As more and more unforgettable dates marking the loss of rappers pop up on our calendar, we’ve grown accustomed to expect a few things. We can guarantee that Twitter timelines will instantly become riddled with Rest In Peace Tribute mixes ( been there ), that Facebook feeds will fill up with updates of youtube clips featuring classic videos or performances, ( done that ), and Tumblr dashboards instantly transform into museums of collections of photos in remembrance ( c’mon, we taught the class on this ). While we value and understand the practice and importance of celebrating the legacy of an artist, while mourning the loss of their life, its has become abundantly clear to us at Up North Trips that with the convenience of social media outlets, there has been a shortage of creativity that folks are putting into paying homage these days.
Two years ago today, we suffered the tragic loss of one of hip-hop’s greats, Guru, famously known as one half of the legendary Gang Starr. Guru’s chemistry with DJ Premier goes down on our score card as one of the best MC/Producer combo’s in the game, and their body of work speaks for itself. However, we think it’s important to acknowledge how Guru is often overlooked for the work he has put in on his own, specifically while popping up on other artists records. From Heavy D and House of Pain to Dilated Peoples and Digable Planets, Guru’s knack for murdering guest appearances is criminally slept-on. His features reach well into the hundreds, and have spanned over three decades. So for our latest edition of The Tens , and to honor The Gifted Unlimited One, we have put together a great selection of some of Guru’s classic feature verses.
Heavy D feat. 3rd Eye, Guru, Notorious B.I.G, Rob-O, Busta Rhymes – A Buncha Niggas
Album: Blue Funk
Breakdown: This posse cut off of Heav’s classic Blue Funk album featured verses from Guru, a very young Biggie Smalls, a hungry sounding Busta Rhymes, Rob-O and 3rd Eye. 3rd Eye was Heav’s label-mate at Motown and is better known as producer Jesse West. One of Bad Boy’s original Hitmen, West’s production credits include: KRS-One’s “Step Into A World,” GZA’s “Come Do Me,” and Biggie’s debut on Super Cat’s “Dolly My Baby” remix.
Quotable: “I’m real as they come, I’ll beat ya numb with my vocal tones / Words hit like aluminum bats to your dome.”
Afu Ra feat. Guru – “Blvd.”
Album: Life Force Radio
Breakdown: For Afu’s second album Primo and Guru link up with the fellow Gang Starr Foundation member for this slept-on banger. Afu and Guru had collaborated back in ’99 on the Gee Street-released, Portishead-sampled, Trilogy of Terror. Primo’s chopped production and drum kits always bring the best out of any MC.
Quotable: “We got props on every boulevard.”
Group Home feat. Guru & Big Shug – “Serious Rap Shit”
Album: Livin’ Proof
Breakdown: From Group Home’s classic debut album, Guru and Shug jump on the Guru-produced record. Guru was no stranger to production — he is listed as co-producer on all of Gang Starr’s albums and is credited with production on his Jazzmatazz releases in addition to an extensive catalog of remixes for other artists.
Quotable: “Crazy shouts to my niggaz up north.”
House of Pain feat. Guru – “Fed Up” Remix
Album: Truth Crushed to Earth Shall Rise Again
Breakdown: Guru and Everlast trade verses back and forth over this joint from House of Pain’s 1996 album. The DJ Lethal-produced record incorporates lyric tributes from both House Of Pain and Gang Starr. True Gang Starr fans will recognize parts of Guru’s first verse as they appear on You Know My Steez .
Quotable: “Muttering about my man this, my homey that / You need to get the fuck out my face, ’cause you don’t know me, Jack.”
Dilated Peoples feat. Havoc & Guru – “Worst Comes To Worst” Remix
Album: “Worst Comes To Worst” 12″ [B-Side]
Breakdown: Mobb Deep’s Havoc and Guru appear on the remix of the Alchemist-blessed Dilated Peoples cut. Both artists have ties to the original version as Babu cut Hav’s voice for the hook and Guru appeared in the video for the original record. The Jason Goldwatch directed video featured cameos from everyone who is everyone from both coasts.
Quotable: “If worst comes to worst, enemies catch the gun burst / Give ’em a quick ceremony, throw em’ all in one hearse.”
Tony Touch feat, Guru – “The Piece Maker”
Album: The Piece Maker
Breakdown: Tony Touch’s debut album featured a crazy roster of legendary MCs. The tracklisting reads like a directory of ‘Who’s Who’ in Rap History. Whether it was Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One and Kool G Rap all on the same track or cuts from De La featuring Mos Def or the Wu Tang banger, “Abduction,” Tony got busy on this album. Twelve years later, there is one track that stands head and shoulders above the rest and that’s this joint, a true gem.
Quotable: “Gang to the Starr, hold your Glock steady / Word to Rocksteady better get your blocks ready.”
A.G. feat. Guru, O.C. & Party Arty – “Weed Scented”
Album: The Dirty Version
Breakdown: Not really known for weed raps, Guru jumps in on the cipher as O.C & A.G. pay homage to the sticky-icky. The Primo-produced track also features DITC-extended fam, Party Arty (RIP), on the hook. This is a true anthem to get your lungs dirty to.
Quotable: “Word to Jimi Hendrix, it’s weed scented.”
Digable Planets feat. Guru – “Borough Check”
Album: Blowout Comb
Breakdown: Guru and Digable Planets have a lot in common. They both stay true to their jazz influences, they rep BK to the fullest and they both merked this collaboration. The Roy Ayers’ flipped sample, “We Live In Brooklyn,” is an instant head nodder and all four MCs do the knowledge to pay homage and respect to the Mecca, Brooklyn.
Quotable: “If you comin’ with that funny hot dog style, you might get looted, executed black mob style.”
Bob Marley feat. Guru – “Johnny Was”
Year: Chant Down Babylon
Breakdown: What could go wrong when you mix Bob Marley and Guru? Nothing. Guru’s guest verse picks up where Bob left off and adds a modern day twist to the original 1976 Marley classic which originally appeared on his second album Rastaman Vibration.
Quotable: “His life got stuck up like liquor stores and old-school jams.”