Monday, January 25, 2010
For the seventh chapter in the book of Guru, Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures, the former Gang Starr mastermind strips away from the cocktail and smoke settings of Jazzmatazz and returns to the pastures that made him one of hip-hop's most revered and skilled MCs: the pavement of New York City. Nearly a 20-song homage to the Big Apple, Guru nods in the direction of the city's future, having such established and up-and-coming MCs as Jean Grae, Talib Kweli, and Styles P make guest appearances. Surprisingly, the album is produced in its entirety by Solar, a bold move considering Guru's finest moments often occurred when DJ Premier was behind the mixing disc and drum machine. Having a consistent producer throughout also leads to a bit of monotony in arrangement, leaving Street Scriptures with a dragging feeling toward the conclusion. This could have been trimmed down to a 14-song release, which would have increased the impact of the album on the whole. And while Guru still rhymes better than most, he does have his off moments from time to time, and thankfully there's more than one guest appearance to help songs move along to their conclusion. Not his strongest outing, but certainly an improvement over Baldhead Slick & da Click and the last Jazzmatazz record.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Though it can reasonably be argued that rap grew almost directly out of funk and its particular beat, there are a lot of overlaps with jazz, particularly the bop and post-bop eras: the uninhibited expression, the depiction of urban life, just to name two. Jazz samples have also had a large role in hip-hop, but the idea of rapping over actual live jazz wasn't truly fully realized until Gang Starr MC Guru created and released the first in his Jazzmatazz series in 1993, with guest musicians who included saxophonist Branford Marsalis (who had previously collaborated with DJ Premier and Guru for the track "Jazz Thing" on the Mo' Better Blues soundtrack), trumpeter Donald Byrd, vibraphonist Roy Ayers, guitarist Ronny Jordan, and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith, as well as vocalist N'Dea Davenport (also of the acid jazz group the Brand New Heavies) and French rapper MC Solaar. While Guru's rhymes can occasionally be a little weak ("Think they won't harm you? Well they might/And that ain't right, but every day is like a fight" are the lines he chooses to describe kids on the subway in Brooklyn in "Transit Ride"), he delves into a variety of subject matter, from the problems of inner-city life to his own verbal prowess to self-improvement without ever sounding too repetitive, and his well-practiced flow fits well with the overall smooth, sultry, and intelligent feel of the album. From Jordan's solo on "No Time to Play" to Ayers' vibes expertise on "Take a Look (At Yourself)" to MC Solaar's quick and syllabic rhymes on "Le Bien, le Mal," Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 (and what turned out to be the best of the series) is a rap album for jazz fans and a jazz album for rap fans, skillful and smart, clean when it needs to be and gritty when that's more effective, helping to legitimize hip-hop to those who doubted it, and making for an altogether important release.
- "Intro [Light It Up] Jazzalude I" – 1:44
- "Lifesaver" – 4:13
- "Living in This World" – 4:29
- "Looking Through Darkness" – 4:48
- "Skit A [Interview] Watch What You Say" – 5:00
- "Jazzalude II - Defining Purpose" – 1:02
- "For You" – 4:10
- "Insert A [Mental Relaxation] Medicine" – 4:19
- "Lost Souls" – 4:12
- "Insert B [The Real Deal] Nobody Knows" – 3:58
- "Jazzalude III - Hip Hop As A Way Of Life" – 1:17
- "Respect The Architect" – 4:51
- "Feel the Music" – 3:57
- "Young Ladies" – 4:12
- "The Traveler" – 4:01
- "Jazzalude IV - Maintaining Focus" – 1:18
- "Count Your Blessings" – 4:02
- "Choice Of Weapons" – 4:24
- "Something in the Past" – 3:19
- "Skit B [Alot On My Mind] Relevation" – 4:35
The legendary Guru is the frontman and founder of both GangStarr and the worldwide acclaimed Jazzmatazz. Guru was the first artist to truly blend Hip-Hop with Live Jazz beginning in 1993, and seeing the vast influences his Jazzmatazz concept has had on the industry, it is clear that Guru's musical contributions have been way ahead of their time.
As one of the best kept secrets in Hip-Hop and music history, as an innovator and royal luminary of Hip-Hop and Hip-Hop/Jazz, Guru worked with such great artists as Herbie Hancock, Isaac Hayes, Donald Byrd, Ramsey Lewis, Roy Ayers, Chaka Kahn, Branford Marsalis, David Sanborn, Bob James, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, Angie Stone, Jamiroquai, Macy Gray and Damien Marley to name a few.
After the release of Guru's "Jazzmatazz Vol. 1" in 1993 there were very many attempts to duplicate the Jazzmatazz Hip-Hop/Jazz concept and even the entire Neo-Soul genre was heavily influenced by Jazzmatazz. The first 3 Jazzmatazz albums were released in 1993, 1995 and 2000. Not only did the early Jazzmatazz music challenge the boundaries of Hip-Hop, Jazz, Soul, R&B, etc., the live aspect was something that none of these genres had ever seen. On a deeper level, the Jazzmatazz show was the first time anyone had seen a vocalist with a live band and DJ which has now become an industry standard stretching all the way to Rock N Roll. Jazzmatazz was the first Hip-Hop act to be asked to play at the world's most prestigious music festivals and brought with it a whole new audience as well as a new youthful appreciation for Jazz and live music which continues to this day. Since its inception there has been no credible comparison to the originality and broad appeal of a Guru's Jazzmatazz concert. This is one of the most captivating musical experiences ever world over!
The release of "Jazzmatazz Vol. 4: The Hip Hop-Jazz Messenger" sparked the rejuvenation of the Jazzmatazz series due to the brilliant production and masterful arrangements brought forth by his producer and partner Solar. This album is now the # 1 Hip-Hop/Jazz release of the decade. Released on their successful new label, 7 Grand Records, distributed worldwide. Though sophisticated musically and conceptually, the album connected with many underground Hip-Hop acts as well due to the fresh new sound that Solar put together. For the new live show, Solar has created a sonic landscape that takes the audience on a musical journey through all of my classic material from early Jazzmatazz to the present and even includes masterful live renditions of GangStarr hits.
Thus, Guru's Jazzmatazz featuring Solar and the 7 Grand Players is the best live Hip-Hop/Jazz act on the planet and appeals to all audiences from pure Hip-Hop/Jazz to hardcore Hip-Hop, to Alternative, to more conservative Jazz, to R&B, Soul, Retro, etc.
Guru and Solar have performed for sold-out crowds ranging from 1,500 to 50,000 people around the globe. There is something for everyone to enjoy here. Look out for more classic Hip-Hop/Jazz coming from the icon Guru and his partner Solar!
Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1
Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality
The Best of Guru's Jazzmatazz
Jazzmatazz - Streetsoul
Jazzmatazz - Back to the Future - The Mixtape
Guru 7.0: The Street Scriptures
Guru 8.0: Lost & Found