Boston isn’t exactly a hotbed of urban culture. Actually, when you talk about nationally known and respected hip-hop artists from Beantown, there are only two names you need to bring up: Ed O.G. and Guru. Guru, of course, is the rapping half of the legendary duo Gang Starr. After breaking into the game in ’90 (I think) with “Jazz Thing”, Guru and his boy DJ Premier kicked off a decade-long string of hits, and while they never blew up on the pop charts, they more than earned respect among true heads. Guru’s monotone style struck the perfect mix between chill and hardcore, while Primo is widely acknowledged as one of the best producers in rap music history. Along with A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr also were the first hip-hop artists to feature a heavy jazz influence in their work, helping to pioneer that East Coast boom-bap (which is actually kinda funny, seeing as Primo is from Texas. Is it weird that he and DJ Muggs are probably the two most important producers when it comes to the NY hip-hop sound and neither one of them is from New York?).
Guru was also responsible for the “Jazzmatazz” series-4 commercially released albums worth of music that was a little more on the smooth tip than Gang Starr was. Among the artists he’s collaborated with on these projects: Donald Byrd, Roy Ayers, Branford Marsalis, Lonnie Liston Smith, Meshell Ndegeocello, Chaka Khan, Jamiroquai and Ramsey Lewis.
Sadly, Guru suffered a heart attack this past weekend at the age of 43 and is reportedly in a coma. While praying for his speedy and full recovery, check out two of my favorite Gang Starr videos.
“Just to Get a Rep” was the Gang Starr video that made me a fan. The whole narrative is dope. The video (directed by Fab 5 Freddy) is simple but effective. When I was a teenager, there used to be this show on public access cable called “American Hot Video” which was similar to Video Music Box-people from the tri-state area called in their requests. AHV used to run the shit out of this video.
…and then there’s “DWYCK”. I have no idea what that shit means or why that’s the title of this song, but if you want to start a party, this track will get asses shaking immediately. This song WAS the summer of ’93 (shit, was it ’92? My memory’s hazy) in New York City.
Real hip-hop, y’all. Enjoy.