Sat July 23
Berbati's Pan
10 SW 3rd Ave

The legendary hiphop duo Gangstarr is DJ Premier and Guru. In the '90s, the musical genius of DJ Premier was second only to RZA; and the smoothness of Guru's raps were second only to MC Solaar, who raps in French and so had a clear advantage. In fact, one of the greatest hiphop collaborations (or exchanges) ever recorded was between Guru and MC Solaar, "The Bad, The Good/Le Bien, Le Mal." The practiced smoothness of Guru's English was not destroyed by the natural smoothness of MC Solaar's French. Guru's trick has always been this: He doesn't pack his rhymes with twists and flips; he allows each word to slide out with the least amount of friction.

Guru has three main accomplishments. One: Gangstarr. As the rapper of this duo, he made a considerable body of work that stands as one of the peaks of the art. Guru's raps were (and still are) very political, often angry about poverty, police brutality, and economic impoverishment.

Guru's second accomplishment was to successfully unify jazz and hiphop, with his CD Jazzmatazz Vol. 1, which was released in 1993, hiphop's greatest year. Most attempts at combining the forms ended miserably, with either jazz losing its essential jazziness or hiphop losing its essential hiphopiness. Guru somehow managed to make something that was properly hiphop/jazz, which no one had done before him and only a handful (Digable Planets' Blowout Comb, for example) have repeated since.

Thirdly, by collaborating with such international acts as Patra, MC Solaar, and Les Nubians, Guru helped globalize hiphop. Anyone who saw Guru's video for "Le Bien, Le Mal" for the first time in 1993 was completely amazed to see French B-boys throwing up gangster signs as the Arc de Triomphe loomed behind them. At this point, we all knew that something big had happened: Hiphop was no longer American music; it was now world music.