Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Tribute To Gangstarr

I self Lord and Master shall bring disaster to evil factors, demonic chapters shall be captured by kings. Through the storms of days after, unto the earth from the sun through triple darkness to blast ya. If those lyrics are filed inside your mental rolodex to be retrieved and recited on a rainy day then your musical roots are embedded in the golden age of hip-hop. If the words are somewhat familiar or completely foreign don't feel bad. It is by design you don't know these lyrics by heart. These verses were formulated by a super group seldom heard on the radio. A group with dozens of classics, but no Grammys or BET awards. A group without a lot of critical acclaim, but a permanent place in the history of rap music and in the streets of Urban America. It is not often said to them or about them so I will say it for them. Gangstarr is one of the most influential and respected groups in rap music. They are a talent that isn't marketed to the masses. They may not sell out 25,000 seat arenas but anyone that comes to see them appreciates the fact they are listening to greatness. Their sound is on a higher plane intellectually and spiritually. Guru and Primo go together like peanut butter and jelly, fish and chips, rum and coke, Jordan and Pippen, or milk and cookies. They always seem better in collaboration. Premier, the catalyst of the group has made classic anthems with other artists. I once even argued that Jay-Z sounded better over a Premier beat than Guru. Although I liked the argument (the Jay-Z songs were more popular and Jay-Z is slightly superior lyrically) I didn't truly believe it. Guru, the anointed "king of monotone" has had success in the jazzmatazz genre. His voice blends nicely over the drums, base, and horns and gives him a broader audience to display his skills. He's a refreshing contrast in his jazzy mode, but he's a legend over Primo's melodic, street gutter gully beats. In short, these two are better together than they are apart. The underground is where Gangstarr feels most comfortable refusing to water down or taper their style for the general public. Their sound is an acquired taste for the trained ear. Consider Gangstarr the equivalent of graduate school listening. You can't get your masters without knowing what this group represents in the grand scheme of hip-hop. Guru breaks you down with his articulate, egalitarian demeanor. Instead of calling you a hater or a wankster or a punk he'd rather call you a "puny protozoa". Instead of telling you you're not in his league, he'll "scoop you up out of the muck you wallow in". When he's not in attack mode he's educating. He tells the youth to give up the savage ways and be effective soldiers. He tells them to imagine if each one was teaching one. He tells them to read, study lessons, and build your inner power. Primo has achieved SBM status (Superior Beat Maker) for his years of dedicated service. With classics like Come Clean, Mass Appeal, Check the Technique, A Million, Nas is Like, So Ghetto, Who's Gonna Take the Weight, Superstar, and DWYCK DJ Premier has supplanted himself at the top of hip-hop's Mt. Olympus and is truly an icon for the ages. There's always a moment of truth when the ownerz step in the arena for their daily operation and the respect the manifest is hard to earn.

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