Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/9/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #843:

Gang Starr – Daily Operation

By teens standards, this 1992 golden-age hip-hop classic is almost quaint. Gang Starr frontman Guru (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, a.k.a. Keith Elam) described himself as an anti-gun, anti-violence weedhead. He only directed his hostilities at wannabe MCs, pop acts and racists, but when he went after them, he was ruthless. And he did it with a calm, seemingly effortless precision: on this album, he doesn’t even swear much. As hilarious as many of his rhymes are, it’s stunning just how seriously he approached his art. This is a mix of straight-up I’m-in-charge joints like Take It Personal and The Illest Brother, along with the confidently matter-of-fact No Shame in My Game and Ex-Girl to the Next Girl and the album’s best cut, the coldly withering Conspiracy. The funniest track here is Take Two and Pass, where Guru’s generosity with his blunt turns out to be a little disingenuous – if you listen closely, it turns out that DJ Premier also has one, and each guy plans on smoking a whole one. Primo’s production is characteristically terse and minimalist: he keep the beats and his signature backward-masked samples simple, vocals front and center. Just the way they ought to be. Here’s a random torrent.

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October 9, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rap music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Memoriam: Guru

Guru (an acronym for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal), the iconic, paradigm-shifting founder and rapper of hip-hop legends Gang Starr and creator of hip-hop jazz died yesterday after spending much of the previous two months in a coma following a heart attack. He was 43. Born Keith Elam in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1966, Guru founded Gang Starr in 1987 and released a handful of singles that achieved enough regional success to catch the attention of New York DJ Premier. In 1989, Guru and Premier released their landmark first album No More Mr. Nice Guy, followed by five others, the last, The Ownerz, in 2003. One of the originators of the East Coast hardcore style, Guru’s hard-edge, rapidfire, syncopated delivery matched the uncompromising seriousness of his lyrics. Particularly critical of what he felt was a drift in hip-hop toward popstar meaninglessness, Guru remained relevant and true to his origins even as he celebrated his own achievements as a wordsmith on joints like Check the Technique, Take It Personal and Code of the Streets.

In 1993, in the wake of the duo’s finest album Daily Operation, Guru teamed up with a diverse crew of jazz artists including Branford Marsalis, Donald Byrd and Ramsey Lewis to release the first of his four Guru Presents: Jazzmatazz series of albums, showcasing jazz improvisation over a hip-hop beat while taking a somewhat more lighthearted lyrical approach than he took with Gang Starr. The final Jazzmatazz album was released in 2007. Guru also released two solo albums during the decade. He is survived by a son. His longtime collaborator Solar (no relation to the French hip-hop artist MC Solaar, whose career he springboarded here in the US) released a controversial posthumous letter ostensibly written by the rapper distancing himself from DJ Premier, with whom he had split after the duo’s final album together seven years ago.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, obituary, rap music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment