Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Above The Clouds

I chant eenie meenie, minie moe
I wreck da mic like a pimp pimps hoes
Here's how it goes I am a genius I mean this
I shake this you'll take this
I'm kinda fiendish
You wish that you could come into my neighborhood
Meaning my mental state
Still I'm 5 foot 8
Crazy as I wanna be
Cause I make it orderly
You could say I'm sorta da boss so get lost
The brotha dat will make you change opinions
Dominions I'm in them when it's time to kick shit from
The heart, plus I get a piece of the action
I'm feelin satisfaction from the street crowd reaction
Chumps pull guns when they feel afraid, too late
When they dip in the kick they get sprayed
Lemonade was a popular drink and in still is
I get more props and stunts than Bruce Willis
A poet like Langston Hughes and can't lose when I cruise
Out on the expressway
Leavin the Bodega I say "suave"
Premier's got more beats den barns got hay
Clips are inserted into my gun
So I can take the money, neva have ta run
                                                                                       Guru from Gangstarr, "DWYCK"

Macedonia and I were watching Yo! MTV Raps when we saw the video for their first single, Manifest.  Dressed in Nation of Islam garb (going for broke with a remarkable likeness to Malcolm X), alternating with street issue gear, Keithie E's monotone rolled along smoothly and connected the obviously disjointed images in a way no one else was really thinking of at that time.  Complimented by Premiere's acrobatic cuts and hardcore beats, the two grabbed our attention and held it for years to come.

Yet I admit that I laughed when I first saw the video.  He had a very big mouth, and if you turned down the volume, you'd be fascinated by how wide his mouth flapped as he rhymed.  Perhaps I responded to the gesticulations and overenunciation inherent in earlier rap videos, perhaps my mind having been spoiled by cartoons was connecting the images in the usual manner.  Still, I knew well enough that these guys were worth listening to, if not for the rapper, than certainly the dee jay. Who was making beats like that?

The second single and the accompanying video, Positivity sealed the deal for me.  These guys were definitely here to stay, and not only that, they were a welcome addition. There was a certain level of tranquility that allowed the message to penetrate our thoughts, thanks to Keith "The Guru" and his low, single-toned delivery on a gold platter spun by his partner DJ Premiere.

Yet, aside from the mainstream attention-grabbing Just To Get a Rep, it wasn't until the third album that it really all came together for them.  "Daily Operation", led by the edgy Take It Personal was likely where you can see the duo being comfortable in their own skins, grabbing the hip-hop world by the collar and applying a Vulcan pinch.   This was definitely Jeep-worthy material; in that they declared their claim to the streets, yet in doing so retained a significant amount of dignity by rapping with intellect and strong technique (never mind that I had a 1980 Mustang hatchback). 

When they seperated to do their own projects, their personalities projected even further into the hip hop diaspora.  Premiere would, among others, produce some of the most seminal hip-hop tracks for the likes of Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G. and other top-shelf rappers of the generation following his, while Guru's influence expanded overseas and around the world, crossing musical realms into jazz. It may be safe to say that Guru is as well known for his inspired jazz projects as for the mark he made on hip-hop.

That is not to say that it was easy, or that he became a superstar in either case.  Guru had troubles; which he reflected on in the album "Moment of Truth", which to me stands as an epilogue on his life, now that it has run it's course.  I believe we all have an innate knowledge of when our life is coming to a conclusion, and we begin to reflect on what we've done, what we should have done and what what to do now.  In retrospect, my own mother was telling me as much in the last year of her life, and I found the words intuitively from my father, whose tired body was preparing for the long journey into night. And that's also not to say that Guru really said much in the end for us to consider; who knew he'd been fighting cancer all this time?  I don't think anyone believed it at first. Yet we all tell that story at some point in our lives, and after it's done we prepare for the next level.

Guru was not my favorite rapper, but he was one I held in high regard and was a natural part of my collection.  His time here definitely produced interesting material, and his impact is most felt now that he is gone.  Forgive me, for it will take a while to sink in.  Nevertheless, I can't help but believe he's much better off where he is now.  Certainly we of the Hip Hop nation are less without him.

Above the crowds above the clouds
where the sounds are original
infinite skills create miracles
warrior spiritual
Above the clouds raining down
Holdin' it down...

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