Every true hip-hop head will never forget the first time hearing DJ Premier scratching on a record, and Guru throwing lyrical darts through the speakers. Keith “Guru” Elam may have been taken away from us physically in 2010, but his lyrics are eternal and his spirit is with us forever. This piece is a positive look into one record from each Gang Starr album, which are notable for their impact and certainly should not be forgotten. Take a trip down memory lane with us and enjoy:
1. “Manifest” off Gang Starr’s 1989 debut No More Mr. Nice Guy
With help from Big Daddy Kane‘s 1988 Word To The Mother(Land) vocals for the sample and smooth cuts from DJ Premier, Manifest is one of those records where the hook gets stamped in your memory. For this LP being Guru’s debut, he sure displayed some intense confidence without being overly boastful or cocky. If this was the first song you heard off No More Mr. Nice Guy you could surely say to yourself, “Gang Starr is in this for the long haul.”
2. “Check The Technique” off Gang Starr’s 1991 sophomore release Step In The Arena
Two years later came Step In The Arena. Though we all love Marlena Shaw‘s 1969 “California Soul,” DJ Premier flipped it something serious on “Check the Technique.” This record seemed less about content and more just a smack in the face with Guru’s effortless lyrical exercises. While checking him and Premier’s technique, you knew they were just getting warmed up in 1991.
3. “Take It Personal” off Gang Starr’s 1992 third studio album Daily Operation
Now it’s one year later and Gang Starr drops Daily Operation on us in ’92. With subject matter addressing old friends and backstabbers, Take It Personal is a calm, smirk-on-your-face diss to all you who fronted on the G-U-R-U. DJ Premier brought it with his classic consistent, higher pitched scratches and venomous drums.
4. “Comin’ For Datazz” off Gang Starr’s 1994 LP Hard To Earn
Hard To Earn was one of the hardest albums to choose just one record to highlight in this piece, as the whole album is top-shelf and timeless. “Comin’ For Datazz” was a bit more under the radar on the track list, but heavily notable for its head-nodding, jazzy rawness. Guru really gives you a taste of what he was living like at the time, and they both sounded beyond focused here. DJ Premier properly flips Run DMC‘s 1983 “Here We Go (Live At The Funhouse)” on the hook, making it that much more enjoyable.
5. “My Advice 2 You” off Gang Starr’s 1998 release Moment Of Truth
Four years after Hard To Earn comes the brutally honest, refreshing Moment Of Truth LP, which many say is their favorite Gang Starr album. Aside from the obvious fan favorites and bangers on the album, “My Advice 2 You” is a notable record for many reasons, one being its message. At this point Guru has been through a lot on and off the music scene, with about a decade under his belt as a recording artist. So any honest life advice given from the rap god is going to be honest and heart felt. 1976’s “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” by Lydia Pense & Cold Blood is a wholesome, honest record as well, which DJ Premier gracefully flipped here.
6. “Put Up Or Shut Up” off Gang Starr’s 2003 sixth and final release The Ownerz
With a little help from Gang Starr Foundation’s Krumb Snatcha and DJ Premier’s thick production, Guru addresses all the loud mouth, fake gangsters in the game at the time. The early 2000’s was a gift and a curse, and definitely bred an abundance of funk fakers in the music industry, while the true school weren’t getting as much shine as they should have. Guru was letting us know he was still very much present and beating down all frauds, with assistance from DJ Premier’s flip of Queen Latifah‘s Wrath Of My Madness. Though this was their last album together, their force will live on forever.
Rest in Paradise Keith Edward Elam aka Guru (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal).
July 17, 1961 to Eternity.
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