Every Monday (or so), FADER editorial director Peter Macia eases in to the work week by writing semi-extensively and somewhat incoherently about something that is making his head hurt. This week, he explains how Gang Starr and Dipset gave an important lesson to the world on April 19, 2010.
Only the future will tell what April 19, 2010 will finally mean, but it's been a long time since one day said so much about hip-hop's tenuous bonds and missed opportunities. Almost simultaneously, and of course via the internet, the world learned of Guru's death and Dipset's reunion, via Premier's fan Twitter and Miss Info's blog, respectively. The former is a bizarre ending to a sad final chapter in the history of one of the most legendary rap group's, and the latter, a hopeful resolution to a rift that likely robbed fans of a lot of great music.
For those of us of a certain age, these two duos—Guru and Premier, Cam'ron and Jim Jones—represent the shift, when New York went from Gang Starr's blunt force street sermons to Dipset's flashy parade. As 2003's The Ownerz made even the most diehard fans think Gang Starr's best was behind it, 2004's Purple Haze gave a whole new legion reason to believe New York would regain its rightful place as the seat of rap royalty. What happened instead was a meteoric rise and fall for Cam, Jim and Dipset, a rupture, and a split that took the energy out of the clique's whole movement. By the time the second Gang Starr greatest hits compilation, Mass Appeal was released in 2006, Cam was gone from Def Jam and Dipset was publicly feuding. Things would never be the same for either group.
Guru shunned Premier for a business and creative partnership with Solar, who he'd collaborated with on the Jazzmatazz series, but Premo never seemed to believe that it was a final split, always leaving the door open for reunion with very little encouragement from Guru. Which makes yesterday's released statement, supposedly dictated by Guru, and delivered to the media by Solar, so sad and bizarre. The statement read:
“I, Guru, am writing this letter to my fans, friends and loved ones around the world. I have had a long battle with cancer and have succumbed to the disease. I have suffered with this illness for over a year. I have exhausted all medical options. I have a non-profit organization called Each One Counts dedicated to carrying on my charitable work on behalf of abused and disadvantaged children from around the world and also to educate and research a cure for this terrible disease that took my life. I write this with tears in my eyes, not of sorrow but of joy for what a wonderful life I have enjoyed and how many great people I have had the pleasure of meeting,” read the official Guru statement.
“My loyal best friend, partner and brother, Solar, has been at my side through it all and has been made my health proxy by myself on all matters relating to myself. He has been with me by my side on my many hospital stays, operations, doctors visits and stayed with me at my home and cared for me when I could not care for myself. Solar and his family is my family and I love them dearly and I expect my family, friends, and fans to respect that, regardless to anybody’s feelings on the matter. It is my wish that counts. This being said I am survived by the love of my life, my sun KC, who I trust will be looked after by Solar and his family as their own. Any awards or tributes should be accepted, organized approved by Solar on behalf myself and my son until he is of age to except on his own.”
The statement reads on, “I do not wish my ex-DJ to have anything to do with my name likeness, events tributes etc. connected in anyway to my situation including any use of my name or circumstance for any reason and I have instructed my lawyers to enforce this. I had nothing to do with him in life for over 7 years and want nothing to do with him in death. Solar has my life story and is well informed on my family situation, as well as the real reason for separating from my ex-DJ. As the sole founder of GangStarr, I am very proud of what GangStarr has meant to the music world and fans. I equally am proud of my Jazzmatazz series and as the father of Hip-Hop/Jazz. I am most proud of my leadership and pioneering efforts on Jazzmatazz 4 for reinvigorating the Hip-Hop/Jazz genre in a time when music quality has reached an all time low. Solar and I have toured in places that I have never been before with GangStarr or Jazzmatatazz and we gained a reputation for being the best on the planet at Hip-Hop/Jazz, as well as the biggest and most influential Hip-Hop/Jazz record with Jazzmatazz 4 of the decade to now. The work I have done with Solar represents a legacy far beyond its time. And we as a team were not afraid to push the envelope. To me this is what true artists do! As men of honor we stood tall in the face of small mindedness, greed, and ignorance. As we fought for music and integrity at the cost of not earning millions and for this I will always be happy and proud, and would like to thank the million fans who have seen us perform over the years from all over the world. The work I have done with Solar represents a legacy far beyond its time and is my most creative and experimental to date. I hope that our music will receive the attention it deserves as it is some of the best work I have done and represents some of the best years of my life.”
Premier's fansite posted it on this blog with no comment other than condolences to Guru's family and friends. We'll send ours to Premier, as well.
On the other side of the internet, Miss Info got the scoop on Cam and Jimmy's potential mend when Jim called her from his cellphone with Cam sitting shotgun. These dudes have long been two of the most entertaining figures in music, on and off record, because of their shared gift for sonning people. Cam especially, with his—can we say historic?—"You mad?" at Bill O'Reilly and "Cuuurrrttiiissss" at 50 Cent being the capstones on a fortress of hilarity that included his not-giving-a-fuuuuuck Harlem sartorial flair. And Jones just never ever minced words, some of which were lessons in making dudes who thought they were tough look really stupid, others of which were just streams of honest emotion. If you've ever watched an offhand quip turn into an all out civil war, Cam and Jim's are two personalities destined for turmoil. You could see it coming. So reading Jim's statement last night, with Cam sitting right next to him, you got the sense that there was some real building going on, that it had taken a lot to even get these dudes in the same car, let alone calling the one person they knew would air it out. Here's what the two said to her:
Jim Jones: “It’s 2010, and this is something I gotta get off my chest…You’ve known us from back when we didn’t have what we have now, so you remember, that above all, me and Cam, we still brothers. And we’re building on getting back on track but first, I apologize for being a rude brother, for saying things publicly without first trying to handle them privately. I apologize for not leading by example because what I didn’t realize at the time, I was venting but it wasn’t all about me. There were other people whose dreams were also part of this movement. So by not leading by example, they were left stranded too. The way I handled our business issues was with emotion, and it got totally f–ked up. That’s what selfishness does. I have demons that I’m learning to deal with. We’re all successful, me and Cam and Juelz, so we’re blessed. But that comes with responsibilities. I had complaints and I’m not backing away from the issues I had, but I’m just mad at how I handled them. The business of the Diplomats could have been fixed before. But by putting my emotions out in the public, it only made things worse. And of course, some of us became bitter about it. We had this luxurious life, but the rest of the family, they had slow down because of the ball I started rolling. I’d be pissed at me too…
But God works in mysterious ways…a couple people took vacations, and there’s a lane that’s wide open. What we built solo since Dipset grew apart, we can combine and make even stronger together. I needed to clear my conscious before we work on building a bigger and better movement. Plus, consider it fair warning to everyone else.”
When Cam got back on the phone, he was definitely more pragmatic and cautious with his words.
Cam’ron: “There’s nothing really Diplomats-related to show you yet. We all have our own obligations right now, our own projects. I have this Boss of All Bosses Pt. 2.5 mixtape with Vado and DJ Drama dropping soon. But yes, me and Jim have been speaking, we’re working out the mechanics of this, and looking at our options right now. If it makes sense, it can happen.”
Yeah, Cam's being judicious with his words, as usual, but this is basically like when you break up with your girlfriend for something totally stupid, she moves out, you guys finally manage to speak about it a year later and agree the love's still there and when you're like "So let's get back together, I was an idiot," she's like, "Well, I'm still with what's his name and I respect his feelings. I would never want to hurt him." Meaning: yes we will get back together but you are going to work for it. Aaaaaaaaaand Yes Homo. Let's be real, these dudes love each other! They are fucking bros! There is nothing wrong with that. Their first video should be nothing but them giving high-fives at different locations around New York while some crazy Heatmakerz shit blasts in the background. Celebrate love!
Look, yesterday was weird. It was. Guru and Premier were one of the most perfect union's in music history. It's sad that they split and were never able to repair their relationship before Guru passed away. Anyone who's lost anyone without being able to tell them how they really felt will empathize with Chris Martin on this day. But Gang Starr's music is what will be remembered forever, not Solar's mishandling of Guru's last days. In the end, Premier has more proof of their bond than any of us will ever know and hopefully that makes him feel good. What that situation illustrates, though, is how great it is to see Cam and Jim being grown men about whatever it was that drove them apart in the first place. And they're owning up to it in public. That's gangster. That's classic Dipset. When everyone tried to clown them for rapping weird and sampling corny shit and wearing insane outfits, they rapped even weirder, sampled even cornier shit, wore even tighter thermals and purchased pink fur. When they split, that energy was gone, not just from Harlem or New York, but from rap in general. Love them or hate them, The Diplomats made it fun. So inevitably, people will have a lot to say about Cam and Jim getting back together, and hopefully, if any of it is negative, it will make them both want to make things right even quicker.
Hip-hop will always need war and controversy and bad decisions, but yesterday demonstrated very clearly the two very different, and very real, ways people can handle their business. And it applies not just to this situation or hip-hop specifically, but life. The Diplomats are actually using diplomacy to settle a conflict. They're admitting mistakes to the people who expected more from them and pledging to make things better. Can someone send this link to every politician in the world please? You morons have jobs to do, so get it together, issue a statement sitting next to your worst enemy, throw on "I'm Ready" and get down to business.
UPDATE: A statement appearing to come from Guru's family would confirm that it would have been impossible for him to write the previous statement as he has been in a coma for three months:
The Elam family wishes to thank the fans of our son/brother/father uncle/nephew/cousin Keith aka GURU for the outpouring of love, concern and support.
Our hearts are broken by the loss of someone we loved so much. GURU was devoted to his young son, who will most keenly feel his absence.
GURU suffered from multiple myeloma for over a year. Accrued complications from this illness led to respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. As a result, GURU was in a coma from mid February until his death and never regained consciousness. Early on the morning of April 19th, he became hypertensive due to low blood pressure. He again went into cardiac arrest and slipped away from us.
GURU died far too young but he was, and we are, proud of all his many legendary musical contributions.
The family is not aware of any foundations established by GURU. We know and understand that countless fans want to express their condolences and love and, to that end, we are planning a memorial event in the near future that will be all-inclusive. Please look for further details from the family as they become available.
from The Elam Family
UPDATE: Every Gang Starr and Guru video in chronological order
DJ Premier's official statement (via):
IT WAS A SAD DAY FOR ME TO GET CONFIRMATION ON THE DEATH OF A MAN WHO I WILL CONTINUE TO CALL MY BROTHER, KEITH ELAM, BETTER KNOWN AS GURU OF THE LEGENDARY GANG STARR.
FROM 1988-2004, WE EXPERIENCED SO MUCH SUCCESS TOGETHER THAT WE WERE ABLE TO EXPAND OUR BUSINESSES INDEPENDENTLY AND GIVE EACH OTHER WHAT GURU CALLED “CREATIVE SPACE”, BEFORE PLANNING TO REUNITE FOR OUR 7TH LP WHEN THE TIME WAS RIGHT. TRAGICALLY, WE WILL NEVER REACH THAT DAY.
I’VE BEEN ASKED TO COMMENT ON A LETTER SPEAKING ILL OF ME WHICH WAS SUPPOSEDLY WRITTEN BY GURU IN HIS DYING DAYS. ALL I WILL SAY ABOUT IT IS THAT OUR TIME TOGETHER WAS BEAUTIFUL, WE BUILT A HIP HOP LEGACY TOGETHER, AND NO ONE CAN RE-WRITE HISTORY OR TAKE AWAY MY LOVE FOR HIM. ONE THING I WOULD NEVER DO IS PLAY AROUND WITH THE TRUTH ABOUT HIS LIFE.
I WILL CELEBRATE GURU’S LIFE… I WILL HONOR HIS MEMORY… I WILL GRIEVE WITH THE ELAM FAMILY OVER HIS UNTIMELY DEATH… I WILL REMEMBER THE GANG STARR FOUNDATION AND ALL OF THE ORIGINAL MEMBERS OF GANG STARR WHO CAME BEFORE ME – WE ALL KNOW EACH OTHER… MOSTLY, I WILL CHERISH EVERYTHING WE CREATED TOGETHER AS GANG STARR, FOREVER. I’M GONNA MISS HEARING HIS SIGNATURE MONOTONE VOICE WHEN HE WALKS IN THE ROOM, BUT THE SONGS WILL ALWAYS BRING IT BACK TO ME….HIS RHYME FLOWS WERE INSANE, AND I WILL NEVER REMOVE HIM FROM MY HEART AND SOUL…….REST IN PEACE TO THE MAN WHO FELT “SATISFACTION FROM THE STREET CROWD REACTION” … I LOVE YOU GOO…….DJ PREMIER