"Hiphop Meets Jazz" Appreciation Series: Remembering Guru
Keith Elam aka Guru was, and remains, "one of the most distinctive voices in music." Guru and DJ Premier formed the legendary duo of Gang Starr, releasing six albums between 1989-2003 and pioneering a distinct hiphop sound marked by jazz-infused boom bap production and unlimited lyricism. In fact, the sampling of the Charlie Parker and Miles Davis version of "A Night In Tunisia" in Gang Starr's "Words I Manifest," the first single off their debut album No More Mr. Nice Guy (1989), was an indication of how hiphop was breaching new sonic territory.
Beyond the magic of Gang Starr, Guru continued to explore the combination of jazz and hiphop with the Jazzmatazz series beginning in 1993. Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 is among the first albums to combine a live jazz band with hiphop production and rapping, specifically with established MCs. The album features Lonnie Liston Smith, Branford Marsalis, Ronny Jordan, Donald Byrd, Roy Ayers, Carleen Anderson, N’Dea Davenport, Dee C Lee, and French rapper MC Solaar. Check out the video below for insight into the making of the album and its significance. Afterward, read Guru's 1995 feature by David Mills about Jazzmatazz Vol. 2 and the intersections of jazz and hiphop from an original copy of The Source Magazine in the HARI Collection.