Gowhere Hip Hop

Gowhere Hip Hop EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW - Guru and Solar

Guru (left) & Solar (right)

Gowhere Hip Hop is once again proud 2 present another EXCLUSIVE interview - this time with 7 Grand Records boss and legendary rap icon Guru along with Super Producer Solar! I was privileged enough to talk on the phone with Guru and Solar and discuss their latest project, Guru's Jazzmatazz: Timebomb/Back To The Future Mixtape, that hit the web and stores yesterday, as well as many topics surrounding hip hop, R&B, jazz. You should really take the time 2 get 2 know Guru and Solar with the FULL transcript below!

In addition, support real hip hop with links 2 a couple trax from the mixtape as well as the BUY LINK at the end of the interview! Finally, just want 2 send out another special thanks 2 Guru, Solar, & Jackie O for settin it all up! I was real impressed by the passion in their responses below and it made for an awesome interview! Gowhere Hip Hop wishes you guys nothing but the best!
(We are working on getting an audio version of the interview uploaded, but no guarantees! Enjoy!)

GWHH: Tell us about the new mixtape - Timebomb/Back To The Future - what sets this one apart from the rest in the series?

Guru: To me, it's never been done before. It's charting new territory and it's the ball, the street, and the "underground" companion to Jazzmatazz Vol. 4. But you know, Jazzmatazz Vol. 4 covered a lot of ground, but this covers the ground that it didn't. It kinda like takes the Jazzmatazz series even more places and creates a lot more appreciation for what it's really about.

Solar: You know, they tellin.. they asking us, as a producer to do Part 4, to begin with a challenge to begin with right off the top. And me personally, I always hear Part 2 and Part 3 are the most interesting, you know what I mean? So the first thing I have to do in taking over Jazzmatazz Vol. 4 - The Hip Hop/Jazz Messenger and the underground companion was to make sure to promote the album in a way that was gonna reinvigorate the franchise. It was a much more critically acclaimed album then Parts 2 and 3 for sure. And we did it on an independent label and easily, we could've failed. Many said we were gonna fail automatically because we did it on an independent label. But as soon as they see the lineup of stars, they knew that we were goin to do our thing. You know, we got a good album, a great album, and some say "classic album". But at the same time, what can we really do to make this thing fresh? To really add on? And what hasn't been done was that there's never been a street version of Jazzmatazz. All was on the level of Vol. 4... but there's a lot of young heads out there that that was challenging for them. And we're not goin to be honest to them or ourselves if we don't realize that. Even though we're getting it, we just want somethin' that you can go to the barbershop and rockin' it or hang out in the cipher and it's like everybody can feel cool about it, you know what I mean? As soon as we walk into the ground, real underground hip hop, you know what I mean?

GWHH: Is this your favorite project from the Jazzmatazz series? I'm sure you guys have liked them all and I mean, is there even a favorite?

Guru: I would say this was the most fun because you know, with Jazzmatazz, there's the whole, there's a more sophisticated, more involved process to bring together the jazz greats together to jam over the hip hop and then bringing in the world class vocalists and so forth. That's a process. And that takes time. And it's enjoyable, but it's a different kind of enjoyable. It's a really involved process, but it was fun because it was giving tracks to the MCs, having them spill, sometimes I spit and check my vocals with him, and it was just we stick together or, it was more just like, it was a lot of fun! Especially spittin with MCs who I admire who are coming up in the game and who are other legends.

GWHH: Great, that's a perfect transition into my next question. I was wondering about your feeling on the state of hip hop and the direction it's going? And also, who among the rappers in the game today, artists that you admire? Artists that you like? Artists that you even listen to?

Guru: Where I see hip hop - it needs some balancing out. There's the mainstream - it's getting flooded with the same type of music. But at the same time, we're not going to talk trash about the dudes that are making that kind of music, but we're going to provide 'em [the people] with something that's fresh and new, and innovative, and creative, and hot, and street, and all of that. You know, and that's what the Timebomb represents and that's what you'll keep hearing coming from 7 Grand. And then there's definitely an audience out there that's tired of being force fed. So we're looking to connect with them. So doing this interview with the likes of yourself and so forth, and opening up these lines of communication for support of doing that. That's one thing that definitely needs to happen in order for, because the intelligent listener is being neglected in the mainstream. So the intelligent listener has to go to the internet and other ways to access the more stimulating things for him and her. So that's how I see it and that 7 Grand is very essential to that movement and in fact, 7 Grand is a movement itself, it has become one because people are looking for change in the game, some leadership. As far as MCs, a lot of them are on the record. Aceyalone, Zion I, I also like this kid Akrobatik from Boston, but he's not on the record, I like him. Then there's on the record, we got Blue Scholars, Common Market, of course K-Born and Highpower from 7 Grand Records that Solar is workin' with. I love them dudes. There's a female rapper on there - Medina - she's hot! And in the game, I like Saigon, I like Planet Asia from the west. I've always been a big fan of Talib Kweli, and there's a bunch of others, too numerous to mention.

Solar: Guru and I have pretty similar tastes when it comes to artists, maybe because of the artist/producer relationship. I would equally like to say that Common's stuff is really relevant. You know, it shows the progression of somebody, an artist who started in the same underground fashion that a lot of these artists that are finding themselves in now, when he started his career and how he's risen to the level he's at now. And that's the whole concept too, of having these young talented [rappers] with Guru that Guru gives them a set of inspiration because they're not getting millions of dollars like a Soulja Boy or what have you. But at the same time, Guru shows them and you know, the people ignore them, what's their inspiration? They're not getting a lot of money so why would they keep writing these great lyrics? And why would they keep wanting to do what they do? So they basically want to show them up and give them acknowledgment towards to what they're doing. And these tracks [produced by Solar, given to these up and coming artists] are on the same level as tracks that I've given to Gym Class Heroes. So I didn't come with the production on a flimsy level at all so it wasn't like I gave them a bunch of doorway tracks. I gave them top-notch production cuz I really wanted to hear them shine.

GWHH: While we are talking about other artists, especially with the jazz influence in your last two projects particularly, what musicians exactly from jazz and even R&B, with Bobby Valentino and Raheem DeVaughn featured on Jazzmatazz Vol. 4 at least, have inspired you or artists that you respect? What about the genres inspire your style and music?

Guru: We try to take the best of the best. We're lookin' at soul singers. We're lookin' at the best of the best, whether they're super popular or on the come-up. The best meaning what they really bring to the art form. So as you can see, you got Raheem DeVaughn, who's new in the game, but he's really doing his thing. You see him live and he's not just a studio singer. And Bobby's on a different level as far as his popularity and so forth, but at the same time, he brings it - on stage or in the studio. This, for him, was very different than what he does, but he wanted to do it. He was eager to get down with us because he felt like to be a part of the Jazzmatazz legacy was important to him. It's like each artist it's a different thing with them. And then you got more veterans like Caron Wheeler. Her body of work was just you know...

Solar: She's underrated for sure. That was a way of us really acknowledging her. A lot of the hip hop heads can't say they know.. [Solar sings Caron Wheeler].

GWHH: Haha, yeah, that's great. I like how you guys are bringing up artists that are definitely not mainstream and definitely on the come-up. And that's really important for the movement in general and then for their careers as well.

Solar: Yeah, for sure.

Guru: Definitely, definitely. And the thing about Jazzmatazz, whether its Vol. 4 or the Timebomb mixtape, it's about the artist collaborations.

Solar: And also with Jazzmatazz 4 - the underground version, it's something that definitely that's more in line to heads that are into Jazzmatazz from the Gang Starr aspect. They didn't even really check on Jazzmatazz because they were big fans of Gang Starr. They checked on Jazzmatazz though. The underground version gives them stuff they can work with so they got some underground beats and rhymes and nothing too musical for their taste, you know what I mean?

GWHH: Yeah, definitely. Well, just a straight-forward question here. How did you guys meet? How did you guys form a partnership?

Guru: Solar and I were introduced by a mutual friend about 6 and a half years ago and we just hit it off, you know? We just started hangin' out, gettin' our swerve on, tearin' up the clubs in New York, you know, doin' are thing. And that was at a time when I was finishing up commitments to my previous situation and so forth and major label situations and so forth, and I was frustrated, I had been frustrated for a long time, but it was accumulating as far as A&Rs and execs tellin' us, and me in particular, how to do things and stifling my career and my creative flow and I was fed up with that. And I expressed a lot of that to Solar since we were hangin' you know? We were able to see first-hand what was going on behind the scenes. And one time in particular he was trying to have a good time and he says to me, "Listen man, I'm tryna chill over here. If it's that bad, start your own label! You know, you're an icon, this guy did it, that guy did it, you can do it too". And I thought about it cuz it stuck with me and you know, I'm goin' to do that. So I called him back a few days later and I said, "I wanna do this label thing" and he was like, "Well, good luck!" And I was like, "No, I want you to join with me on this" And we talked about it and he felt the importance of it and felt New York hadn't been represented properly in a long time, especially with the "bling" era comin' in and takin' things in a whole other direction and kind of like taking New York and the east coast in general off the map. So there you have it! 7 Grand got formed in late 2004. We put our first joint in 2005, Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures, which was an underground classic and a very slept on album. But at the same time, it was through a small distribution network but it enabled us to get an even bigger situation for us for Jazzmatazz 4 which came out last summer and now Timebomb which comes out tomorrow. And that's pretty much it in a nutshell.

GWHH: Solar, do you want to add to anything there?

Solar: The thing with 7 Grand the record company is that it really is a 2-man operation. It is born out of the need for a New York record company to put New York back on the map. I mean, we all know that people aren't really smellin' this bling era anymore, out of New York. And as a result of that, we have New York radio now all day playin Dirty South music so that's what we get after having 10 years of that [bling era]. So that's how bad things got with them. So Guru and Solar now in the radio trying to restore order and have them playing our music again, as well as with the other material as well as going to the other DJ to say hey we play your stuff up in here, nobody cried or scream when your stuff came across. Now we wanna see some love and we also would like to get that out to your readers, and our fans that are asking, "What does joining the movement mean?" Well that's one key part is that we start to restore order in the radio. So that means, we have to go online, go to hot97.com, go to these stations, and ask them, 105 or whatever particular region you're in, go to your particular radio station that plays hip hop and underground, and e-mail them and ask them, what about hearing some New York hip hop? What about hearing some Guru and Solar? Some 7 Grand? And that's one way that you start to affect change. Same thing with being on BET Rap City Thursday. Go online and e-mail BET and say, you know thanks for putting Guru and Solar on Rap City. It's about time we see these guys back where they should be, you know back on national television, that's a good look. When they're playing our videos, let them know, tune in and let them know you're satisfied with their selection to have Guru and Solar on Rap City. And this is a part of what we do. We're motivating the young people out there, the younger heads, to understand that hip hop is something that you control. You have to learn to control it again.Same thing goes with supporting the independent label. Nobody is going to support ya'll, what an independent label is? And how you should support it? We're not a major company, so we can't just buzz a record on the internet and say, "Ok, we're good now". Cuz we don't have all that corporate funding. So we actually need you guys to go out and buy a CD, to buy a physical CD, or go to an official download site and cop some downloads! But as well as we encourage you to file share. We definitely want you to send the music around for free to each other, no question. But since we're independent, we also need you to buy a CD or go to some place and get some downloads!

GWHH: Yeah, we actually are among a network of blogs and a ton of them leak full albums and that's something that we don't believe in. And quite frankly, when an album comes out, we just put out a couple tracks out there and usually put out a buy link. So that when readers see that, they sample a few tracks and then can easily buy the album off iTunes or Amazon. Hopefully the strategy works..

Solar: I want to take advantage of the internet to its full capacity. We personally at 7 Grand Records don't have a problem with it.So we're not angry with them, the ones who got the album for free when it came out. What we're saying is that we hope that you like it so you can buy copies - buy a copy for somebody, buy a copy for yourself, so that we know you're supporting 7 Grand. It's not about us shining in Lambourghinis and Rolls Royces and you know running around with them chicks, it's just a matter of us being real to hip hop. And as much as we're being real to the fans and being real to hip hop, we need the fans and the real hip hop heads to be real to us. Cuz you have to understand that again, there are people out there that don't want to see hip hop come back to some kind of good place again. And see it be about the music again. They'd rather keep selling you bling and more bling and whatever else comes with that, you know what I mean?

GWHH: Yeah, for sure. So while I got ya, they call you "Super Producer" Solar and I was just curious as to how that came about? And also maybe what other talents you have anywhere else?

Solar: Well, that wasn't a term that was coined just for me. But most notably here in New York, Ralph McDaniels who was the host of a show called Video Music Box, which is prolly the pre-cursor to Rap City and every other New York TV Raps pretty much, who was one of the founding fathers of hip hop in his own way. We were doing this radio show and he referred to me as "Super Producer Extraordinaire". So we dropped the 'Extraordinaire' and we were gettin' that look from a bunch of different places poppin' up. It's the aura of it - you know, it stuck. At the same time, it's something that I take very proudly and I don't take it very lightly cuz I think that's a title that you definitely have to live up to. And if you don't it becomes embarrassing if somebody is callin you that, but in time you're not really reppin' that properly. So I think the body of work, I think if you just click on my discography, I think the fans out there can definitely see that, it's not just Guru but you look at all the people who I've worked with I'm sure they all to some degree that I got it together behind the boards.

You know, as a producer, I don't really agree with all that over-the-top success I see some of these dudes havin'. I mean it looks good for them I guess, but for me it's not necessary. I really just enjoy making good music, and real music not founded corporations don't really share that point of view with me and Guru.

GWHH: Yeah, I totally respect that. That's awesome.

Solar: That's their right to feel that way and it's the right for the fans out there who really want to hear that music to tax us. We were out in Colorado that was sold out from Boulder to Durango. And one of the key shows that was sold out was Aspen. But interestingly enough, I figured Aspen - you know, old movie stars, you know and celebrities and there were a few celebs and that type of crowd there. But actually the bulk of the crowd was teenagers that came up from Carbondale, which is a middle-income city right next to Aspen. So it's like a middle-income town. So these kids got their little money together and made the trek up to belly up to come and see us. So I look at the crowd and I'm like, "Wow! This is kinda odd, I didn't expect this type of crowd. It was sold out. It was a great crowd." But young kinda, lack for better expression, you all underground heads. Some people call it backpackers or whatever, but I just call 'em young heads, really. And then you got your really fly Aspen chicks up in there. But within the crowd there was one kid, 12 years old and like he was into Guru and Solar. So I'm very proud of the fact that we're attracting the young fan base, very proud that they're enjoying our music and it's also inspiring to get in touch with Guru, what are you doing with Gang Starr? What are you doing with Jazzmatazz before? It's a good look; it's a look again that is not being bought, it's not being purchased by MTV. We have to earn these sold out crowds and as well as we enjoy earning them. It's a healthy look for hip hop as a whole that those audiences can connect. I'm not going to say any names, but okay, one minute you're this super great producer, but the next minute you want to sell us man-bags, man-purses?! What's next? Man-skirts? Man-thongs? I'm not going to do that man.

Guru: I also wanted to tell you too, that in this 2 year, 2 and a half year period, Solar has worked with.. it's probably a record in hip hop or in general - he's worked with the most top of, you know, artists in different genres, in so many different genres, from hip hop, to soul, to jazz, and even reggae in a 2 and a half year period. So over 25 artists, and at least 4 of them are Grammy Winners!

GWHH: Wow, yeah!

Guru: So that in itself - it's been done on a very humble level, and not on a major label/big budget level, The work speaks for itself and I had to mention it.

GWHH: Yeah, definitely definitely. Here's another question for both of you. I was just curious about how Solar's production style has contributed to the growth of Guru and vice versa how has Guru's rapping has affected Solar's production style?

Solar: Oh, that's a brilliant question!

Guru: Yeah, that's dope. For me, he's pushed me to new heights lyrically and conceptually and just it's just kept me relevant, which is what I want to do all day and night. So it's essential to the growth of Guru, to the Guru of 2008 and beyond. So, the sound, when I first heard the sound, it was after we were friends for a couple of years, so it wasn't like he came at me with it, it just happened when we started to put the label together. And he played joints for me, and I was like "Wow! You read my mind! Damn, where you've been hiding all this shit?" And um, it was perfect, it was perfect. The chemistry just started off blazed out and then added and developed and it just gets more and more more intense. So for me, it was the best thing and it enables me to do things that I've always wanted to do as an artist and that is to evolve and be relevant with the times and so forth as opposed to being stuck in one era.

Solar:You know, Guru's an icon. And he's a legend, so in that sense, make me a producer at a higher level. But the question is, what is a higher level? Like, how do you define that you know? And me, what it means is that you know, he already has a large body of work of what he has done prior, and it is a very challenging job to keep bringing him fresh, without giving into the temptation of just repeating something that he did before that was very successful, which is always a pitfall. And at the same time, the rewards for not falling back into that is minimal because on one hand, people just want what's comfortable so they'll want him to sound the way he sounded, they want that. But at the same time, if you don't give him a new sound and push him forward, it's like he dies, his situation doesn't advance.So it's a problem that with Jazzmatazz, to make a record that it sounds to a degree familiar to what was going on but at the same time it's going up a musical level. And that's what Guru has essentially pushed me to do, or instigated me or inspired me with a challenge for that to happen because it constantly keeps me thinking first, thinking new, thinking outside the box as opposed to how can I just keep making records that sound a certain way. There's certain artists that don't venture far from their sound and most of the stuff doesn't sound that great. But I like Guru a lot in a sense that he wants to be challenged, he wants to keep pushing the envelope and wants to be ahead of the curve and I do believe honestly that these records are ahead of his time. Let me give you an example for those who might think that I am off. In 2005, we put out Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures, which was our first album. On the album, we all know the US was deep in Iraq, World War essentially. And on that album, we talk about backstage at the war and you hear that in the last song in the album. He does a story, he talks about a soldier who doesn't see this war coming, and all of a sudden, all the troops that were in Iraq, they were prolly the most vulnerable because they had no idea what type of war they were walking into. And Guru's raps is brilliant! He's rappin' from a perspective of this young soldier, if not in war times, just looking to get some money to go to college, just looking to you know get out of a small town and he's smack in the middle of Iraq and it's goin down. It's not a game over there; it's a war! It's for keeps. And he did that so brilliantly and again, we go to the new album Jazzmatazz Vol. 4, where we give a much more wide view of the war and how we feel about our administration that's here now and how they approached the situation and we also look at it from the perspective of the victims, of you will, of war. The ones who lose their sons and they're not, their sons are not coming home and the people are hurting and suffering and so on. 20 years from now, let's say 50 years from now, let's say 2000 years from now! Somebody opens up a time capsule and wants to find out, what was going on in America at this time? Well if you buyin' the popular albums then, they're goin to be thinking "Chicken Noodle Soup" or "Soulja Boy"! The albums aren't even good, that's the problem! Everybody is getting big girls and big chains. Is that what was really going on? So, this album is ahead of its time and judged by future cultures, or future civilizations if you will, and they'll ask, look it! What's goin on musically? And you can't take hip hop and disconnect it from that because hip hop is that! Hip hop is a reflection of what is going on at the time. The moment you turn it into something else, it really starts to become something else.

Guru: The tracks he is referring to, one is called "What's My Life Like?" and that's on 7.0 and the other one is called "Kiss The World" and is on Jazzmatazz 4. Now both of those songs, when you listen to them, and when you hear the sonic landscape that Solar put around it, it's like it takes you somewhere. It's not even like... you get the message, but it's not a depressing song. It makes you feel the struggle, you feel the pain, and all that, but then you feel some kind of, almost like a positive deliverance so to speak and that comes from what he's bringing to it. And that bugs me out too because a lot of the critics that have heard these records, they neglect to talk about those songs. So they'll talk about songs where I'm just doin' a battle rap and they'll say [mocks]Guru.. he's postering again, he's bragging about himself again. And they don't even mention those songs! You know, that's good that we brought that up, cuz that's important.

GWHH: Yeah, and they're just great examples of how you guys feed off each other and then just create songs that are conscious in todays society. Yeah, that's great, I'm real impressed with that..

Solar: Future generations, the future generations when they look back at hip hop, like I said, future civilizations or future cultures, or we can say who knows? Down the line, future actual little people, different beings from different parts of the galaxy or universe as it may be will access this music and to the point where someone here getting it right. So, a lot of times when we look back on history, the best things in history haven't always been the most commercially successful. And you know, let your voices be known because this is our culture, this is our music. And you know, if it's goin to stay that way and we're going to take it to the future, then we gotta connect, so holla at us! As a matter of fact, 99.9% of the time it's the ones that are the least commercially successful.

GWHH: Wow, yeah, that's a good point. That's a good point. So just to wrap it up, I know we're runnin' a little over time, you guys can use this forum to promote or add anything that we haven't covered?

Guru: Just to tell everybody out there, that we're here. We're not goin anywhere when we're here and we're here for the people. So holla at us! http://www.myspace.com/guru7grand, http://www.myspace.com/solar7grand, http://www.gurusjazzmatazz.net. And you know, let your voices be known because this is our culture, this is our music. And you know, if it's goin to stay that way and we're going to take it to the future, then we gotta connect, so holla at us!

GWHH: Haha, alrite! Solar, anything to add?

Solar: That the internet is a very important vehicle for 7 Grand. We definitely support real hip hop and you know, you can catch us on MySpace, you can catch our concert dates, see what we got comin' up and you know, just be in tune! We have a great span of albums we put out so far cuz there will be a lot more music coming from us, note that what we do and that you believe that what we do and you believe that what we're doing and what we're saying is good, then go out and buy an album because that's supporting real hip hop. And that's important that we have 7 Grand out here that is keeping good, real, tangible absence of hip hop alive and that's not trying to sneak in the phoniness or sleaziness. Let's just say that we love more and more the golden era of hip hop. Guru's the king of that era, you know what I mean, reigning again with 7 Grand. And we all know that the era that came after that, most people hate it. So if you don't want that to continue, 7 Grand is your answer!

Interview conducted by Sgt. Tibs with help from gowhere?

The 2 tracks are from the mixtape and have been up on GoWhere Hip Hop before. They're just here if you missed them. Make sure 2 support real hip hop and BUY the mixtape below!

BUY: Guru - Guru's Jazzmatazz: The Timebomb/Back To The Future Mixtape (iTunes)

Guru "For Ya Mind" f/ Zion I
Producer: Solar - FULL, CDQ, Track off Jazzmatazz: The Timebomb/Back To The Future Mixtape *Tibs Fav.

Guru "Who Got It On Lock" f/ Doo Wop
Producer: Solar - FULL, CDQ, Track off upcoming Jazzmatazz: The Timebomb/Back To The Future Mixtape *Tibs Fav.

~ Sgt. Tibs



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hiphophead said:

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I seen planet asia @ the Crazy horse.. Seen the dope ass pics from Eric Thomas website. Hip hop Photographer.. Eric Thomas Roybal is the real deal man.. Planet asia is the shit


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