It seems the rumors are not just rumors any more. After years of frustration with the inability of major record labels to properly push GangStarr albums, despite the sizeable and highly loyal cult following they have in hip-hop, DJ Premier and Guru have decided to go their seperate ways and work on their own shit. This doesn't preclude the two from reuniting at some point later on down the road, but for the time being Guru is using his own label 7 Grand Records to distribute a new album titled "Version 7.0 The Street Scriptures," and apparently having good success at it. You'll find this disc at major retailers like Best Buy and Tower, as well as the respective online merchants who don't have any brick'n'mortar locations.
Guru's favorite new producer on this 19 track, 60 minute long album seems to be a cat named SOLAR, and Guru co-produces many of the joints with him. They start out smoothly enough with the low-key "No Time," and continue to find success throughout the CD. "False Prophet" has some eerie background chanting which could either be from a horror movie or the final boss battle of an RPG, but either way it's strangely addictive. "Step in the Arena 2" suffers by being compared to the original track, and with no offense to Doo Wop meant I was not interested in hearing him on the shit. SOLAR quickly gets his groove back on the piano-heavy "Don Status" featuring Styles P, then rolls into the kind of light jazzy samples you'd expect from Primo on "Hood Dreamin." There's too many gems to name them all, but I highly recommend the "Live and Let Die" inspired track "Surviving Tha Game" as well as delicious joints like "Power, Money and Influence" featuring Jean Grae and Talib Kweli. Much as you might think Guru would get upstaged by MC's of their stature, he proves once again to the many doubters that he can hold his own just fine:
"In one second flat I tear your whole frame
Plus we pack like a stadium does, at a pro game
Got so many ways to end yo' glory
Rub you out, shut you down, then it's end of story
I'm like Robert Horry with a clutch three
You can't touch me, the black 007, nigga trust me
Modern day Ali when it comes to the rhyme
Know how to hold the fort down when they comin for mine
I'm crafty, I move swift and changeable
Plus I'm aware, of what jealousy and anger do"
If this were a GangStarr album you'd expect a limited number of guest vocals and that they'd likely be from long-known associates like Big Shug and Freddie 'Bumpy Knux' Foxxx. Guru breaks from that mold this time around and reaches out to a new group of peeps, including the likes of B. Real on the rocking "Real Life" and Jaguar Wright on the smooth "Talk to Me." Still there's no question this is Guru's project, as songs featuring guests account for only one-fourth of the entire album. For those who are not fans of Guru's monotone flow, a subject which has been much debated over the years of GangStarr's career, they'd probably shy away from this album BECAUSE of his sheer dominance of the project unlike his "Jazzmatazz" compilations. On the other hand those who have been down going all the way back to "Words I Manifest" will feel the strength a veteran like Guru has in the often fickle and fly-by-night world of rap music. He doesn't just spit gems on these tracks, he speaks with authority. Just peep his verbals on "Feed the Hungry":
"What is success if we can't reach back
and drop a jewel, in today's schools, they don't teach that
Our ancestors were kings and queens, peep that
So called educators need to learn to teach facts
From the slum alleyways, and the rundown apartments
To the drug infested buildings where the gun rounds be barkin
I see promise in the eyes of the babies
Still the death toll and trauma, is drivin me crazy
I watch how they're makin us, I spot where they're takin us
In every neighborhood, the block is hot and dangerous
And what's the point of a fist in the air
If the children are starvin, and the men don't care"
It's shocking just how good Guru is on this album, despite being divested of the kind of inspirationally dope beats that DJ Premier is known to provide. Some might say it's lesser than a GangStarr album without Primo's presence, but "Version 7.0 The Street Scriptures" holds up remarkably well on it's own and establishes SOLAR as one of a rising crop of new and previously unheralded producers coming out in 2005. It's safe to say that Guru has not lost his passion despite the changes in his life and recording career, and unquestionably with a new label to run and a new album in stores he's right on track and still making all the right connections. Guru ain't goin' anywhere.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: July 5, 2005