Guru and Solar Former Gangstarr legend GURU has joined forces with producer Solar to bring us their latest release “7.0 Street Scriptures”. Now forming their own label, 7 Grand, this duo is ready to reinvent the hip-hop game. Check out this exclusive as they speak on music politics, 7 Grand, and the current “gangsterism” in hip-hop today.
Interview by Rob Schwartz
WHO?MAG: How did you two come together to join forces? GURU: We were introduced about five years ago by a mutual friend and we just hit it off. We started hanging, getting in trouble, hitting the clubs, and tearing New York City apart. He came on a few of the Gangstarr tours with me he was around during the last Gangstarr album. We had a lot of frustrations about the A&R’s and these corporate dudes trying to cut my creativity and it was getting me a little sideways. He said, “If it’s that bad, why don’t you start your own label. You’re an icon. Puffy did it. Jay-Z did it. You can do it.” I was like “hmmm”. Thought about it, called him back and the rest was history. Solar: I was already a producer, but we didn’t come together as an artist and producer. We came together as friends. I already did well for myself in other fields, so I was already financially successful. I grew up in New York and was brought up with hip-hop in my blood and I always liked to make beats and music. As our friendship evolved, I saw where things were going for him and to be quite honest, he wasn’t happy with his situation with Virgin, he wasn’t happy with his situation with his creativity, and he was pretty miserable. No one wants to see there friend miserable. So I gave it some thoughts of what his problems were and I told him why not start your own label just like Jay-Z and Puff. I didn’t see anything that they were bigger than him. I see them all the same. They may have some other things happening for them, but I see them all the same, and on some levels, I feel GURU is greater than Jay or Puff. The bottom line here is that GURU needed to take control of his life and destiny and to rid himself of the problems he was having and I will tell you what those problems are. There were people working at Virgin that didn’t know anything about hip-hop. It seems like they didn’t even know what hip-hop really is. They were just voicing opinions. They didn’t care about music. They seem to care about everything BUT music. So GURU was being affected by this because he was the kind of person who always brought the truth to hip-hop and sincerity and authenticity with him and Premiere. So it was a perfect time for him to move on because GURU wanted to move on and expand into other avenues of his creativity.
WHO?MAG: What makes 7.0 Street Scriptures different from your other releases? GURU: It’s a purer version of what is going on with me because it’s not tampered with by any outside forces plus it represents what is going on with me today. All my favorite artists were able to reinvent or recreate and adapt to the times were living in. We’re living in some serious times and it pertains to that. It’s also like your favorite rapper with a new sound, so it’s almost magical because it’s like to here me sounding this way is incredible to me. It’s like Solar has read my mind and had the sound that I was looking for because I knew I wanted to end the legacy of Gangstarr because I have outgrown it. That’s taking nothing away from it. In fact, that’s actually putting it on a pedestal so to speak because if we were to keep doing it, it would have been burnt out and we would have went out like some old school chumps and that’s not me. Solar: At the same time, 7 Grand “The Street Scripture” did was to track a whole new fan base to GURU. Were at 100,000 and counting. I would say that most of the fans weren’t Gangstarr fans that bought this album. I would say most of the Gangstarr fans stayed away from this album. So the bulk of the 100.000 plus fans are all new fans including a lot of female fans. We’re also attracting fans that like the new sound of production being compared a lot to Kanye, which I feel is a valid comparison. I feel my sound is different in some ways, but at the same time have some similaralities. I feel I have my own unique ways of bringing my beats forward. That’s giving GURU a whole new look to GURU’s spit. The craziest song on the album is “Cavin” where GURU is spitting to a 160 bpms and that’s the song where most of these haters get the samples wrong. Actually there was a lot of reprogramming and playing on that song, but they can’t actually figure out where I got that sample from. This was a stand out track and GURU can really excel at that beat range and people really enjoy it. We performed that live and people go crazy so we’re even thinking about putting out a video to that song also. Even the new video for that song is very cutting edge. We would love to see BET or MTV get on it because its not about the bling or the pornography or the craziness of the corporate bullshit, but a real video that is really talented and I would like to tell BET or MTV that if you can show a music video based around a girls ass crack, then you can show this video. We shot it in Hollywood on a big budget. It’s a real conceptual video. We used elements of Sin City and elements of the old TV show The Green Hornet and Kato and it is really a great look. All of this really comes together to form the backbone of 7 Grand and the sound for GURU, but we are also signing new artists. We have new acts that we are going to be signing. We have other media and joint project that we are going to be bringing out soon through the internet and DVD and new delivery systems through media. So in some ways to be honest we are saying fuck MTV and BET, because we can get this played on the internet and don’t need them anyway. We won’t need a major label because we will distribute it on the internet. So we’re just going to really concentrate on you guys, the new future stars of media in terms of the delivery system and the word of the journalist. GURU: That is what was always important to hip-hop. It always found a way to bring it directly to the people. Solar: Whenever corporations find a way to get into hip-hop, they fuck it up. GURU: So when they start to force-feed you one thing, we’re going to be over here giving you an other.
WHO?MAG: So what is your take on the growth of hip-hop from when Gangstarr first came out in the early 90’s? GURU: I think it’s been growing in a lot of ways and it has been stagnant in a lot of ways as well. There are two sides to it. I always like to look at the positive and the positive is things like the internet and the entrepreneurs and the independent labels and all of that. It’s beautiful. The other stuff is just as Solar said, because of the corporate BS. Solar: I don’t think it’s wrong to identify the negative. But quite honestly, Proof getting shot dead, this is not good! It’s not good when you have young people dying over what? What? This is alarming to some degree. I don’t believe that this is the message that we need to send to the world right now. America is not being looked at that great these days. This is an American art form. An urban art form! If you put this out there that people are just killing each other for no reason at all, also with the whole thing with the Busta Rhymes video where this one dude is shot dead but there is nobody going to jail, but there the implication is that there is going to be street justice. This shit is just stupid! I’m going to be the one who stands up and says that the house is on fire, man. Come on and get a grip. It’s not about that! Busta isn’t a fucking gangster. These dudes aren’t gangsters so the need to stop pretending because they didn’t grow up doing that. They weren’t professional drug dealers. They weren’t professional hit men or stick-up mob men. These are dudes that wanted to become rappers and now you’re trying to pretend you’re something else. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything wrong about Busta Rhymes, this is just the normal mind state now out there. Everyone is a gangster or a killer or involved in gunplay. All we’re trying to say is calm the fuck down! We’re going to bring some sensibility. 7 Grand Records are going to say to the listeners out there that don’t carry guns, that don’t want to be gangsters, that are going to school, that are working a bullshit job, we feel you. We got you. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. Hold that down. Go become a doctor. Go become a lawyer. There’s nothing wrong with that. And if you are in the streets and you are living trife, to try to get out of there because there is no future in that. We do understand that some people do what they have to do, but put your mind into getting out of there. You don’t have to stay in that life. Find a way out! GURU: You see when Solar speaks like that, that seems like a viable tangible solution. That’s what has been missing in this shit. Of course you can’t go out there and preach to everybody. We’re not here for that. As tangible hip-hop stars, I believe we have something to say and that the people that listen to hip-hop can listen to this and learn. Solar: Let it be known that here at 7 Grand, we are universal. We have something for everybody. We don’t want people to feel that if they’re a gangster, that we have nothing for them, or if you are in school that we have nothing for them. We want people to know that we have something for everybody. GURU: In my home town in Boston, its gotten so stupid that MC’s are getting shot and killed before they even get deals and before they even get known. And that’s going on all over the country. It’s disturbing, for sure.
WHO?MAG: So what do you feel is the key to your longevity? GURU: They key to longevity is the love of the art form. It’s the work ethic and the dedication and the love of the culture. Those are the keys. And the discipline. That’s a huge factor that effects me now. Solar: We work hard to perfect a song and pick the right songs. The new Jazzamatazz is going to be a very groundbreaking album that is going to take hip-hop to the next level. It’s not an album that is designed to nothing else but to embrace what is good about music and hip-hop. It really is a place where the listener is going to expand their experience in listening. It’s going to be a growth experiment really because its going to be a musically well-defined great look. And it’s going to be brought there to the world by someone who has done this before. And each time a Jazzamatazz album came out, it was critically acclaimed for pushing the envelope and bringing new styles together and that’s what we’re going to do here with this album. On the last album, I worked Jean Grae, my favorite female emcee probably ever. She may not have accumulated the bodies of work that these other female emcees have, but when she does get her whole thing popping of, people will see that she is a great female emcee. But from Jean Grae to Jazzamatazz, I’m now working with David Sanborn probably one of the greatest saxophonist ever. So for me, it was a great experience to go from two different sides of the spectrum, but still two great experiences. I think that’s what Jazzamatazz and Street Scriptures bring to hip-hop, the diversity that is needed. GURU: It’s hip-hop plus. It’s something that I can do for years to come. And when I created it, I thought about it in that way as something that is timeless and with the longevity factor.
WHO?MAG: What do you feel is the most important thing for an upcoming artist to learn when entering this industry? Solar: It depends on what they enter the industry for. It used to be because they want to make hip-hop because the want to make music. Now I’m not sure. Now they may be doing it to further their career for something else. Maybe they want to be actors or gangsters. I don’t know. It’s not the same reasons. If you came into this industry because you want to become a rapper and you love the culture, then make sure you sign with the right company that is going to let you express yourself creatively and not turn you into a corporate pigeon. And the other dudes, I have no advice for them. GURU: And for the dude that Solar was giving advice to I would say to surround yourself with good people and check everything. Check it once, twice, three times.
WHO?MAG: What’s next for GURU and Solar? GURU: Jazzamataaz Vol. 4. We’re going to be touring for the rest of this year with DJ Doo-Wop for the 7.0 and early next year for the Jazzamatazz, then we have 8.0 and some other groups coming out as well. Solar: And I want to add that we have one of the best hip-hop shows in the world right now. It’s critically acclaimed. It’s two hours long of classics and new classics. For all the fans out there, when you get a chance, come through and see what this is all about.