. Then there's other people who stuck with Gangstarr and didn't even wanna mess with Jazzmatazz, and there's other people who mess with both, because they're able to be on different levels, like myself. I'm a versatile dude. I'm many faceted. You can't limit me unless that's what I want. Like with "7.0," a pure Hip Hop album, we stayed within some guidelines and we made it for ourselves. With Jazzmatazz, we could push 'em. We're workin' on the next Jazzmatazz now and it's bananas. We got like twenty somethin' tracks done, about nine with vocals. The rest we're sending out to the special guests. We have a lot going with that now. That's probably gonna come out around June 2006 on Seven Grand records.

So again, this is not Guru doing solo projects, it's Guru on another level of a C.E.O. I am the truth, the owners for real. We are the owners. It's not just an album title, we're livin' this. So that's why I would say that anybody thats been following Gangstarr or Jazzmatazz, it's in the lyrics that there would come a time where I'd be doing it like this now. It's in the whole message of Gangstarr, Gangstarr was about that; taking control, originality, loyalty. All of that. Pure Hip Hop. As you were asking about the projects, see it doesn't matter to me so much in that I'm not gonna stop. So if I continue to do it, nothing's gonna be overlooked. At the end of the day. Not by the people who need to be effected by it. I don't care if I'm overlooked by somebody who doesn't matter. [chuckles] You smell me? Depends who's overlooking.

MVRemix: What are the differences between your working relationships with Primo and Solar? Partially based on the fact that one is on your label and the others were on majors...

Guru: The difference is just that... First of all it's a little too different. Two different people, two different styles of production and Solar and I are of the same belief system, so that makes our situation totally different, just on the whole.

Solar: Me and Guru were friends before we became business partners and partners in our creative endeavours. So we got to know each other as men and friends before we started traveling the world and our musical vision to the world.

Guru: The other way around with Premier it was like we learned each other as we went along. It started that we had a business relationship because I discovered his demo and I wanted to work with him. So that was different. But I will say, I've got to pop my collar because as an emcee in Hip Hop, we very rarely see an emcee who can discover the likes of a DJ Premier now and the genius and brains of a Solar. I can always say Snoop and Dre, now Snoop and Pharell.

MVRemix: What would you say is the biggest misconception people have of you?

Solar: I think it's the era thing.

Guru: [in agreement] Yeah, yeah...

Solar: People identify Guru with the wrong era. They identify him with the Rakim and Big Daddy Kane era, but in fact he's more from the era of Snoop and Dre... Nas... From that era. He has a huge body of work, but it was really the early 90's, '92, '93 and then Gangstarr peaked in like '97. From the beginning of the 90's to '97, that's way more to do with Snoop and Dre than Kane and Rakim. Which is good and they're great, but people mis-identiry which era he comes from.

Guru: Yeah, it's more like Tribe or something like that. I came out a year after Latifah. De La came out two years before us. People be getting that twisted.

Solar: I think now with the label we have the opportunity to address this.

Guru: The first Gangstarr album was late '89, so really we didn't get into the meat of things until the 90's. We had our most successful record in '98.

Solar: There was no touring, there was no presence from Gangstarr in the '80's.

Guru: None 'till '91.

Solar: Those tours, they were tours with those cats from that era. You know what I mean? Ice Cube, Quik...

Guru: We even did shows with Tupac.

Solar: That's more of the era with Snoop and Dre.

MVRemix: What's going on with the label (Seven Grand) and what does the future hold for yourself?

Solar: We got Jazzmatazz dropping in early 2006. This is gonna be a brilliant, brilliant album. I think it's gonna change the face of music and Hip Hop for the next five to ten years.

MVRemix: With regards to Jazzmatazz, are you handling most of the production or...

Solar: Production will be handled by me all the way through. It's gonna be Solar and Guru all the way through.

MVRemix: Any last words to your fans?

Solar: We have some first words, some middle words, we're gonna keep goin' with words. But yeah, we love the fans man, we love them and we appreciate them. They're gonna see us give back our appreciation through our music and not to abuse the Hip Hop culture thats given the world so much.

Guru: We look at the fans as our peoples, so we bring it straight to them. We always wanna take time for 'em and always give them some of those wise words that they're looking for because that's what we're here for. So we're never gonna turn our backs on them as we go to the next level which I deserve to go to. We'll bring them with us. A lot of cats on the underground went to go to higher levels and they turned their backs on their audience. That'll never happen with Guru.

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Guru (Gangstarr)

"I am the truth, the owners for real. We are the owners. It's not just an album title, we're livin' this. So that's why I would say that anybody thats been following Gangstarr or Jazzmatazz, it's in the lyrics that there would come a time where I'd be doing it like this now."