DJ Premier Opens Up About Guru’s Death, Solar, Gang Starr Reunion & More
DJ Premier wants the truth to come out. After days of questions surrounding the death of his former Gang Starr partner Guru (who died after a long bout with cancer), the respected producer is setting the record straight. From his thoughts on Guru’s controversial associate Solar and rumors of his old friend’s sexuality to his strained relationship with the man born Keith Elam and the future of Gang Starr, a candid Premier didn’t hold anything back. —Keith Murphy
VIBE: Do you feel like your relationship with Guru has been misrepresented by Solar?
DJ Premier: Well, I’ve always held down Guru… His spirit knows this. He used to get upset about so much stuff when we were dealing with the label all the time. We both would be upset. But I would take the calls because when he was upset he would flip [Laughs], where you might not be able to handle him when he’s wilding out. With me, although I had a temper, I was much calmer about it. But I always remember whenever I would tell him, “Yo Guru, don’t worry about it, they are going to take care of it,” he would be happy as fuck. He would be like, “Yo, let’s go out for a drink.” He was the go-out king. That was his routine. He was definitely a celebratory guy. Anyone from our era knows that Guru was in every club and every bar and every spot. He could go all night, all day. And he would never be tired!
When was the last time you spoke to Guru?
It was March 30, 2004. April 1 was the last email I received from him and I just found it in my computer. We were pretty much going at it about him straightening his life up with the drinking and everything… just getting himself together. Because talent wise, drinking or sober, he was always on point in the lab. He could lay down his vocals with no problem and he always wrote his rhymes dope. When he wrote his rhymes on page they were so messy [Laughs]. I used to ask him, “How can you even recite the verses and flow?” He would be in the booth turning the paper upside down while he’s still rhyming and without having to punch in.
Was there ever a time when you felt Gang Starr was going to break up during your successful run in the ‘90s?
Yes. That was with the Moment of Truth album, which was the most emotional album for both of us. I had actually left the group before that album came out. I’ve never really told that story, but even Guru knew although he’s not here to defend that—but I had left the group. We were not getting along over stupid shit so I straight up said, “I’m out of here.” He was going through his gun trial and facing a five-year bid. I have to thank our tour manager who I went to college with and who is a major part of my life to this day. Even with his own problems with Guru, he was like, “Yo man, you need to go back to him. Y’all were meant to be a duo, man.” Then the trial was about to happen and I called Guru and said, “I want to do this.” We made up, everything was cool and I went to his trial everyday with his parents and our Gang Starr lawyer and our criminal lawyer. We were there every day. Guru was so scared that he could have gone to jail for five years, so that’s why that whole time was very emotional. I had just had a major death in my family. I was not really focused. I just remember our lawyer telling us, “If Guru goes to jail, you are going to have to promote the album by yourself.” That entire time was crazy.
How ironic was it that the Moment of Truth ended up becoming your first gold album?
Guru used to always say from every album, “All I want is a gold album…we deserve it; we are as hot as all these platinum artists.” So when we got that one he was the happiest guy in the world. He even designed the gold plaque. I remember we spent almost $10,000 on buying plaques for everybody that we knew deserved one [Laughs]. There was a DJ who taught me how to scratch—I brought him one; I brought my parents, my sisters, all my friends who was hanging with us from day one. That’s real talk. That’s why that album is so special.
What kind of sense did you get of the future of Gang Starr from your conversations with Guru?