Lil Dap, “[People] Didn’t Give it up to Guru the Way it Was Supposed to.”
It’s been over 10 years since we last heard from Group Home. In 1999, the Brooklyn duo (LIl’ Dap and Melachi the Nutcracker) that was ushered into the game through Guru and DJ Premier, released their second album, A Tear for the Ghetto. And while the offering was a far cry from the group’s much-lauded debut Living Proof (1995), it stood as another chapter in the Gang Starr Foundation history. This past April, another chapter was written when Guru—Lil’ Dap and Melachi’s mentor—passed after a bout with cancer.
To pay homage to their fallen comrade, Group Home has prepared a new album Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal (the same acronym Guru used to come up with his name). Now, in the wake of Guru’s passing, Lil’ Dap speaks out on what the fallen hip-hop great meant to him.
XXLMag.com: Where did the inspiration for the new album come from?
Lil’ Dap: The inspiration we always had, it’s one of our fallen soldiers. You’re always on deck regarding anyone of your loved ones and things of that nature, and how you remember them.
When did you begin working on it?
We had stuff in the can regarding my personal use and things of that nature, but since Guru’s passing I had to guide some of the things that I was doing on the side. I just wanted to give some love that way, the way I remember him.
When did you start working with Guru?
I been working with Guru since the ’80’s. I met him through my man Tommy Hill [of the Ram Squad], who brought him around the ‘hood.
What do you feel is different about this record?
This one is just us. We gave it to them freely, put it out real quick via a small independent label, Babygrande. But mostly it was for my man [Guru]. As long as the people got it and it clears up all the negative energy that was out there regarding all of us—Premier—all of us regarding the hip-hop game. We’re just trying to clear up the realness by giving it to the people the way we feel. At the end of the day, we’re out here with these people.
Where do you think the negative energy is coming from?
After his passing, I didn’t feel like the game gave it to him the way it was supposed to give it to him. This brother put a lot of work into the game, and gave a lot of inspiration, saved a lot of people’s lives. I feel like the game ain’t really give it back the way it was supposed to give it back. So by us doin’ what we’re doing right now, it will heal wounds.
Who did you go to for production on this record?
Me, and the party I’m with. We all provided everything you’re hearing right now. We have a bonus track with Premier (“The Legacy”), that helps to show where we comin’ from and who [Guru] was.
Was it difficult to come back and do a Group Home album after you’ve been doing the solo thing?
The solo work didn’t have too much press behind it, but we kept it above water. I think we’re one of those groups where 10-20 years from now we’ll still be above float. So my solo stuff was just to let people know we were still around.
While you we’re doin’ your solo stuff, where was Melachi the Nutcracker?
He was incarcerated for a little bit, but I got him back in motion. Welcome to the 21st century. We’re getting the vibes out and letting you know there’s more work to come. We’re like a gun, ready to cock off the game, ready to do another one. The energy has been preserved.
Why was he incarcerated?
It’s the way of the game. You got people who say they’ll take care of you. Some people can deal with it, others can’t you know. Things happen. At the end of the day, we’re from the street. We don’t let the music come between reality. I’m not gonna act like the music game is takin’ care of us, or that we got it like that. We out here with the people. We’re like the last Mohicans of the rap group. Not like we choose to, but we’ve always been here. That’s why I always say we stay in our lane, we don’t think above our britches.
Isn’t hip-hop built on that type of ambition though?
Yeah, it is, but it’s like a staircase, you gotta climb. If I do start making it, the people who’ve been holding me down, I’ll be able to take care of them. It’s all an understanding, which is what a lot of people have lost. We’ve been in these streets ever since you heard of Group Home, and it ain’t do shit to us.
Are you going to put out another record on Babygrande?
Babygrande just sparked this project, and there’s a lot of love. We’ve got more work to do, and I don’t know who will come to the table but with this one Babygrande was ready to work with us.
What are your favorite tracks from this new album?
“The Realness 2010” and “Up Against The Wall” featuring MC Ace & Lord Jamar. There’s a lot of beautiful tracks on there, and there’s a lot of real hip-hop. We brought it back, but updated it. I’m not mad at it, ‘cause when I sit back and listen to it; I feel it’s a real cool album. We’re right on schedule.
Do you support the family and Guru financially from this record?
Well that’s on Babygrande’s behalf—it’s on their ass to make sure they do the right thing regarding this project, to make sure his son is taken care of. Our dedication towards him is to show the world what he’s done for us. At the end of the day me and Mel, kept our heads up and put it out there.
Ultimately what does Group Home represent?
It represents our low-budget environment. Unfortunately the people that never had a mother or father look for a big brother. And that’s what Guru was for us, so we represent all low budget environments. Either you got it or not, we’ll still hang with you. It’s always been like that with us, so I guess that’s why people love us. —Eavvon O’Neal