Category Archives: Arts and Culture

RIP: Keith Elam aka Guru, Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal


Keith Elam aka Guru passed away on Monday. Guru was the MC for the prolific hip-hop duo, Gangstarr. It would be too much to say Gangtarr changed my life, but they were definitely one of the major influences that led me to listen to much more East Coast hip-hop (along with Boogie Down Productions) than I had when I was in my teens in the 1980s. When I was 17 and 18 I was primarily listening to West Coast “gangsta” rap but the conscious sounds coming out of NYC spoke to me on a much deeper level. Gangstarr were part of that scene. While the scene has long since died, the rhymes, beats and memories remain. Rest in Peace, Guru. You will be missed.

Here is a touching remembrance written by Keith’s brother, Harry.

Also check this out, Jazz and Hip-Hop, Can They Really Mix?: Part 1 and II.

Below is a montage of Gangstarr videos. This is not meant to be some sort of definitive list, just some of my faves.

Manifest (from No More Mister Nice Guy, 1989)

Just to Get a Rep (from Step in the Arena, 1991)

Step in the Arena (from the album of the same name)

Take it Personal (Daily Operation, 1992)

Mass Appeal (Hard to Earn, 1994)

Next Time (Moment of Truth, 1998)

Skillz (The Ownerz, 2003)

It’s Gettin’ Hectic, from the Brand New Heavies, Heavy Rhyme Experience, Vol. I, 1992]

Loungin’ (featuring Donald Byrd). This is from Guru’s first Jazzmatazz LP, 1993.

Sights in the City (featuring Courtney Pine on alto and soprano sax and flute, Carleen Anderson on vocals and Simon Law on keyboards) from the same album.

Storm King Art Center


This place is amazing:

Storm King Art Center is a museum that celebrates the relationship between sculpture and nature. Five hundred acres of landscaped lawns, fields and woodlands provide the site for postwar sculptures by internationally renowned artists. At Storm King, the exhibition space is defined by sky and land. Unencumbered by walls, the subtly created flow of space is punctuated by modern sculpture. The grounds are surrounded by the undulating profiles of the Hudson Highlands, a dramatic panorama integral to the viewing experience. The sculptures are affected by changes in light and weather, so no two visits are the same.

I have wanted to go for a while now but it is a bit of a drive from the city. It was so hot! Spring and Fall may be a better time to visit.

Here are some pics:


[Pyramidian by Mark di Suvero]


[Gui and Knobs by Alexander Calder]


[Black Flag by Calder]


[The Arch by Calder]


[City on the High Mountain by Louise Nevelson]

Sunday Afternoon Tunes: Loungin’ on Dad’s Day


Peace and quiet at last. The in-laws took off Saturday morning and our apartment feels so much bigger with just the three of us (well, really four if you count our dog). Not to say we do not already miss them. We do, especially wifey. She had a great bonding experience with her mother. Something about a daughter having a child. It was great to see.

We had a nice dinner and our son actually got a decent night’s sleep. No major plans for dad’s day. We went out for a walk in the park. As soon as we get the baby in his carrier and stroller, he is out like a light. This evening we might grab a light dinner at the local Italian spot. Besides that, it is great just to lounge and enjoy the afternoon. Here are some tunes to put you in a loungy mood:

George Duke: North Beach (1974) and Malibu (1975)

Irakere: Explosion (Live in Japan, 1993)

Joyce: London Samba (1999)

Grant Green: The Final Comedown (1971)

Kool and the Gang: Blowin’ With the Wind (1972)

Guru: Loungin’ (1993)

Grover Washington, Jr.: Not Yet (1976)

Have a great Father’s Day!

A 90s Hip-Hop Post Pt. II: West Coast



As promised here is my West Coast selection. Heavy on the gangsta tip, I know. What can I say? That was mostly what was poppin’ in Cali at the time. But there were some exceptions, Aceyalone, Freestyle Fellowship, the Nonce, Alkaholics, Pharcyde, Del and Hieroglyphics come to mind.

Plus we also had that DJ scratch madness goin’ on like crazy. I remember when I first moved to S.F. seeing FM 2.0 (Q-Bert, DJ Apollo and Mixmaster Mike) who later became the Invisible Skratch Piklz. Mixmaster Mike DJed a KRSONE show at the Duboce Theater which was epic. He later became the DJ for the Beastie Boys. QBert was totally insane. Here is a taste:

Deal with it…

Aceyalone: Mic Check (1995). If you haven’t heard this before, prepare to have your mind blown.

Too $hort: Money in the Ghetto (1993). Representing Oakland.

Alkaholics: The Next Level (1993) I met my man Mxx11 at an Alkaholics show. Been homees ever since.

RBL Posse: Bammer Weed (1992) I can’t believe this song used to get played on the radio in the Bay Area.

Del the Funky Homosapien: Catch a Bad One (1993). Is that a cello?

The Coup: Not Yet Free (1992). I still like this album, even if Boots is a Maoist and their other albums were not all that great.

Ice Cube: Amerikkka’s Most Wanted. Before he was in wack flicks Cube dropped a few good albums. This is from his first solo effort after NWA.

Spice 1: Peace to My 9 and East Bay Gangsta (1992). I hate to admit it, but I used to bump this so loud the neighbors called the cops on me and it was great in the car too, if your woofers could handle it.

Freestyle Fellowship: Innercity Boundaries (1993).  I posted this previously. Here it is again in case you missed it.

The Nonce: Mix Tapes and Keep it On (1995). Yes, I know what nonce means in the U.K.

Dr. Dre: Lil’ Ghetto Boy (feat. Snoop Dogg) (1992).

Souls of Mischief: 93 Till Infinity (1993). Oakland’s Hieroglyphics Crew.

Pharcyde: Soul Flower (1992). This one is for Bob.

DJ QBert tearing it up in 1991. Here he is again in 1998.

A 90s Hip-Hop Post Pt. I: East Coast


Some call it “The Golden Era.” This is not a definitive list, just a sample. West Coast post to follow.

Lord Finesse: You Know What I’m About (1992) and Shorties Kaught in the System (1994). Probably my favorite MC. He is also a dope producer and DJ.

Gang Starr: Just to Get a Rep (1991) and The Question Remains (1994). The Guru and DJ Premier. Nuff said.

Beatnuts: No Equal and Let Off a Couple (1993). Beatnuts always had the sickest beats.

KRS-ONE/BDP: The Original Way (1992),  Poisonous Products (1992) and MCs Act Like They Don’t Know (1995). I had the opportunity to see BDP a few times and they always came on the stage with like ten people and rocked the show from beginning to end.

Artifacts: Wrong Side of the Tracks (1995) For the graf heads.

Diamond D and the Psychotic Neurotics: F*ck What You Heard (1992). Seriously slept on.

Biggie Smalls: Machinegun Funk and Everyday Struggle (1994).

Eric Sermon: Focus (1995). Solo effort by half of EPMD.

Organized Konfusion: The Extinction Agenda and 3-2-1 (1994). Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch. One of the best rap groups.

Jeru the Damaja: D Original (1994) and You Can’t Stop the Prophet (1995). Whatever happened to Jeru?

Red Man: Can’t Wait (1994). RIP, Shaolin Alan. You are missed. This is for you.

Nas: It Ain’t Hard to Tell and Memory Lane (1994). When Illmatic dropped it turned hip-hop upside down. The lyrics, the flows, the beats. A mind-blowing first release.

Black Sheep: The Choice is Yours (1991).

Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth: Escape (1995). Another epic production.

KMD: What a Niggy Know? (1994). From the unreleased “Black Bastards” LP. MF Doom double bonus (not 90s but wtf).

Ultramagnetic MC’s: Raise It Up (1993). I know I have posted this before but it is that good to merit posting again.

Showbiz and AG: Soul Clap (1992). Can I get a soul clap? C’mon!Wu Tang Clan: Bring da Ruckus (1993). Another one of those albums that changed the sound of hip-hop.

De La Soul: Stakes is High (1995). Long Island’s Finest.

Black Moon: Who Got the Props? (1993). This is dedicated to the ones that kept frontin’…