Listen to our friend Matthew Africa’s Gangstarr mix, and read Cosmo’s thoughts about Guru and Gangstarr.
Matthew Africa – Got To Be The Sureshot
Rest In Power Keith “Guru” Elam (July 17th, 1966 – April 20th, 2010)
My morning regiment is pretty consistent day in and day out. I wake up, hit the bathroom, go into the kitchen and get the coffee started, and not so long afterwards that I’ll pick up my phone to see what messages I missed during the evening. Needless to say the news of Guru’s leaving this planet was one of the first pieces of news that I got this morning. Shocked, and saddened, I said to my wife “Jesus, Guru has died.” A few minutes later as we sat on the couch, she turned to me and, with tears in her eyes, said to me “This is so sad. It was ‘Step In The Arena’ that made me realize I was a real hip-hop ‘head’…”
That statement is actually more poignant than one might initially think. Of course being a lifelong hip-hop fan and “head” (and not wanting to actually date my old ass) I been around the block a few times and I’ve seen a lot of artists and groups come and go. But with Gang Starr there was something different. My man Kenny first introduced me to them with the “No More Mister Nice Guy” album back in what must have been 1989. I wore that cassette down like nothing else and, while admittedly in retrospect it’s not the greatest album in the world, there was a special spark that was contained in the pairing of MC Keith E.E.The Guru and DJ Premier. Songs like “Positivity,” “Knowledge,” “Gotch U,” “DJ Premier In Deep Concentration,” just kind of had an energy unlike any rap songs that I had heard before. And I don’t think I have to even mention “Manifest” which for my money is one of the greatest hip-hop singles of all time. I was already a huge fan by the time “Step In The Arena” came out. A front to back classic. A record that I studied. I learned every rhyme, every scratch, every nuance in the beats and in Guru’s distinctive and unique voice and delivery.
Obviously Guru and Primo went on to solidify the legacy of one of the greatest rap groups to have ever graced this earth. But the main point that I was getting at in reference to what my wife said about “Step In The Arena” making her a hip-hop “head” is this: I think that Gang Starr might be the first rap group that I really claimed as being “mine,” and this is hard to explain. It’s not in a possessive sense, or not in a braggadocios way of saying “I knew of them first.” But it’s more in the way that I felt the music they made really was my own personal soundtrack. Or maybe it’s just that the records that they came out with, that I listened during those formative years as a teenager, they really defined me in a way. Kind of hard to put into words right now, so I may need to revisit these thoughts later on. But straight up, Guru – one of the greatest MCs of all time, of Gang Starr, one of the greatest rap groups of all time – will surely be missed. Much respect to all your peoples and family, and to the entire hip-hop nation who has also suffered a great loss. But the music and the legacy lives on forever, and nothing can erase that.
“More than a decade of hits that will live forever…” A selection:
And as always, if you would like to drop me a comment hit me up at twitter.com/cosmobaker and hit me up with an @cosmobaker jawn. Feedback is always appreciated and you know I will get back at you.