About a week ago I was asked to participate in a GURU tribute happening on April 16th. I was told that a Funk Band would be on hand to play three classic Gang Starr songs: ‘The Planet’, ‘Step In the Arena’ and ‘Who’s Gonna Take the Weight’. I quickly jumped at the opportunity to perform ‘…Weight’ which is one of my favorite songs on the powerful album ‘Step In The Arena’.
Once I had secured the song I wanted to perform, I decided to take listen to the song to see which lines I needed to brush up on. As the song played I suddenly realized I didn’t know as many of the lyrics as I thought. As rap fans we think we know the words to our favorite songs. When we sing along we are usually for the most part, glorified “hypemen” (and women) filling in key phrases and the ends of each bar. We give ourselves far too much credit for really knowing these songs.
I began to panic and started to think maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew. Thoughts of Lupe’s fiasco as he struggled through his section of the Tribe Called Quest tribute on VH-1’s HIP HOP HONORS a few years back suddenly began to haunt me. Although the April 16th event will not be televised, I cant help but think about the sharp backlash that came Lupe’s way for not making it his business to know those lyrics inside out.
I remember when I performed a Black Moon classic at a Hip Hop Karaoke event I hosted in Toronto about two years ago. I completely gave up on trying to follow Buckshot’s lyrics in the 2nd verse of ‘How Many MC’s’. The worst part was, I had the lyric sheet in my hand! As I laughed and stumbled through that verse, the audience laughed with me, feeling my pain for what is a very tricky song to flow with.
Reciting somebody else’s lyrics at a Karaoke event where the mood is fun and light-hearted is entirely different than what I have been asked to do. Guru was not only important to Hip Hop for his musical contribution as a member of Gang Starr, he also carved out a niche for himself in other musical genres with his fusion of Jazz and Hip Hop via JAZZMATAZZ.