Guru is forever trying to create a separate identity for himself, as his Gang Starr co-pilot, DJ Premier has become one of the most sought after producers in hip-hop, churning out beats for everyone from Screwball to Black Eyed Peas to Jay-Z to Limp Bizkit. Meanwhile, Guru has experimented with his theories of success being based upon “mostly the voice”, lending his to three experimental jazz / hip-hop fusion projects, with most recent, Street Soul, being the best of the trilogy.
Stepping out of the expensive jazzman suit, and attempting to do the same from Premier’s shadow, Guru goes shirtless with Baldhead Slick & Da Click, returning to the streets of New York (and other skidrows), digging up some of their grimiest rhyming villians, and giving them their time to shine. While old pros such as Ed O.G., Ice-T, and Treach seem to blend in the most naturally with Guru, this album spends the majority of it’s time playing like a night at the Apollo, showcasing a band of hungry, unsigned emcees.
Some tracks are executed better than others, usually determined by who is working with Guru and his crew at the time. “In Here”, featuring the rough piano stabs of The Alchemist and the explosive rhymes of Royal Fam and Killah Priest, (not to mention Guru’s own contributions), is enough to start a bar fight at your local Symphony Saloon. Pete Rock’s contributions to “Pimp Talk” struts with the flair of an ’88 Big Daddy Kane track, while Guru joins his Boston hometown heroes on “Rollin’ Do”. But with so many new voices on the project, it’s tough to spotlight any one member particularly, among Guru’s crew of Gang Starr video extras. Along with Guru’s somber tone, the production on tracks like “The Come Up” (feat. Kapital Gainz & Kreem.com) and “O.G. Talk” (feat. Tef and Don Parmazhane) illustrates the misery of street life better than most of the rookies featured on the tracks. Naturally, Guru shines the brightest when Bald Head Slick leaves “the click” behind, on stellar productions like “Cry” and “Where’s Our Money?”.
And we all know that Guru shines even brighter so, when DJ Premier is holding the beats down. Guru’s not completely crippled when without Preemo, as he’s proved himself on a few Jazzmatazz projects, and carried his weight over a few tracks on this album. But when you leave perhaps the best producer New York City has to offer behind for several up & comers, (on both the mics and on the boards), one can’t help feeling a bit let down.
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