JOIN or LOGIN  |  

Guru Songs

Music, Current Events | By The Top 13 on March 3, 2010

Earlier this week, legendary emcee Guru of the pioneering New York rap group Gang Starr suffered a severe heart attack that left him in a coma. Like the entire hip hop community, the Top 13 wishes Keith Elam - better known as Gifted Universal Rhymes Unlimited - a speedy recovery. To keep Guru in all of our thoughts, we've put together our list of his best work, which comes both from his collaborations with Gang Starr partner DJ Premier and his jazz-based solo records. Without further ado, we present the Top 13 Guru Songs. Get well soon, Guru.

Editor's Note: Guru passed away on April 19, 2010.

expand all
Mass Appeal

1

Mass Appeal

1994

Considering Gang Starr's substantial influence and long-term success, it comes as some surprise that having reached number 67 on the Billboard Hot 100, this song remains Gang Starr's highest charting hit. The second single off of Hard to Earn, the duo's critically acclaimed fourth album, "Mass Appeal" features Guru at his finest, coolly lecturing other rappers over a typically blistering Premier track.

You Know My Steez

2

You Know My Steez

1997

Gang Starr's second song to reach the Billboard Hot 100, "You Know My Steez" was the first single off the group's best selling album, Moment of Truth. After a four-year hiatus for Gang Starr, the song was a reminder to other rappers about Guru's status as a legend: "While real emcees and DJs are a minority / But right about now, I use my authority / Cause I'm like the wizard and you look lost like Dorothy."

Trust Me

3

Trust Me

1993

At the height of Gang Starr's early success, Guru took a sharp left turn to release the first of his four jazz rap albums, known as Jazzmatazz. Not surprisingly, Guru and jazz turned out to be a perfect match on what is generally referred to as the first album to combine a live jazz band with rapping. The classic album's best single, the silky "Trust Me," features a hook from Brand New Heavies singer N'Dea Davenport and samples James Brown's "Funky President."

DWYCK

4

DWYCK

1994

The first single off of Hard to Earn, which gave us two other songs on this Top 13, this song is simply a classic. "DWYCK" features a seemingly effortless verse from Guru sandwiched between hilarious guest verses from Nice & Smooth members Greg Nice and Smooth B. Though some claim DWYCK stands for "Do What You Can Kid," Guru refuted that in a 2003 interview, explaining that Biz Markie coined the term, which is slang for "the male genitalia."

The Militia

5

The Militia

1998

One of three songs on this list from the 1998 album Moment of Truth, "The Militia" is one of Gang Starr's harder battle tracks. Guru's superb middle stanza is flanked by a strong opening verse from Big Shug and a ferocious chorus and closing by Freddie Foxxx. As one would expect, Guru is the one in control of this crew, as he makes clear: "I ain't one to succumb to no man, but to command / and scoop up the troops when it's time to take a stand."

Code of the Streets

6

Code of the Streets

1994

In "Code of the Streets," Guru lays down a harsh social commentary on the struggle to escape poverty through a life of crime. The first single off 1994's critically acclaimed Hard to Earn, this song inexplicably failed to chart higher than number 83 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hip chart. Like the rest of the album, "Code" has a notably rougher edge than Gang Starr's earlier work, exemplified by Premier's menacing beat and Guru's lyrics about staying true to the streets.

Ex Girl To Next Girl

7

Ex Girl To Next Girl

1992

This standout from 1992's Daily Operation, widely viewed as one of Gang Starr's finest albums, is perhaps the definitive hip hop breakup song. Guru's storytelling is sharp as ever as he explains a "busted" girlfriend and why they are finished. Or, as the repeated classic line explains: "You and I are the past / c'est la vie, much respect girl / but now you're my ex girl / cause I'm on with the next girl."

Watch What You Say

8

Watch What You Say

1995

The only song off any of Guru's follow-up Jazzmatazz releases to crack this Top 13, "Watch What You Say" features a terrific hook by the legendary Chaka Khan and demonstrates just how effective the combination of Guru's silky flow and jazz music can be. The first single off Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality, this track helped propel this album - though not considered as good as the original - to greater commercial success.

Discipline

9

Discipline

1999

By the time Gang Starr released Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr, its two-disc greatest hits compilation, in 1999, Guru and Premier had more than enough fantastic songs to fill out the collection. Nevertheless, they decided to include three new tracks. Two of them, including this song, are good enough to make this Top 13. Featuring a hook by Bad Boy R&B group Total, "Discipline" was classic Gang Starr, with Guru nimbly lecturing about the pitfalls of not being disciplined.

Royalty

10

Royalty

1997

This is the final track on the Top 13 from the exceptional Moment of Truth, which was Gang Starr's only album to reach the top ten on the Billboard Top 200. "Royalty," which was the album's first single, barely edged out the superb collaborations "Above the Clouds" and "Betrayal" to make this list. With an assist on the chorus from K-Ci and JoJo, Guru breaks down the right way to live while comparing himself to a king and referencing the teachings of the Five Percenters.

Rite Where You Stand

11

Rite Where You Stand

2003

This is our favorite track off The Ownerz, the 2003 Gang Starr album that turned out to be the duo's final studio release before their split. Premier's beat is bonkers, Jadakiss - who has called Guru an influence - is fantastic, and Guru, of course, holds up his end of the bargain in one of the most menacing songs in the group's catalog. After fourteen years in the game, Guru showed he hadn't fallen off a bit.

Loungin'

12

Loungin'

1993

Considered by many to have the smoothest flow in hip hop, Guru's flow has never been as smooth as it is on this track, which was the second single off the original Jazzmatazz release. It's also the second song from that album to make this Top 13. Featuring the prolific and legendary jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd (who Guru name-checks in the song), "Loungin'" is the ultimate hip hop chill-out track.

Full Clip

13

Full Clip

1999

This is the second new track on Gang Starr's decade retrospective to make this list. "Full Clip" includes an opening ode to influential underground Harlem rapper Big L, who was murdered shortly before before Gang Starr released this two-disc set. With Big L on his mind, Guru is at his most defiant on this track, cleverly using his slick lyrics as metaphors for violence, and proving that while emcees come and go, even after ten years in the game, he wasn't going anywhere.

expand all

Comments Leave a comment

stillathreat ★★

Awesome list. Get well soon, Guru.

10:03 AM   Mar 03, 2010

jason ★★

Get better, Guru!

4:11 PM   Mar 03, 2010

gofixmeaplate 

I hope he gets better soon. praying for him. No just to get a rep on this list? should be up there.

3:00 AM   Mar 11, 2010

Please Join or Login to leave a comment