April 12, 2013 by Daniel Abelson
Legendary DJ and music engineer Young Guru visited Drexel University’s URBN Annex April 8 to kick off his Grammy U “Era of the Engineer” tour. Grammy U is a program designed to enable college students to network with music industry executives and artists to enhance their education outside the classroom. Guru ran through his history in music, including how he achieved his success, and shared technical pointers for the engineers and producers in the room. Over the last 14 years, Young Guru has been Jay-Z’s go-to engineer, working with him on 10 of his 11 studio albums. Guru’s success has enabled him to work with other greats including Beyonce, Drake, Rihanna, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg and many more. He has also served as an A&R executive for Roc-A-Fella Records and Def Jam Recordings and is currently Jay-Z’s tour DJ. The “Era of an Engineer” lecture series is designed to teach students about the importance of audio engineers and the record-making process in an insightful and educational way. While hip-hop isn’t taught at most schools, Guru said he believes it is something that should be more present in education today. When asked why he chose to do this lecture series, he said, “Number 1, I want my culture to be respected, plain and simple. Education is just important, period. But for me, every other musical genre is respected at a certain level, where hip-hop still isn’t to a certain degree.” Growing up in a musical household, Guru combined his two passions, music and engineering, and has become one of the most highly regarded engineers and DJs in hip-hop today. “I’ve always been into just regular engineering, like how things work. That was the main thing for me, was how systems work or how you put something together,” Guru said. Guru, whose mother was a teacher, said he would be interested in becoming a professor one day, similar to how producer 9th Wonder taught a class about sampling at Duke University. Having seen his mother’s passion for teaching and her students growing up, he said, “I see the intrinsic value now. You can literally, physically see when a kid doesn’t understand, and now they get it, you can see it in their face. It’s the ‘I got it’ moment. That’s really your reward. Or to have someone that you taught take whatever it is to a level above whatever it is that you were at. Every student should try to be better than the master.” His career began to take form when he started at Howard University, where he met Sean “Puffy” Combs, who went on to create Bad Boy Records. Guru also met Deric Angelettie and Chucky Thompson, whom he worked with early in his career. In 1999 Guru was working with an artist named Memphis Bleek, who was signed to Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records. One day, Jay-Z came by the studio to check in on Bleek and decided he wanted to record while the studio was booked. That was the first time that Guru ever worked with Jay, and the rest is history. Guru provided tips on compressing vocals and put an emphasis on the depth of a record, not just panning the sound from left to right. Guru displayed a vast knowledge of sound, specifically in hip-hop, and enlightened students with his advice. His story clearly inspired many in attendance, and he stayed after the lecture to continue answering questions and speaking one-on-one with students, giving them personal advice and even sharing his contact information. Guru’s dedication to hip-hop education could be considered admirable. The event was open to the community, Grammy U members, and music industry artists and executives. Local stars including former Drexel students Chiddy Bang, Freeway (who worked with Guru for a number of years), RJD2, Vidal Davis and Chill Moody were all in attendance for Guru’s lecture. The tour, sponsored by HP, Puma and Disk Makers, will hit 12 other cities, ending in Memphis, Tenn., on Sunday, April 28. For more information on the tour or Grammy U, visit www.grammy365.com.