interview GURU & SOLAR  (June 2006) | Interview By: Lil Jay

Dubcnn sat down with New York Hip Hop legend Guru of Gangstarr fame and his partner and producer Solar for an exclusive interview. They explained what it takes to make it in the independent game and run a label like 7 Grand Records. We discussed the "Street Scriptures" album as well as the upcoming "Jazzmatazz Volume 4" and the philosophy behind it. Guru also talks about industry politics, while Solar speaks his mind on dealing with critics and the extra hate that comes with it.

As ever you can read or listen to this exclusive Dubcnn interview and we urge you to leave feedback on our forums or email them to liljay@dubcnn.com.


Shout outs to Guru & Solar for taking the time out to do this interview (Interview was done by phone in May 2006).

Questions Asked By: Lil Jay

Guru & Solar gave Dubcnn a shoutout! Check That Here

Full Interview in Audio: Here


Dubcnn: So how's the label doing?

Solar: Well 7 Grand is doing great, "The Street Scriptures" has moved well over a 100,000 units. We pretty much pushed the envelope as high as independent distribution will take us. So now we're actually getting ready to set up a whole new distribution system for "Jazzmatazz 4". So we did it. They say the first record that's the one, it either makes you or breaks you. So we're here, and we're going strong, we're ready for another release, our tour schedule is solid, the video is out. Europe again showed us much love on the video, but MTV and BET here in the States kinda been boycotting it for some reason or another. They can show pornos and some girls ass, but they can't show our video. Whatever, it's just the way it is. We're staying strong, we're independent and we're fighting it out.

Dubcnn: How does it feel to finally be able to do what you want and stay away from all the label politics?

Guru: Man, I'm so glad you ask that Jay. It feels great, because just that level of control is something that I've always wanted to experience, and I never experienced it before this. It was frustrating for me, I was always angry. Solar will tell you, when he met me I was a frustrated dude. And it's not good to be creative and be angry at the same time. It's like you don't get a chance to really really focus and get a pure vision out there. So now, you get a pure vision from me because I'm in a better place.

Solar: I say it's really important as a producer that the artist is in a good place spiritually. When you listen to "The Street Scripures", we call it that cause it's a real album. It's about real events, and it also kinda reflects the New York feeling and what after 9/11 living in New York is like. You can kinda pick that experience up. There's pain, there's hope, there's fight, you just have to resolve. So all of those elements, as they're apposed to 'My mothafuckin' chain is worth more than your whole house nigga', 'Me and my bitch we got yachts'. People want that, go find it.

But 7 Grand is a real label, it's gonna make real music. We got new artists that we've signed, we gonna be working with known stars in the future. On "Jazzmatazz 4" you gonna hear some very big names. On "Street Scriptures", I thought what B-Real spit about the industry was right on point, Jean Grae killed it, Doo Wop is another legendary DJ and spitter. So we really feel we gonna bring Hip Hop a good look that it deserves.

Dubcnn: So you think "The Street Scriptures" received a better response at home in New York or in Europe?

Guru: It's about the same now, but I would say in the beginning Europe was onto it first. What do you think Solar?

Solar: I'd say that the streets of New York was all over it right at the beginning. The stuff that we leaked was hot right away. The video press, the radio people, the mixtape DJ's all jumped over it. Matter of fact, we hit number 10 on Hot 97 with the new single, which is really good. But if you look at it in terms of Bad Boy or Rocafella or Murder Inc., then naw, it doesn't have that kind of love and acceptance. But on the streets, yes. Street love, hood love. Surprisingly enough we got love from Hot 97, which is the key radio station in the world. They break every big Hip Hop thing. But I don't have that kind of money like Kanye or Jay and them, so it's in some way it's underground in terms of the way we're doing things.

Dubcnn: Guru do you feel it's harder to make an impact if its not labeled Gangstarr?

Guru: No, I don't. I would have never really entered into this if I thought that. I would never go into something thinking that it's gonna be unsuccessful or not worthwhile or anything. But it's hard period running an independent label, and putting out your own music and then we gonna have other artists coming out. All of that is hard work for sure, but at the same time it's rewarded. So you gotta size it up before you even do it, you gotta know if you wanna do it, and if you got the balls to do it, so to speak. This has taken a lot of courage and bravery and all of that. Because there's alot of people from the past and they wanna hate, and they hate for no reason. Solar and I, we rise above that. The music rises above it, and the way we carry ourselves.

But at the same time we're intelligent enough to come up with new marketing plans, new promotional vehicles. We're not the typical label, like we're kicking it with you, and other internet journalists. You guys are ahead of the curve, as Solar says you guys are the future of the media. Right Solar?

Solar: Yeah I believe, once again I have to say it, that it's a blessing for us to be talking to you and having you interviewing us. Because these print magazines are fucking crazy. The Source lost their minds, we have to give them like 50 thousand Dollars to get a cover or get a feature. It's like it has nothing to do with your record, it has nothing to do with your talent! It's how much money you got! And they're not even hiding that shit, they're putting that shit out there! They're out their fuckin minds. So it's a pleasure to be able to talk to a real journalist, and you're a real journalist and you're fuckin' important man. So it's good to be able to talk to you guys and let you guys really get the message out to the people who need to hear it.

Guru: Exactly. And another thing too about your question. I think we have a new audience that we're developing, so it's not just the Gangstarr fans. It's some of the Gangstarr fans, but it's a lot of new fans. There's a lot of 15, 16 year olds at the shows in the States and in Europe. And there's a lot more women. That part is fly, which means that they think we're sexy (laughs). But what I'm saying is that the foundation that was laid down by my previous work is cool, it led to this. Now this is taking it to the next level. It's a purer vision because it's Guru that's not being tampered with with all that politics shit that you were speaking on. So it's a reinvention of an MC that was already dope. So now I'm dope, but I'm dope with a whole new sound that's coming from a true sound that's born and bred in the New York streets from Solar. So it's interesting, and I'm enjoying riding this wave right here. It's a lot of hard work, but the results have been very positive for me and I'm going all out with this shit.

Solar: I'd say it's a blessing to be bringing a new sound. Because it is new, this sound with Guru rapping on the stuff that I'm bringing, it's like never been heard before. Some people compare a little bit to this producer or that producer, but all in all I have my own sound.

Guru: And I knew that when I first heard it, cause that's the kinda ear I got as a MC that's been tried and tested in this game. I heard it when I heard Premier, and that was great, and that was great for that era. And I heard it when I heard other producers, you know Havoc from Mobb Deep, Marley Marl, Jazzy Jeff, Dre. I hear it. And when I heard Solar's shit, I knew it. And I said 'Before he goes out and gives it to somebody else, tell him I want these beats for me!' And we were friends already for 2 years before I even heard the beats, so it's not like he tried to push the shit at me.

Dubcnn: Solar, how would you compare the music you do with Guru to another MC/Producer duo, as far as chemistry goes?

Solar: That's one thing that me and Guru really have, that's great chemistry between us. And that's what you're hearing in the records, the Jazzmatazz is gonna really be incredible. When we're getting in the studio, no matter how much problems we're facing in the music industry and how much bullshit is going on, once we get onto a great song, it all just disappears and it's just all about the music and the creative process. And I don't believe that anybody out there that listens to our albums can say that they don't hear the chemistry.

But it's kinda fucked up in a way, because the only criticism I've gotten on this album is been that I don't sound like Premier. I don't wanna sound like Premier. I took my time to make sure I came up with a different sound for Guru. Because that sound is that sound, and if people love that sound they can always go and buy those old albums. But this is Guru's new sound. So everybody who's accepted that this is new and this is what's hot from New York now, they're having a great experience with this album. But there still are haters out there that just have their heart set on trying to critize me for not sounding like Premier, and I just think that's stupid.

Dubcnn: But then again you can take that as a compliment.

Solar: Yeah, I've survived it and I've done well, even to the point where I think they helped sales. I don't think that the album would have sold as well if they weren't running around writing those reviews or whatever.

Guru: Some of that hate is just so extra, that it made other people go 'What the fuck is this about?', and it made them check out the album and they were like 'Oh this is hot!' So that controversy and hate created more sales for us. But you know what it is? You can't do anything that is this important and this monumental in Hip Hop without being hated on. It's unfortunate, but that's how it is.

Solar: But you gotta look at it like this too though, we are bringing forward something thats positive and useful to the whole Hip Hop community. Everybody benefits from 7 Grand Records. Hip Hop is better having us here, so I think that they should take that into consideration before they hate. Cause it's one thing to hate on a dude that's bragging about his bitches and bragging about his cars, but when people are talking about a positive image, that's really evil.

Dubcnn: As far as the upcoming Jazzmatazz goes, is the new one gonna be different than the previous ones?

Guru: I can tell you it's gonna have elements of all the previous ones, but we live in a whole day and age, so we deal with a whole bunch of other things. And of course Solar's sound is an advanced sound, it's almost a futuristic sound, so we're not trying to make it like the old ones. But then we listen down the old ones and we analyze them. Like the last one, the 3rd one, I believe I had too many producers. This is my own criticism, I feel like I had too many producers on it. The first two I did almost all the production myself, except for like 2 tracks. So on the 3rd one I got all these expensive producers with big names coming up. That was cool, but to me it didn't come all together. It sounded more like a compilation than a organic body of work. So this album, Volume 4, will be an organic body of work.

All produced by Solar, with co-production by myself, which means that it's gonna be way more focused. And it's a musical journey that's so incredible. And the thing I love about it, it's Hip Hop plus and we don't have the constraints that we did with "The Street Scriptures" even though I love doing the hardcore, the pure shit. But doing this is like going on a vacation, and being able to explore things and push the envelope even further than the envelope itself. I mean Solar you can break it down what you did musically...

Solar: Musically what it represents... of course there's been 3 prior albums, and I wanna bring the freshest, the best version of Jazzmatazz on this album. So what I decided to do was looking to what is Jazz representing to the world? And this is what I found out: Jazz itself is not one kind of music, but a fusion of different styles. You had untrained black musicians from the South that were doing Blues and Soul, and you had classically trained musicians from New York and other parts of the United States. And you also had Islanders that imported the rhythms from Jamaica or Haiti, which were Afro-Carribean rhythms as well as Brazilian influences. And all of these different musical styles and cultures came together in Harlem to form Jazz. So what Jazz was to me was a fusion of different styles and cultures into a new music form that has never been seen. And the parallel of Hip Hop is right there, they form their own fasions and sub-cultures with their own language like Hip Hop. And they had their own little drug and alcahol culture, all very similar to Hip Hop. You had interraciality, again like Hip Hop, open to all people. So I believe this is back to the future, Jazzmatazz is taking all these different elements that are out there and bringing them together into a new form of Jazz/Hip Hop.

Guru: 24 tracks, double CD. There may even be a couple bonus tracks too for Europe and Japan. The album is not gonna be all just features. There is a great number of songs that is just Solar and myself. And then you've got people like David Sanborn, Teairra Mari, we reached out to Common, he's down to do it, we've got Raheem DeVaughn, Natasha Bedingfield, Ronnie Laws, Herbie Hancock we're talking too. So there is definitely the element of the classic Jazz from back in the day, but also the new male and female vocalists from today. So we gonna mix all that together.

Dubcnn: What kind of music were you listening to specifically during the making of the "Jazzmatazz 4"? Were you influenced to a certain direction?

Guru: You know we listen to everything. But when we just came off tour we had a Mix CD from my man, he's actually DJing out there in Switzerland. His name is DJ Little Maze. He made a Mix CD of a lot of classic Jazz tunes, but not really radio popular Jazz tunes, but just classic Jazz tunes. Like breaks and rare grooves. So we listen to that. But we listen to a lot of stuff that's out right now. We listen to Lil Wayne, we listen to Dipset, we listen to Young Jeezy. We listen to everything that's out, a lot of different things. MF Doom, Ghostface's "Fishscale", all of that.

Dubcnn: Since Dubcnn is a West Coast Hip Hop magazine, is there anything West Coast related that you listen to?

Guru: Ohh yeah, in fact the West Coast is some of my favorite Hip Hop. I mean I got "The Chronic 2" in my deck right now, some classic shit. And I'm looking forward to Ice Cube's new album, because to me besides being an icon on television, he's always been a great MC to me. And his live show with Dub C and Mack 10 is one of the best live shows that I've seen in Hip Hop. So big up to him. And as far as the new cats from the West, Solar and I both like Game's album.

Dubcnn: As for the song concepts, can people expect any surprises that they wouldn't expect to hear on the album?

Guru: I mean with Jazzmatazz you never know, because as the features go along, we do this track and then we say to ourselves 'Who should we get on this track?'. So as the features go along, there may be some surprises definitely.

Solar: I think musically the album is gonna be a nice surprise. I think you can't really know what this album is gonna sound like from listening to all the previous Jazzmatazzes, and you not gonna know because this is something new. So it's gonna be a real fuckin' good look for Hip Hop.

Guru: Yes, and a good look for music in general, music.

Dubcnn: Is it frustrating seeing cats getting radio and video airplay that have about a 1/10 of your talent, and not you getting that respect that you deserve?

Guru: (Laughs) You know that's always gonna be a bit frustrating, but I don't let that frustration stop me from doing what I do. And then also as an intelligent business man along with another intelligent business man, we find ways to go around that. So if this one entity is hating and not wanting to play our stuff, then we'll go to this other entity who's not hating. It's just the way it goes, and that's what Hip Hop is about, bringing it directly to the people. And that's the problem now, that the people are being forced by the major corporations, and they don't even necessarily want that shit. So we find other ways to bring it to them, whether it's in our live shows, or whether it's talking to people like yourself, or whether it's satellite radio, or other ways. There's a lot of different ways.

Dubcnn: Yeah cause the reason why I'm asking is cause they had this MTV show "The 10 Greatest MC's of All Time" and they didn't even mention you, which was kinda disrespectful in my opinion.

Solar: Me too, I thought the same thing.

Guru: You know, that's some fly shit that you said that Jay. To tell you the truth, I've seen things in major Hip Hop magazines where they had the Top 50 MC's and didn't even mention me, and that shit really pissed me off! (laughs) So you know, at this point nothing surprises me with that. I'm looking at it like...

Solar: Let me say this: this alternative way we're going about getting press for this album and bringing our message to the people, MTV has always responded to what's new and hot and what the alternative press is saying. Believe it or not, there was a time when The Source was alternative press, Vibe Magazine was alternative press. So, you guys do have power and influence. And if you really do feel this way, please, please my brother, speak on it in your magazine.

Dubcnn: Yeah most definitely. Last but not least, is there gonna be an overseas tour for the new Jazzmatazz?

Solar: Ohh, you're not gonna get rid of us. We might just move over there and stay man!

Guru: We're going over to do some shows in Europe, it's not confirmed yet but I'll let you know. You can take Solar's email and we'll let you know.

Solar: And keep a look on our website guru7grand.com and our MySpace pages myspace.com/guru7grand and myspace.com/solar7grand, and all our tour dates will be posted.

Dubcnn: Alright for sure, much love, much love.

Guru: Thank you man, thank you for your time. Great interview.


Guru & Solar gave Dubcnn a shoutout! Check That Here

Full Interview in Audio: Here


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