The last week has stung the eyes and hearts of Hip Hop fans. Since the late 1980s, Keith “Guru” Elam gave us street scripture in poetical parables, weathered wisdom and a signature voice of reason. As if the announcement of Guru’s death to cancer has not hurt enough, controversies have swept the media trying to understand Guru’s last days, his bizarre relationship with musical partner John “Solar” Mosher and a suspicious and damaging last letter.
As the truths come to the light, one courageous woman has come forward. Tasha Denham considers herself a friend to Guru. On two different occasions, they temporarily lived under the same roof between 2006 and 2008. She was also an employee of Guru and Solar’s 7 Grand Records, having served a tenure as Executive Assistant within the four-person operation. Lastly, Denham has a young daughter, that she says was fathered by Solar. Having witnessed those two-plus years on a personal, private and professional level, Tasha Denham’s accounts come from one of the few people who was privy to the tight circle Solar and Guru kept.
This jaw-dropping and quite-lengthy interview was conducted just minutes after midnight this morning (April 27). As the contents below suggest, it is one first-hand account on the last chapter in the life of one of the most respected emcees in Hip Hop. Merely one person’s testimony, but suspicions of foul-play are confirmed in vivid detail, and some background information is provided at a time when all of us who knew Guru, loved him, or lived by his verses are looking for answers.
HipHopDX: Thank you for speaking to us. To start, could you describe your relationship and the context of your relationship to the man the Hip Hop community knows as Solar, as well as Guru?
Tasha Denham: I met Guru and Solar in 2006. I actually met them out in Denver, [Colorado]. I was moving back to New York. I started a personal relationship with Solar and subsequently became pregnant by him, and had a child by him.
In the middle of 2006, a situation happened on tour. They needed some help with some business things – they were in Europe, and needed some things done in the States, and I happened to be able to help them out at that time.
By the end of 2006, I decided that I was going to leave and come back to Denver, due to issues that I was having with Solar in our personal relationship. At that time, because we weren’t going to have a personal relationship, I wasn’t able to help [7 Grand Records] anymore. After our daughter was born, I started talking to them again, and had just a personal relationship at that time with both Solar and Guru. I considered Guru a close friend of mine. Solar is obviously the father of my child.
In 2007, once again, they were over in Europe, and had some complications on tour. Their tour manager had to quit in the middle of the tour. So they had me do some stuff for them. It ended up working out well, and at that point in time, they decided to bring me on as an assistant for [7 Grand Records] and I was both of their personal-slash executive assistants, at the same time, it was a small record label, so I did whatever needed to be done to try and make the record label run smoothly. So I worked on a day-to-day basis with both Guru and Solar till about July, 2008.
DX: In regards to 7 Grand, I know you probably wore many hats in the day-to-day, but what was your specific title?
Tasha Denham: My specific title was executive assistant. That was the general title I was given.
DX: The Hip Hop perspective is, somewhere in 2004, Guru and Solar began working together musically. Do you know the context in how they came to know each other?
Tasha Denham: Everything I’ve been told, I’ve been told by them. I was not around at the time that they met. But my understanding is that in 2003 I believe, they became friends. They would hang out and party together. Guru, at the time, was still with [DJ] Premier [in Gang Starr]. They had the album, The Ownerz at that time. They were just friends. Solar ended up going on one of the Gang Starr tours with Guru in 2003, I believe. They were talking one night, and Solar [was listening] to Guru. [Guru] was expressing his displeasure with [Virgin/EMI Records] at that time. Solar said, “Well, if you’re so unhappy with your label, why don’t you start your own?” Guru thought about it a little, I guess, thought about it overnight, and then came back to Solar the next day and said, “I want to do this, man. Let’s start the label.” Solar was like, “I didn’t mean us, I meant for you to start it.” [Guru reportedly responded], “No. No, man. I want to do it together.” At that point in time, Solar told him that if [Guru] wanted to do this, then he had to stop drinking. From that point on, that’s when they decided to build 7 Grand Records.
DX: It’s a weird question to ask, but I know that what you’re telling me a lot on pre-2006 is based entirely on what you’ve heard, but it’s an important question to the Hip Hop community, in the wake of last Tuesday’s letter – do you know the context from that Ownerz Tour of the relationship that Solar and DJ Premier may have had with each other? A lot of people believe that Premo has been [attacked by these words Solar may have written in the letter]. A lot of people are curious to know if Solar would have any motive.
Tasha Denham: Um…I do know that there were at least some tensions. I wasn’t there, obviously, so I can’t say to what extent. But I do know that there was some tensions. I can’t say that anything Solar had against Premier had to be one specific incident. Just watching, over the time that I spent with them, Solar had such a twisted sense of how important [his own role] was to the music game. I think there was an extensive amount of jealousy towards what Premier had already created in the music industry. I can’t speak that there was one specific incident that created that animosity between them.
DX: As a member of the press, often times, prior to an interview, Premier’s name and Gang Starr were often not allowed to be mentioned at all. Did you know anything, as far as behind-closed-doors for the motives in that?
Tasha Denham: I definitely know that press was told, numerous times, not to speak on Gang Starr, not to ask questions on Gang Starr or Premier. And [press was told], that if they were to speak on it, the interview would pretty much be over. I know this because I was the one who told the press this a lot of times. I was required to prep people ahead of time, basically, on what questions were going to be acceptable, and that they wanted to focus on 7 Grand at the time, and whatever album at the time was coming out, and not on the past – it didn’t matter. Again, I believe it all stemmed from…I think when Solar got into [the music industry], I feel that he thought it was just gonna take off like that. They were gonna have instant love around the world, instant fame, instant fortune from this label. I don’t think he got the realities of quite how hard it was gonna be to overcome the legacy that [Gang Starr] had together. I think that his jealousy of both Premier and Guru’s fame around the world – yeah, there’s a lot of people who don’t know who they are, but anybody who really knows Hip Hop, and especially in Europe and such, it’s insane amounts of love and fame out there. Solar would go places and people would want Premier, they wouldn’t want Solar. Not because they hated Solar, but because they didn’t know Solar. They wanted the legendary Gang Starr, with its producer.
You know, I understand Guru wanting to move on and create things on his own. He did, with Jazzmatazz, way before Solar even came around. But before, I think he didn’t understand that maybe it could be both. I think what’s distanced Solar so much from so many of the Gang Starr fans is he always acted like he was in competition with Premier instead of taking the natural route that he was Guru’s partner now, after Premier. [Instead, Solar] came across with so much anger about it. He truly believes that Premier was financing a campaign agaist him on the Internet – a hate campaign.
DX: Wow. Like a website or just through message board and comment section posts?
Tasha Denham: Message boards as a whole. Whether it be your MySpace or through an article on HipHopDX or another one of the Hip Hop sites. Anything that was put on there that was negative, Solar felt like Premier was fueling that – not that there was fans out there that didn’t appreciate Solar’s music, that didn’t appreciate what Solar called his “genius,” that they didn’t appreciate the fact that Solar was saying, “I remixed all of Gang Starr’s tracks and they sound so much better now.” One thing after another.
I have had a lot of people reach out to me since Guru’s passing – and before, when he was in the hospital that knew I worked for them and knew I was close, at one point in time, to them. [They said], “I always thought it was strange, ’cause I’d come up to them at a concert and I’d want to take a picture with just Guru. But if I wanted a picture, I had to take one with both Guru and Solar.” If he was gonna do an interview, it had to be both Guru and Solar. Guru was not allowed to do interviews by himself.
DX: I interviewed Premier in December 2005 in New York shortly after the break-up was implied. Premier expressed that the group was simply on glorified hiatus. I interviewed Guru and Solar in spring of 2006, and Guru was very resistant to even my question to whether Big Shug’s “Counterpunch,” which featured Guru, would be the last time fans would hear his voice on a DJ Premier beat. In interviews to come, for various outlets, Guru said some harsh things. You’re one of the few people he seemed to speak a lot to in recent years. In your private conversations with Guru, was that [sentiment] really there?
Tasha Denham: There was definitely some distaste. I don’t want to go as far as “bitterness.” I think of it had been put into his head. I don’t know if he truly felt some of the things he said in his heart. He was convinced, by Solar, that back in maybe 2003, 2004, Guru was held up and mugged in Queens, [New York]. Solar convinced Guru, at that point in time, that Premier had put the hit out on him, and Premier wanted him dead.
Tasha Denham: He got that into Guru’s head, and he got that drilled into Guru’s head that that’s what happened. I have to believe that that’s where some of his distaste came from. He did say things that he was unhappy with, from his past. A lot of it had to do with contractual things. There were situations that he got into contractually that he felt like he had kind of gotten the short-end of the stick, if you want. Not from Premier, but [from Virgin Records and management]. Any of his anger that he had or any of his ill words that he had, I think a lot of them were not really heartfelt. I may be wrong, but I can only take my own judgement. I think that a lot of it was that Solar had him so convinced that all these people were against him: [Gang Starr/Empire manager] Phat Gary, Premier, all the people from the Gang Starr Foundation – Big Shug. I actually just spoke to Lil Dap from Group Home. I’ve never spoken to him before. I didn’t know him, but I knew of him, of course. I knew of him through Guru. He called to express his condolences [and say] “We’re all in this together. We all want to see Guru’s legacy move on in the best way possible.” I think that’s what Guru missed out on so much [in] his last few years, because I think he was so distanced from these people because of Solar that he started to forget how much people really did care about him. They didn’t just care about him as an artist. I think if Guru never did another Gang Starr record, I truly believe that all of them would’ve still cared about Guru. For me, anybody’s really been touched by Guru and been around Guru knows Guru as a man, they know what a kind person he is. Anybody who’s really met him and knows him as a person, they loved him no matter what. I don’t think it was always about the music. Lil Dap expressed that to me, that Guru was like a brother to him. They started out at the same time. Guru had to be one of the kindest people I knew. He would give you even when he did not have.
It hurts me to read this [last] letter. If he did write this letter – which I truly have my doubts on, I can’t say that some of it was not things that they had spoken on before, and stuff that Solar put it into words himself. I’m not gonna say that, I wasn’t there. Do I believe Guru wrote the letter word-for-word or even sentence-by-sentence? I don’t believe that. I really hope that Guru didn’t spend his last moments of consciousness with hate like that. I didn’t know Guru to be like that. I didn’t know Guru to be a hateful person. There were other people in Guru’s life that Solar had spoken ill of to Guru and had convinced Guru [were] against him. In speaking to Guru in private, Guru himself wasn’t always convinced of that. Guru didn’t always believe, but at the same time, he didn’t always want to speak that back to Solar because it would’ve not been a good situation either.
DX: New York is a big place, but it’s a small place, especially in the Hip Hop industry. A few artists worked with Guru and Solar on early 7 Grand releases – Talib Kweli, Jean Grae, Damian Marley…
Tasha Denham: Common.
DX: Right. These guys weren’t just studio rats, so to speak. How close did it get, not in terms of it being a feud or anything, but you think there would have been contact with people that could get Guru’s mind right, old peers…
Tasha Denham: Honestly, pretty much, they kept themselves secluded from the Hip Hop world. They did not go out in New York City very often at all. It was a very rare occurrence, after Guru stopped drinking, that they would go out in New York. It wasn’t because of Guru’s drinking that they stopped going either.
When Guru stopped drinking, when he decided to stop drinking, he stopped drinking. Solar drinks Corona [beers] every single day. Solar would send Guru to the store to buy his Coronas for him. When Guru stopped drinking, he stopped drinking. Guru could have a bottle in his house, he wasn’t gonna drink it. He made that decision. When they toured, he was in nightclubs every night. He stopped drinking.
I truly believe that…Solar made it that “there’s so much hate out there for us. Being New York, Premier and them are out there, blah, blah, blah.” So they didn’t go. They didn’t even take shows in New York most of the time. There was always an excuse. Shows in Boston, there was always an excuse as to why they weren’t gonna do that show. All the tracks that had [featuring artists], they were all sent [to Guru and Solar]. They didn’t do those in the studio, personally, with any of those artists. I cannot speak of one single artist that was actually in the studio with them. Most of the time, it was all through management, so on and so forth. So there weren’t any opportunities for other artists to help bridge that gap because first of all, if Guru ever had the opportunity, Solar was standing right there.
Guru was never around anyone in the industry without Solar standing right next to him. He never did an interview unless Solar was right there. If somebody was to say, “Yo Guru, when’s there gonna be another Gang Starr album?” Guru would just knock it down right away, because if that got brought up and that became an issue, it would be become a [problematic issue] between him and Solar.
Guru and I spoke privately about who was that one person who could help give us that one hit for 7 Grand. He and Fat Joe were always really close, back in the day, and that was one of the people I know he thought about reaching out to. I can’t say that he ever did, out of fear that Solar wouldn’t agree with it, and Solar would find a reason not to, and it would become a problem again.
DX: For the record, you and I spoke privately before this interview. There’s a reason why it’s not the first question, and that largely comes from respect for Guru and his legacy and distaste for some of the unfounded rumors running right now. However, I have to ask, as MTV’s Sway Calloway so effectively worded last week to Solar, from your perspective, were Guru and Solar engaged in a relationship of “a romantic nature?”
Tasha Denham: I spent extreme amounts of time with both Guru and Solar, both individually and altogether. I traveled with them. At one point in time, I stayed in Guru’s house for several weeks. I, myself, never saw any indication of it being a romantic or sexual relationship. I do have a child with [Solar]. I know that there’s many men out there that are homosexuals that have children, so that does not say that he’s not. I, however, do not believe he is. I never saw any indication of that. I never saw any type of affection in that way, if you want. I saw Guru interested in women. Obviously when I was around, Solar was with me at that point in time, but at the same time, I have my feelings that there were probably other women as well. I never got the feeling that it was homosexual. It angers me, the rumors that I hear out there – not from people like Sway. The way he asked, it was absolutely appropriate. He asked as a journalist. But I have read things, on the Internet of course, that have really disgusted me, because they’re being spoken by people that don’t have facts. They’re just giving an opinion that they’re stating as a fact, and I think they’re forgetting that both of these men have children. Both of these men have families. Both of these men, especially Guru, has a legacy to be upheld. To sit and put something as trivial as that into the mix [with such little care], is foul. I don’t think it’s appropriate. If somebody has something that’s concrete, then by all means. But if you’re only speculating, and because they had a very close relationship, and bizarre relationship to most, that you can’t believe that they could have the kind of relationship without it being sexual, I disagree.
I think the way Solar is, he needed it to be that way, because that’s the way of control. You get somebody, and you distance them from everyone else. They see you on a daily basis. You’re their man day in and day out, the first person you talk to in the morning, the last person you talk to before you go to bed, that’s gonna be the person you’re gonna turn to for everything. That’s the way to best control someone. I don’t ever believe it was sexual.
DX: As the details play out, a few people have commented that this is reminiscent of Selena Quintanilla’s story. Did you sense a kind of [platonic] worship, on Guru, from Solar?
Tasha Denham: Absolutely not. It was actually the opposite. It was almost like because he had that legacy and all those years in music, it was like he had a distaste for [Guru] because of that.
DX: As a close associate, an employee, all these things. When was the first time you started to notice that things were not normal or healthy?
Tasha Denham: [Pauses] I think it came pretty early on, really. One of the defining moments to me when I knew something was…it was the way Solar spoke to Guru. It was always down to him. He really belittled him, and would do it in front of other people. This wasn’t something he just did in private. He is a member of The [Five Percent] Nation of Gods and Earths, as is Guru. He would use that against him, to bring him down. It was important to both of them, very important. I believe Guru’s a pleaser; he liked to make people happy. [Solar] would tell him that the Nation of Gods and Earths are ashamed of him, they’re disappointed in him. That he doesn’t live up to their teachings. I can’t think of the word that they used. There was a lot of times they’d get into arguments over it. He’d sit, and Guru would try to defend himself, and Solar would just get more and more irate over it.
There was one night we were at Guru’s house. I was about three months pregnant at the time. Guru kept defending himself. Guru actually stood up and kind of got in Solar’s face about it. Next thing I know, Solar punched him in the face. From that point in time, he just started kicking him and hitting him. Guru was fighting back, he wasn’t just sitting there being a punk, but at the same time, Guru had severe asthma. He didn’t have his inhaler. He started really hyper-ventalating and really having a hard time, and Solar kept beating him. It wasn’t a fight anymore, it was beating him. I felt that it was so bad that I got in between the two of them and broke it up, because I knew he wouldn’t hit me of course. At that point in time, I was pregnant with his child.
Instead of stopping and making sure his partner, friend, “brother” – as he calls him was okay, Guru was sitting there saying, “I’m having an asthma attack. I need to go to the hospital. I think I’m gonna have a heart attack.” He’s bleeding, really shaking. Instead of stopping and calming himself down, [Solar] told me, “We’re leaving,” and goes and gets in the car and drives me back to the city. [He] didn’t call and check on Guru, didn’t make sure he was alright. That’s probably one of the first times I was like, “Wow, this relationship is really unhealthy. It’s a really sick relationship.” After that, if I didn’t physically see it myself…I saw [Guru] punched in the face numerous times with no provocation. It [would just be] that he’d get upset with something Guru would say and punch him in the face. I know he knocked a tooth out of Guru’s. I know he gave him a black eye [so Guru would] have to wear glasses for photo-shoots and concerts. To listen to [Solar] talk to [Guru], you’d think he was talking to a child sometimes. Guru would tell me how bad that hurt him. He’d say, “Back when we were just friends, he never would have spoken to me this way. He always treated me with respect. Now that we’re doing this record label, he has no respect. He treats me this way.” There was a fear in him. Solar had distanced him from everything in his life: his family, his ex-partner, the whole Gang Starr Foundation and the music industry, really, as a whole. Guru spent a lot of time alone. A lot of time, if he wasn’t with Solar, he was by himself. It was his son or Solar.
He would tell me that since the label wasn’t as successful as they originally thought, he just wanted to go away. He just wanted to disappear. He wanted to go to Europe, or go to L.A. and do voice-over work and quit the whole music industry as a whole. He wanted to go back to being a regular guy, like a mailman. It got worse and worse.
Unfortunately, in about July of 2008 is when I was banished from the circle because I wouldn’t follow orders that were given to me. At that time, Guru was instructed that he was to have no more contact with me. Without Solar’s knowledge, we stayed in contact throughout 2008, till the end of 2008. I had a lot of business information that they didn’t have access to, and Guru would need it for different things. He couldn’t ask Solar to ask me, ’cause we didn’t speak. He couldn’t ask Solar [for permission] to speak to me, ’cause Solar would be angry that Guru didn’t have [the information]. So he’d contact me. I knew that things weren’t getting any better. He’d tell me that Solar was checking his emails. I was also informed that, the longer and longer it went, that Solar even took Guru’s phone away for days at a time. Guru wasn’t allowed to have a personal life at all. Even when they were on tour, he took Guru’s inhaler from him and told him that he wasn’t allowed to use it, because it was a crutch, and that he didn’t really need it…It just breaks my heart that [Guru] was suffering that way.
DX: Premier said it prior to last week on his radio show, Guru was a tough dude. I knew that about him when I first crossed paths with him when Gang Starr was still in tact. You’re guessing like I could guess, but what do you think it was that prevented him from really fighting back and/or walking away?
Tasha Denham: His own fear. His insecurities. His twisted sense of loyalty to Solar. He credited Solar with helping him stop drinking. Guru’s town-home, several years ago, burned down. At that point in time, Solar let him come live at his house with his family. So Guru looked at things like that. Guru never took credit himself for quitting drinking. When he decided to stop smoking weed, he just did it. He did it. But yet, when he was still smoking weed, Solar controlled that. Solar kept the weed and would only give Guru what he wanted him to smoke.
[Guru] was dedicated to changing and making his life better. He was a vegetarian, he was working out daily. He was dedicated to his son, and he loved that kid like no other. He wanted to make sure he was healthy, to be around for his son.
I think that he was so scared that if he broke away from Solar that he just didn’t know what was next. He didn’t always have the support around him on a daily basis. He knew there were people out there that would help him. But when you’re not hearing it daily, and you’re not around people daily that are telling you these things, it’s hard to prevent to break away from the person who is there on a daily basis. They’re bringing out your insecurities. Instead of talking about your positives, they’re bringing out your faults. He was just scared. I told him before I left, “Guru, you’ve got to get away. If you don’t get away, he’s gonna kill you.” He was being so abusive to him, physically. Guru was not a punk. Guru would not have taken that from anyone else. No one else. No one. I can’t even imagine.
Solar’s a bully. He’s all talk. He preys on people [that] he can bully. If you won’t go along with Solar and you won’t let him control you, he will have nothing to do with you. He couldn’t control me, and that’s why he got rid of me. As soon as [DJ] Doo Wop quit working for them, Guru wasn’t allowed to speak to Doo Wop anymore. A man that had been in his life, on a daily basis for almost five years, and he’d known for almost 15, he wasn’t allowed to speak to him anymore. Guru was so sick [from the cancer] by that point in time too.
DX: In the later years of their life, what would Guru and Solar do with their free time, especially since they were removed from the Hip Hop industry?
Tasha Denham: Guru’s day-to-day basis was basically business all day and studio in night. He had to fit in time to see his son. There were times when he’d want to go to Boston to see his family – his mother was ailing as well, as his father’s getting up there in age, and Solar would tell him he couldn’t go because he needed to be in the studio. Yet, Solar, during the day, I’d talk to him on the phone, and he’d be laying out in the sun, tanning. Or he’d be working out in the gym. He’d work out like two hours a day. Or he’d be out to dinner with his family. He’d call and give us orders on what to do, work-wise, but who really ran 7 Grand Records? Guru put his heart and soul in that.
DX: Did the label have other employees, besides the three of you and the band?
Tasha Denham: Guru did a lot of the stuff. I filled in whatever role. There was times where Guru would refer to me as their “head of video promotions” or this or that, because there wasn’t people there to take those roles on. I helped them with tour booking, routing tours, whatever needed to be done. Guru taught me so much, because I’d never done this. I kind of fell into this. I happened to have a knack for it, as far as their label was concerned. Guru was learning himself too. Because any other tour he’d ever done had always been through a major record label. He’d always had the support of a major. They also had Solar’s now-come-to-find-out-wife [Denise Sandoval], who knows about me obviously, working as, I’m gonna say, their accountant. She’d fill in different places as well. Solar has an older daughter that would help out with some Internet stuff. A lot of the other stuff, we’d outsource. We worked with [4Sight Media] for a while, and [Public Wizard]. So there were people involved, but none more than the four of us – Solar, myself, Denise and Guru were.
DX: I find this all to be pretty interesting. Not for nothing, one of my interviews with Guru and Solar, whether it was 2006 for AllHipHop, 2007 for Skope magazine or one of them in 2008 for DX, Solar told me that he had an extensive record collection of his own. Obviously, I know that the Hip Hop community was hard on him initially, being that he did not have production credits prior to Guru and called himself “Super Producer Solar.” However, to be fair, did you find him to be a very musical person in your time together?
Tasha Denham: By the time that I came into it, he was already working extensively and exclusively with Guru. Everything that I’ve been told was told to me from Solar or from Guru, from before . So I’ve come to find a lot of the things that Solar told me over the years were absolutely false. How much of what he told me, I’m not sure how much to believe. He did tell me he had a studio before he ever met Guru. He told me that he used to do beats just on his spare time, and this is something he used to just do for fun; he never thought of it as a career. He used to tell me he wishes he just kept it as fun and not as fame. I almost say that with a laugh, ’cause it was all about fame for him. I believe, in hindsight – and everything is hindsight, because obviously, when I met him, I didn’t see these things, I believe that he saw a meal-ticket in Guru. Instant fame, instant fortune.
DX: Not to interrupt you. But you spoke about their context of meeting each other. Both were always elusive about that, though they had once told me in an interview about Solar helping Guru stop drinking. We aren’t here to throw anybody under the bus, but for the interest of facts, do you know what it was that Solar did for a living? Did that ever come up? He had told press that he worked with at-risk youth, as did Guru.
Tasha Denham: I’ve been told numerous things, again. Everything I’ve been told, [I have] not seen first-hand. I’ve been told at one point in time, [Solar] worked for the MTA [New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority]. I had been told that he was in the military. I have been told in one point in time that he worked on Wall Street. I had been told at one point in time that he dealt drugs. We’re talking numerous things across the board.
I’ve been told that he and – who I’m now finding out is his legal wife, which I was not aware was his legal wife — Denise Sandoval. I know her another by another name (“Asia”). Just like Solar doesn’t go by John, she doesn’t go by Denise Sandoval. I was not aware until Birthplace magazine came out with it, that she was his legal wife. Guru was never aware that she was his legal wife. Guru told me things that he wasn’t always supposed to tell me. If he had honestly known, I truly believe he would’ve told me the truth on that one. I don’t think he ever knew. That’s supposed to be his best friend. Solar didn’t even want to admit the truth about that in his life.
I do believe that he probably did work for MTA. That’s one of the ones I believe, I think. Everything else, I’m really not sure myself. If anybody can shed light on that, it’d be interesting to me as well. [Laughs] I do know that they had foster kids, supposedly at one time. Because he has used that against me at times, and told me that he’s much more capable of raising children than I’d ever be ’cause he has had foster kids. I never saw that though, so I can’t say that he ever did have foster kids, or if he was registered to have foster kids.
Guru had numerous jobs. He was a regular guy. He was a teacher at one point in time. He [attended] the Fashion Institute [of Technology] at one point in time. He did numerous regular jobs, I can’t even think of them off the top of my head.
DX: In “The P.L.A.N.E.T.” he rapped about working in a mail-room when he first arrived to New York.
Tasha Denham: Yep! [Laughs] He did so many regular jobs. Guru, as everybody knows, came from a prestigious family. He had every thing offered to him growing up. His brothers and his sisters, they’re writers and they’re lawyers, and they’re successful professors, so on and so forth. For Guru to go off and do this was breaking the mold; his dad was a judge in Boston. It’s what [Guru] really believed in. It’s part of him. It wasn’t just music to him, it was a part of who he was. It was something he felt like he had to do.
DX: You mentioned Europe. I reviewed and listened to a lot of Guru’s later solo work and his albums with Solar. Although they never captured the sonic success of his Gang Starr or first two volumes of Jazzmatazz, they were solid albums that a lot of fans and press domestically ignored. With so much touring, from your 7 Grand experience, can you tell us about their reception abroad?
Tasha Denham: Overseas, I think is much more open and flexible with things than Americans are. From everything to what their tours paid overseas to the turn-outs, they’d do concerts in [unique] places like South Africa and they did one in Spain, with tens of thousands of people there. A lot of them were festivals, yes, but Guru would be one of the headliners. They definitely received more love overseas, more money overseas. These people, they were fans. At the same time, a lot of them were Gang Starr fans. There was still controversy overseas, just like in the U.S., about the Gang Starr situation versus 7 Grand Records. They were bringing in what I would say is triple [the amount of money] overseas for shows to what they were getting here, at least.
They were floating. The label definitely wasn’t as successful as anybody would have liked it to have been, but in one respect, it was a new label, an independent label. It was not a major label. They were in a really tough economic time, and a tough time for the music industry. With everything now going digital, it’s hard for labels now to make the same kind of money they used to be able to make. Guru was funding a lot of it himself, and there was the money coming in, but a lot of it was being funded from stuff Guru had [additionally]. They were floating. It wasn’t successful in the way that they had hoped, but they stayed around. They were still booking shows up until January when Guru was so sick that he shouldn’t have even be doing shows, they were still booking them.
DX: So, based on your experience. What happens to Solar now?
Tasha Denham: I’m not sure what his motivation is. Everything he puts out there, he [uses to discredit other people]. [His] going to speak to Sway on MTV, I don’t understand the motivation. He’s just giving himself more rope to hang himself. He’s just looking more and more guilty in everything he speaks, because he’s so blatantly…it’s so blatantly not true, the things he’s saying. He embellishes things so much. But I truly believe he believe the things he says.
DX: — Not to interrupt you. But it’s worth noting, there is a “#FuckSolar” campaign on Twitter and in message boards. Several extremely respected rappers and actors have joined in on that. Is Solar the type of guy that is watching all of these comments and tweets? You say this somebody who really wants fame…
Tasha Denham: He reads everything he can find on the Internet. He’ll see this article tomorrow as soon as its posted. Between [HipHopDX], AllHipHop.com, he’s obviously on his Twitter, I think it’s probably just gnawing at the very core of his being. Peoples’ perception is so important to him, even if it’s a false perception. When I was [at 7 Grand], he’d be the one to tell me not to tell him if I saw negative things written about them. Yet he’d seek them out. He went looking for them. He would read so much and tell me not to tell Guru if I saw it. You know, the funny thing is, Guru could handle it. He’d been doing it for so long, he knew everything wasn’t gonna be positive. I know [Solar] is looking at all these things, all these other artists that are just disgusted by his behaviors, and disgusted with the way this has all come out, and made subliminal comments on Twitter as to situation, and it’s gotta be killing him. These are respected artists in the music industry. He has to know, now, with the feelings that people have towards him in the music industry, there is no music career left for him. Who’s gonna work with him?
DX: It’s a gritty conversation we’ve just had. Not for nothing, you lost a dear friend. Let’s end on a positive note. What’s your favorite memory with Guru?
Tasha Denham: I have so many things, so many memories of us, as friends. Just the regular, everyday kind of memories are the things that stick out to me the most. Of course he was an artist. But I look at Guru as my friend. He was there for my daughter’s first birthday. I got kicked out of my apartment in New York because Solar had a problem with my landlord and Guru’s the one who drove to New York City [from 45 miles away] and helped me carry all my stuff down three flights of stairs, load it in his truck and bring it to his house, and let me stay at his house for several weeks. He was the person, that if I needed someone to talk to, I could pick up the phone and call. Those are the things. He was just a regular guy, but he was such a kind person. We all went to the zoo one day, with the kids. Guru’s son was there. He was just a dad that day. He wasn’t Guru. Even after 21 years of living with fame, and yet we’d go to a place and hear, “Yo, that’s Guru,” and it almost always seemed to kind of take him by surprise, 20 years later.
This legacy deserves to be cherished. His son deserves to grow up loving and respecting his father for the person and artist that he was, instead of rumors and speculation.
DX: Lastly, and one question a colleague expressed his curiousity with. You mentioned earlier that Guru comes from a prestigious family. Do you think action will be taken?
Tasha Denham: No. I really hope so. I’ve spoken to a member of his family before his passing. I got the opportunity to speak ti him before his passing, and after his passing, we’ve exchanged words. I right now they’re dealing with the loss so much. They’re dealing with legal issues right now. As everybody’s aware, [the Elam Family] was able to retrieve the body. Not having contact with him for so many years, there’s a lot of things left up in the air that they’re still trying to deal with, as well as the emotions. I think that his family absolutely has his son’s best interest in heart. I think that his family has the knowledge, the power and the support behind him [including mine]. His son deserves to know his father, and his son deserves to be the one that benefits from his father’s success over the years, not someone else.
It’s funny, because I was looking through emails the other day. Just random emails from back when I was working for them, and still in contact from that. I found one from a point in time when Solar and I were no longer speaking anymore, yet he wrote me an…email. His last words in that email were to me, “Fortunes are made, not extorted.” I wish at this point in time, Solar could look back at that and take his own advice.