“Like straight up, as far as Premier’s beat style and my rhyme styles. That shit we own. You can’t duplicate that shit. Never in a fuckin’ million lifetimes.”
DJ Premier speaks with his hands. “Scandalous, money, greed and lust. In this trife life, there ain’t nobody you can trust.” In deep concentration, Preem cuts the opening lyrics of Moment Of Truth‘s “Betrayal” which now have added significance. The scratches are slow and plodding. Kinda like a funeral march. But tears weren’t allowed at my night at Sirius. Unbeknownst to most of us, Gang Starr’s DJ had already said goodbye.
Solar musta been slippin’ cause Preem and his homie, Vick Black (I still remember dude from the “Just To Get A Rep” video) did visit their old friend at “a fucked-up hospital” on Monday, April 12. It was Guru’s celebrated nephew Justin Elam Ruff‘s 21-year-old, lil brother Denzel that convinced them to go. And they didn’t like what they saw. Guru’s nails were long and unkempt. He was sportin’ a neglected afro. A loud-ass respirator was the room’s soundtrack. According to them, he died alone. That’s no way a rap legend should go out. Ever.
“I knew this chump see. He tried to play me
He was my right hand man, but he betrayed me
I let him chill at my crib, cause we were down and
I went to work everyday while he was loungin’
He tried to backstab, he kept on jokin’
He didn’t know he could’ve got his back broken
I had to cut homeboy off for even tryin’ that
His game was mad weak, know what I’m sayin Black?”
Preem meticulously mixes the opening lines of “Execution Of A Chump”. More messages in the music. But besides references to “Nigga Who?” and “Pumpkin Puss” and the occasional jab from the show’s co-host Panchi, Solar’s presence is felt but his name is never spoken. Instead a lot of focus is given to the Bartendaz, a group of men from Harlem who are focused on fitness. On their second visit to the show, they’re here to promote their new energy drink and even brought along a dip bar encouraging all in the studio to get their workout on as Preem runs through his group’s more “rebellious cuts”.
Bizarre scene? I give you that. But in many ways it makes sense. Guru succumbing to cancer must have all these men pondering their own mortality. A long life is hard to earn. And good health is essential. Plus what better way to let out some frustration and aggression than puttin’ your muscles to use. Later in the night, Preem taps his chubby frame and promises he’s gonna get back on his exercise grind.
A grinding halt to the evening’s good vibes is caused when Guru and the crew’s longtime lawyer Owen Lamb invades the program’s final 15 minutes. After mistakenly goin’ to Headqcourterz recording studio thinkin’ that was the broadcast location, he enters Sirius. He’s in pain. It’s his birthday and he’s visibly grieving. In mourning over his old friend, Owen’s anxious to get mic time to express his thoughts and he rudely fights to take over the show’s direction.
First order of business: A moment of silence for Guru. 3 seconds. Next: July 17, 1961. The day Keith Elam was born. Confusion cleared up. But then, things go left. Tension mounts as Owen mentions Solar’s name. Then he fully mounts himself on top of the soapbox. “Hear me out: I want you cats to make this shit positive. We got to all get together—that’s what Guru would’ve wanted in the end. Now y’all had your fallout with Guru. Y’all let our brother out the family. Out the house…” Operation shutdown. His mic is cut.
“Keep your headphones on and enjoy the show,” Preem says as he regains control. “Go do some dips.” But Owen still won’t be fully silenced. As the show closes a few minutes later, Owen grabs Preemo’s mic and cries out, “Solar get in touch with me. Solar get in touch with me”. Still the segue to Daily Operation‘s final song “Stay Tuned” can’t be stopped. The fader’s pushed: “Get with this. Get with this. Get with this cause you got no choice”.
Keith Elam died one week ago today and I doubt we’ll ever get full closure. As a hip-hop fan, the closest we can get is the image in our minds of Premier lovingly rubbin’ the Gang Starr emblem across Guru’s body. “I love you, Gu,” he probably said as he kissed him on his face knowing it would be his last time seeing him. See a legacy is bigger than the people who create it. You can replace friends. But you can’t erase history. Said it before. Say it again. Gang Starr Forever.