Young Guru has been one of Hip-Hop’s most intelligent and respected voices for years. In an interview with Fast Company, he shows why Jay Z trusts him with his sound.
As one of the more gifted ears in Hip-Hop, Guru engineered much of Roc-A-Fella Records’ classic hits and has even done some work for new acts like Vince Staples. A range so wide has allowed him to help keep A-List clients like Jay Z grounded at times. In the feature he recalls having to constantly remind Jay of what’s going on in the underground.
“With Jay [Z], it’s like, how do we continue to grow and not f*ck up the legacy? But it’s very hard to sit in a room after that many albums and be like, ‘What haven’t we talked about? I tell Jay sometimes, ‘You’re so up in the clouds that sometimes you miss ground-level sh*t or you can’t start messing with it until it gets to a certain level because of who you are and your reputation.”
Guru also shared what it’s like being an engineer at a time when artists and producers may feel that they don’t need people like him as much, thanks to technology.
He compares the old days to now, saying:
“It was me, the producer, and the artist, and at the end of the day all of us were there; we made a decision. We went, ‘Yo, the record is done. It sounds good. Print that.’ [Now] I rarely mix a record with an artist in the room. I’m in here by myself. I get my mix where I think it’s comfortable, and I email it to them. A little five-second [tweak] now can turn into days, because if they’re on the road or whatever, they may not listen to it right that second. I’m in here sitting, and they may go, ‘I’ll get to it tomorrow.'”
Guru had more Jay Z information to share, like why Jigga doesn’t rap as “intricate” as he is capable of:
“I’m the super-underground hip-hop guy—I want to hear intricate sh*t. Jay’s like, ‘Gu, I can rhyme for you all day—that’s not going to sell albums. I have to make this interesting enough for the people who don’t care about that as well as for you.’ That’s our challenge—it’s a balance. The audience doesn’t buy pure art, so I got to throw some McDonald’s in it. There’s a reason McDonald’s sells billions.”
To hear more of what Young Guru has to say about the Roc-A-Fella days and how he got down with them, head over to Fast Company.
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