Rest In Power Keith “Guru” Elam

Rest In Power Keith “Guru” Elam (July 17th, 1961 – 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, while I was just gearing up to start my day, and she was getting ready to head off to her job, 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:

Gang Starr “B.Y.S.” (Chrysalis, 1992)

Gang Starr “Jazz Thing (Video Mix)” (CBS, 1990)

Gang Starr “The Planet” (Chrysalis, 1994)

Guru “Trust Me feat. N’Dea Davenport” (Chrysalis, 1993)

Gang Starr “Just To Get A Rep” (Chrysalis, 1990)

Gang Starr “It’z A Setup feat. Hannibal” (Chrysalis, 1998)

Gang Starr “Sabotage” (Chrysalis, 2003)

Guru “Certified feat. Bilal” (Virgin, 2000)

Gang Starr “Positivity (Remix)” (Wild Pitch, 1989)

Tony Touch  “The Piece Maker feat. Gang Starr” (Tommy Boy,  2000)

Gang Starr “Check The Technique” (Chrysalis, 1990)

Gang Starr “Gotta Get Over (Taking Loot)” (Sire, 1992)

Breakbeat Tuesday – Break-Face

So it was a great week and weekend. Thanks to everyone that came out to see me and Eli rock on Saturday – that was a lot of fun, and I got a chance to play all vinyl again, which is such a special treat for me. And apologies to everyone that came to see me rock at Santos – unfortunately there was a scheduling and time slot mix-up and I didn’t get a chance to play, but will be back there soon. In the meantime I will be in Zihuatanejo, Mexico this weekend but back next week with a full schedule of events. So I hope to see you all out. Okay, now off to the races, or better yet… The Breaks!

So Rod Stewart is one of them dudes that was just way too corny for me growing up, like he was the antithesis of “cool” for people my generation. I know that he had a pretty potent musical pedigree, but by the the time I was really exposed to him he had really gone the way into faux-crooner mode, completely schmaltzy and lame. Now I kind of gave him the benefit of the doubt because my mom and them liked him, and even as a kid I dug his disco-crossover “Do You Think I’m Sexy” which is a guilty pleasure (even though it’s directly lifted from Jorge Ben’s “Taj Mahal” for reals…)

But like I said, I knew there was more to dude and I never really knew how bad-ass Rod was until I started peeping Faces, his original band with Ronnie Wood. Dudes were really on their schitt. Stewart and Wood came over from The Jeff Beck Group so they were already well-versed in that British Blues style. These 2 dudes, complete with the rest of the band (originally called Small Faces) gelled like glue and rocked like crazy. And attitude, they got that attitude in spades.

So in the short time span of less than 4 years these dudes put of 4 incredible albums and made their mark, only for everyone to go there separate ways and careers, most notable Stewart as a solo artist and Tony Bennett imitator, and Wood joining The Stones for further fame, glory and excess decadence. But About The Breaks, this one is off the 1971 “Long Player” album. “Bad ‘n’ Ruin” is a really great bluesy number that just moves, and when it gets to about the 3 1/2 minute mark, drummer Kenney Jones just lays in for 4 bars of hard-hitting, straight ahead openness. Nothing fancy or intricate, but just smacking. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Sometimes, simpler is much better.

Faces “Bad ‘n’ Ruin” (Warner Brothers, 1971)

Bonus YouTube Beat: Check out Faces performing Bad ‘n’ Ruin on Britain’s Top Of The Pops in 1971.  Super ill performance and dudes go off on it. A really great video, and when Jones’ drum solo comes on he smacks it even harder than he does on the actual recording. Plus, check out Ronnie’s toilet seat guitar. Nasty…

RIP Malcom McLaren

We’re on a world tour with Mister Malcom McLaren, We’re going each and every place including Spain, Asia, Africa, Tokyo, Mexico, He went to the places where the people told him not to go… Rest In Punk Mister McLaren.

Malcolm McLaren & The World’s Famous Supreme Team  “She’s Looking Like A Hobo” (Island, 1982)

All that SCRATCHING is making me ITCH… So in speaking about scratching, I found that crazy DJ Noize routine that I was looking for that I mentioned in a post last month. Here it is… BUGGING.

Continuing our scratching theme in honor of the late great Mister McLaren, here’s one of my favorite videos take on the DJ Johnny Juice who is one of the nastiest dudes to ever touch the platters. He’s actually the DJ that’s responsible for doing most of the ghost cuts all of the first 2 Public Enemy albums but he never got the credit for them (although Chuck does shout him out on Rebel Without A Pause – “Juice on the loose, electric wire…” So peep game.

DJ Nu-Mark On Rub Radio

So the homie DJ Nu-Mark guests on Rub Radio this month. He talks about everything from his days as producer and DJ for Jurassic 5, to swing jazz, to crossing paths with a very young Kanye West, to crate digging and DJing around the world. Nu-Mark takes over the turntables for a banging live set recorded at The Rub party in Brooklyn. And as always, us three Rub dudes throw down, spinning new and classic hip-hop and dance music. You can listen by following this link or even easier by accessing it at the Rub Radio widget on the left-hand side of this page.

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  • Cosmo Baker’s Top Ten Records Of May

    DJ Stuart "Re-Work V2"
    Wet "All The Ways" (Branchez Remix)
    De La Soul "Beautiful Night"
    Phife "Nutshell"
    With You "Ghost" feat. Vince Staples (Major Lazer Remix)
    Tall Black Guy "The Heart Of The Town"
    KRNE "I'll Be Good"
    Hoodboi "Closer"
    Drake "With You" Feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR
    Christopher Cross "Ride Like The Wind" (Joey Negro Dub Disco Mix)


    Club Cheval "Discipline"
    Mura Masa "What If I Go"
    Kate Bush "Why Should I Love You?"

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