R.I.P. Guru

Tonz ‘o’ Gunz – Gang Starr from Hard to Earn

Just read that yesterday Guru passed away after battling cancer.  Sad news.  Guru was the MC of Gang Starr, who teamed with DJ Premier to make some of the signature sounds of 90s New York hip hop.  Guru continued the jazz-infused sounds of Gang Starr in his solo Jazzmatazz albums.  Obviously, Mass Appeal is their best known song, and it’s one of my top 10 hip hop songs of all time.  And they have a bunch of other songs I’ve rated with four stars, but today I wanted to write about a lesser known song that I gave five stars.

Tonz ‘o’ Gunz is an anti-gun song.  The song begins with a snippet of an anti-violence speech (not sure who it is) over the uptempo drumbeat that is sampled from Isaac Hayes’ Breakthrough.  That beat lays the foundation for the song, as there’s not too much else going on sonically other than a looped shrill keyboard (?) note that reminds me of the same sort of sound effect in Public Enemy’s Rebel Without a Pause.  DJ Premier cuts up a sample from their own Just To Get A Rep in the chorus.  He also adds in some gunfire sound effects towards the end of the track after Guru is finished up.

Guru has a smooth flow that really works well with a laid back beat.  Well, it also works with something faster, as this song attests to.  He gives his usual delivery, his voice has a gravelly quality and his rapping style has a casual cadence.  He even does a quick ragamuffin impression during the second verse.  As always he’s got some great rhymes that actually say something.  He starts the third verse “Tonz o gunz but i don’t glorify cause more guns will come and much more will die… why… yo i don’t know black /some motherfuckers just be livin like that /they like the feel of chrome in their hand the shit makes them feel like little big man”

You’ll be missed Guru.  Know you’ll be laying down some rhymes with the big man upstairs.

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