Guru On Making "Street Soul" With Badu, Isaac Hayes

Sonicnet Music News

Gang Starr rapper Guru, who fused hip-hop with jazz on his two previous "Jazzmatazz" collaborative LPs, went after R&B artists for his third, "Guru's Jazzmatazz: Street Soul," due Tuesday.

"The 'street' represents hip-hop, and the 'soul' represents black music, like jazz, funk, R&B, and soul," he said. "The reason I came up with 'Street Soul' is because I'm looking at all the black music today, and even in rock and roll, everything is touching on hip-hop."

Guru's two previous "Jazzmatazz" albums -- 1993's "Jazzmatazz," the first volume in the series, and 1995's "Jazzmatazz Volume II: The New Reality" -- featured such jazz artists as Roy Ayers, Donald Byrd, and Bernard Purdie. For "Street Soul," Guru's monotone rap is joined by soul artists Isaac Hayes, Angie Stone, and Macy Gray, as well as soulful rappers the Roots.

"I put a wish list together," Guru said. "I named people whose music I love and [whom] I've met

and had a chance to build friendships with over the years."

Guru, born Keith Elam, said he views "Street Soul" as a statement about the pervasiveness of hip-hop culture.

"It's the voice of the urban youth -- worldwide now, too," he said. "Rap and hip-hop is an expression. It's a way to let society and others know what's really going on, basically. What kind of problems we're having in our community, what we're angry about. Politicians want to blame the violence on the music, but they're wrong, because if they were to analyze it correctly, they would understand that what we're saying is that there are some problems that need to be addressed."

Guru traveled to the artists' home cities to record most of the tracks for "Street Soul."

"I kept everybody in their environment, so they were comfortable," Guru said. "We were able to just focus on the creativity."

On the jazzy track "Plenty," Guru and Erykah Badu demonstrate an easy chemistry as they

engage in flirty repartee. The track was recorded near Badu's Dallas home.

"Man, it was like a 40-minute drive outside of Dallas in farm country, past cows, horses and down this dirt road," the Brooklyn-born Guru said. "In the middle of a field there's a house, and they converted the house into a studio -- I had never seen anything like it. They had a genuine Indian tepee in the back.... It was really ill. Then you walk in, and there's candles and incense and the pure Erykah Badu spirituality. We recorded in a circle with the drummer in a booth facing us, two keyboardists on my left, a bassist on my right, and Erykah and I facing each other."

Guru played to Hayes' strengths on "Night Vision," a pensive, foreboding track recorded with the soul legend in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

"I wanted him to stay right in his element, so I said, 'How about we use one of the old Isaac Hayes songs from 'Shaft' or something?'" Guru said.

"Night Vision" contains a sample

of Hayes' "Walk From Regio's," a song from the original soundtrack for "Shaft."

"He was in 'Shaft' mode anyway, because that's when he was working on [the soundtrack to the remake]," Guru said. "I was like, 'I could rhyme over one of those and get him to talk... about street life in his own slang.'"

Hayes, who's working on a new album for Virgin and is about to release a cookbook, "Cooking With Heart And Soul," said he enjoyed the experience.

"He saw to it that there was a comfort level for me," Hayes said. "Guru's generous in that respect. It was easy to go down that particular vein of music."

Guru, 37, is the father of a newborn son, but don't expect him to stop rhyming anytime soon. He'll be taking "Street Soul" on the road, beginning with a performance on October 17 at S.O.B.'s in New York.