Venue: The Jazz Café, London Date: 17 May 2010
Whilst many in the rap world persistently talk about ‘keeping it real’, few have kept it realer than arguably Hip-Hop’s greatest ever producer, DJ Premier, a man whose trademark boom-bap sound has benefited many artists over the years, from underground acts such as NYGz and Smiley Da Ghetto Child, to marquee names like Jay-Z and Nas. Add to that six impeccable Gang Starr albums, and it’s clear that Preemo’s credentials are not to be questioned. Hell, even when pop princess Christina Aguilera tapped the Texas-born beat king to produce her “Back To Basics” project, Premier still managed to deliver the goods and walk away with his integrity firmly intact.
Anyone who’s witnessed a live DJ set from Premier will already know that it consists of approximately two hours of old-school Hip-Hop classics, breaks and, of course, a varied selection of the many bangers he’s helmed the production boards for. But tonight, Preemo was in London to do one thing and one thing only, and that was to celebrate the life and rhymes of his former Gang Starr partner, the late, great Guru.
With travel complications leading to Premier arriving onstage some thirty minutes late straight from jumping off the Eurostar, the golden-age icon wasted no time in getting down to business, much to relief of a sold-out Jazz Café (most of whom had been clock-watching and praying that the night’s main attraction was actually going to show).
With the loss of Guru and the subsequent drama surrounding his death still fresh in everyone’s minds, it was a visibly emotional Premier who told the crowd “This shit still hurts!” as he spoke of seeing his friend and recording partner in hospital. And whilst he didn’t refer to him by name, it was clear that Preemo was addressing Solar when he spoke passionately about “that fake motherfucker”. But before he allowed himself to dwell too heavily on the negative aspects of Guru’s passing, Premier pointed a finger towards the sky, yelling “Tonight is for my nigga, I love you Guru!” and unleashed the flawless Gang Starr classic “Above The Clouds”.
Proceeding to drop back-to-back sure shots from the Gang Starr catalogue, Premier interspersed his musical trip down memory lane with brief recollections of Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal and the duo’s early days, pausing only to put a young heckler in place who shouted a comment about Premier trying to be “hard”. “I’m not trying to be hard, youngster,” explained a vexed Preemo. “I’m real! There’s a big difference”.
Whilst the crowd greeted each track with shouts of approval, from the sublime “Jazz Thing” to the head-nod favourite “Mass Appeal”, you couldn’t help but wonder how many were pondering the sad fact that never again will we hear any new music born out of the undeniable chemistry shared between Guru and Premier.
If Preemo’s heartfelt performance taught those present anything, it was to celebrate the lives of our musical heroes whilst they’re still here to receive and enjoy the praise. R.I.P. Guru.