Music Review: The Beast's "Guru Legacy"

With a seamless fusion of jazz and hip hop, and an affinity for social awareness, The Beast certainly grabs the Bull City by the horns and electrifies the rest of the Triangle with its refreshing presence.

On Guru Legacy EP, the latest from Durham’s frenetic hip hop outfit, this musical fusion is only epitomized. The EP is a tribute to the late emcee Keith Elam, aka Guru, whose Jazzamatazz volumes are memorialized in the six songs performed by the members of The Beast, local poets Shirlette Ammons and D. Noble, emcees John Robinson and Silent Knight and many others.

Remixing Guru career-spanning tracks like “Keep Your Worries” and “Loungin’,” The Beast revitalizes the memory of Jazzamatazz. While emcee Pierce Freelon and company trade in some of the typical energy for more jazz-oriented fluidity, the EP still packs a punch with the sharp wordplay that defines much of the group’s work.

“State of Clarity” touches on racism, politics and the Tea Party — even the Wake County school board. When the smooth beats and soulful keys combine with the poignant words of Freelon and guest stars, each track is infused with a fresh, local appearance.
The album wraps up with an interview between Freelon and ?uestlove of The Roots, touching on Guru’s legacy, his death and the state of hip hop. While interesting, the interview feels out of place and drags down the well-crafted flow.

Still energetic and fresh, Guru Legacy represents a progression of hip hop and demonstrates the value of remixing. The record is not only a reincarnation, but a representation of the future of the trade.

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