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Brand new Guru

Influential ’90s MC keeps innovating on new album



Who: Guru with Solar and DJ Doo Wop

What: The Bassment with DJ Seanski

Where: Moe Joe’s

When: Tuesday, July 19

Hip-hop is different these days than back in the 1990s and Guru, one half of that decade’s influential Gang Starr duo is not pleased with what he sees.

Pornography, cookie cutter beats, cookie cutter image, a general lack of innovation and a focus on commercialism and corporate branding characterizes today’s hip-hop, says the New York-based MC (born Keith Elam).

Rather than fade away, he’s decided to take it back.

After seeing out what he deems was a restrictive contract with Virgin Records for Gang Starr and his solo Jazzmatazz projects, Guru was finally free to explore his own vision of bringing "the balance back into hip-hop."

Two and a half years ago, he joined with likeminded producer Solar to form 7 Grand Records, which would be his platform for a new vision for hip-hop, one that melded the old school principles with contemporary advancements.

"When we say we’re going to bring the balance back to hip-hop, we’re going back to where hip-hop originally started. In its original inception it was totally creative, totally edgy. Everything was about innovation," Solar says.

"We’re not out to take it back to the old school," Guru says, " we want to take it forward with old-school principles.

"We’re not going to be selling jewelry or three piece suits," he adds for emphasis.

The sonic result of the shared vision is 7 Grand’s first release: Guru 7.0 The Street Scriptures, the raison d’être for the current tour which features Guru and Solar on stage with DJ Doo Wop–"the classic legendary bouncemaster on the ones and twos."

Never one to hide out in the studio, part of the movement represented by 7 Grand is taking it to the people.

"For an artist like myself I’ve always been partial to touring. It’s the nature of how I was introduced to this game, so to speak," Guru says. "That was when I first saw the importance of the live stage show. We’ve prided ourselves on stage shows. At this point it’s better than ever. I’ve quit drinking. I’m in the gym every day. I’m in the best shape of my life. Our stage show now is more energetic than ever before."

"It’s a smooth album. He’s sounding like a young boy," Solar adds.

Showgoers on the current tour can expect to hear all the classic Gang Starr hits, all the classic Jazzmatazz joints with a few new tracks added in for good measure, Guru says. Using Solar’s techno-savvy production skills, he adds, the older tracks have been remastered and are getting a new life of their own.

"It’s not just you’re hearing your favourite songs, but you’re hearing them sounding really crispy, crispier than ever," Guru says. His enthusiasm is infectious. He does indeed sound like a young boy, hearing his first single playing on hip-hop pirate radio.

Next week’s shows in Whistler and Vancouver will definitely have an old school flavour. The dates reunite Guru with Vancouver/Whistler DJ Seanski. The two predate each other’s careers, having met while working at the Public Library in Harlem in the late 1980s. Seanski would eventually go on tour with Guru’s Jazzmatazz project in the mid-1990s, a tour that concluded in Vancouver. Seanski fell hard for the city and decided to stay. Guru toured back to New York.

Only to return again with new beats, new rhymes, new vision.