Friday, 23 May 2008

Gang Starr - Jazz Thing 1990

CBS Records 656377 6

Gang Starr were strong contenders on the rap scene in the late 80's. After a few years kicking up dust Guru found DJ Premier and they released the album Step Into The Arena onto an unsuspecting public. As luck would have it, Spike Lee was, at the time, in the process of making the jazz based movie 'Mo' Better Blues' which required a soundtrack. The rest is, as they say, history. The reason I've posted this 12" though, is hidden away on the B-side. The Instrumental version of 'Jazz Thing' is a DJ Premier scratch-fest, a 'jazz concerto' which sounds just as awesome now as it did on the first listen.

Featuring Kenny Kirkland on Piano and Robert Hurst on Bass, this superb slice of turntabalism contains (in the vocal mixes) a four minute history of Jazz. Produced by the legendary Branford Marsalis, Premier loops the most authentic samples into a funky-ass soundtrack, over which he cuts up some great sound bytes. What makes this track so important though is the education that comes with with it. Guru (Keith Edward Elam to his mum) lays down some of the finest, most eloquent and intuitive lyrics heard in rap history.
It's roots are in the sounds of the African
Or should I say the Mother, bringin' us back again
From the drummin' on the Congo
It came with a strong flow and continued to grow

Feet move, to the beat of the t'balo*
Now dig the story and follow
For then it landed, on American soil
Through the sweat, the blood and the toil

Hear "Praise the Lord", shouted on chain gangs
Pain they felt, but it helped them maintain
Scott Joplin's rags, Bessie Smith's blues

St Louis blues, they were all the news
Ringin' smooth on all the listeners ears
Fulfillin' the need and planting the seeds of a Jazz thing

King Oliver's group was a train comin' through
To Chicago, bringin' the New Orleans groove
And when Satchmo blew, the audience knew

Basin Street blues was the raw house tune
It was great to dance to
Great to romance to, with a lot to say to you
Relaying a message, revealing an essence of a Jazz thing

Jazz music, Jazz Music
Jazz music, Jazz Music
Jazz music, Jazz Music, Jazz music

In the Forties came Be-Bop, the first Be-Bop
The Real Be-Bop, so let me talk about
Diz & Byrd, givin' the word
Definin' how a beat could be so complete

Playin' with ferocity, thinkin' with velocity
About ornithology or anthropology
And even 'Epistrophy', and this is real history

Theolonious Monk, a 'Melodious Thunk'
No mistakes were made with the notes he played
His conception, was recondite

A star glowing bright among dim lights
The critics decided that he sounded alright
Charlie Mingus, such nimble fingers
Droppin' the bass, all over the place

And Max Roach, cymbals socking
Bass drum talking, snare drum rocking
Restructuring the metaphysics of a Jazz thing

John Coltrane, a man supreme
He was the cream, he was the wise one
The impression of Afro Blue and of the promise
That was not kept, he was a giant step

And there was Ornette Coleman
He was another soul man
The original invisible, playing great music
I wonder why the bankers couldn't use it

Now listen see, the real mystery is how music history
Created by white men or any other white man
That pretended he originated

And contended that he innovated, a Jazz thing
"Of course, we know who can really blow"
Schemin' on the meanin' of a Jazz thing

And this music ain't dead so don't be misled
By those who said that Jazz was on it's deathbed
'cause when Betty Carter sings a song
Ain't nothin' goin' on but simply good music
And you won't refuse it

She's takin' her time, making the nuances rhyme
Sonny Rollins, tenor saxaphone
With a big ol' tone, reciting poems
With notes as words, and haven't you heard
Next stop butter, right past Oleo**

Now there's young cats blowin'
And more and more people, yes they will be knowin'
Jazz ain't the past, this music's gonna last
And as the facts unfold, remember who foretold

The Nineties, will be the decade of a Jazz thing
I Love Jazz music
A Jazz thing
I Love Jazz music
A Jazz thing
I Love Jazz music
A Jazz thing
I Love Jazz music
A Jazz thing
"Not everyone is fortunate to have a jazz musician for a father and grow up in a household listening to the music. It is my hope that maybe, just maybe, some young folks will know from this film "Mo Better Blues" and the single "Jazz Thing" is as much about Duke, Coltrane, Monk, Diz, Mingus, Billie Holiday, Bird, etc...etc...etc..., as Public Enemy, Biz Markie, L.L. Cool J, Hammer, Queen Latifah, etc...etc...etc...etc..." Spike Lee July 13,1990

  • Video Mix
  • Movie Mix
  • Instrumental
The Download Link is here: Download
Filename: Gang Starr.rar Filesize: 39.09 MB

* Balo, better known as the Balenjeh, is a African piano. Sounds credible?
** Oleo is the shortened word for oleomargarine or margarine.


  1. Completely agree. The Instrumental is 7 minutes of bliss.

  2. Fantastic. Never heard the 7 minutes of madness (i know that was the coldcut remix of eric b. and rakim)
    This is fantastic!!!

  3. Nobody has complained but MY copy of the Instrumental has been corrupted by itunes. Just in case its in the rar, I've uploaded a new link. :-@

  4. btw, "oleo" along with being the shortened name for margarine is ALSO a sonny rollins tune based on "i got rhythm" (common bebop chord changes as an alternate to blues forms.)

    great to see this up here. trying to re-constitute my vinyl collection (moved half-way round the world and couldn't take all my kids with me.)


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