There isn’t a person in the world who really loves, studies and digests hip-hop that doesn’t know the name Young Guru. Born Gimel Androus Keaton, this Wilmington, Delaware native has become a legendary engineer whose craft + ears helped him to dictate the Roc-A-Fella sound, imbue The Blueprint with that extra crispiness and worked next to superstars such as Freeway, Mariah Carey and, of course, Jay Z.
An educator, a hip-hop historian and the Director of Operations at 9th Wonder‘s It’s a Wonderful World Music Group — Young Guru’s days are filled with music, lessons and adventures. So, it came as no surprise when Warner Bros. asked “the most successful and famous engineer” to collaborate with the studio for a special remix of the score for its blockbuster film, Kong: Skull Island.
In theaters since last week (Mar. 10), the former Roc-A-Fella signed engineer and Grammy-nominated producer took inspiration from the “King of All Monsters” film and its rich history to create a new beat titled, “Kong: Skull Island Groove”. Using elements from the original score and sound effects from the film, Young Guru’s original beat is certainly one to listen to if you’re an avid appreciator for dope sounds. We here at Okayplayer were able to get some time with Young Guru to talk about the power of Kong, what new and established MCs can still learn from the late, great Notorious B.I.G. and why TDE‘s Mixed By Ali is the new “beast” of the music industry. Enjoy!
Okayplayer: How did being known as “the most successful engineer in the history of hip-hop” open the door to be able to put your own spin on the KONG: Skull Island score?
Young Guru: Well, first of all, I don’t give myself that title. There are a lot of successful engineers doing their thing [in the game]. What happened was I got into this group called 150, which is an incubator inside of Time Warner. Through being a part of the Time Warner family, I was connected with the people that were doing KONG: Skull Island, which lead to me doing the remix.
OKP: What have been some of your most memorable moments as an engineer in this industry that will stand the test of time and why?
YG: Some of my most memorable moments are, of course, working with people like Jay Z, creating The Blueprint, creating albums that will definitely stand the test of time. Also, working with artists that weren’t established when I first started with them. I like working with newcomers, so someone like Freeway, I got a lot of enjoyment out of because we got to make his first album together and introduce him to the world.
Or someone like Juelz [Santana], who we got to see the world react to with “Oh Boy”. So, there are many moments where we’ve introduced new people and the energy of the new artist is just as powerful as the energy of success. I have a lot of memorable moments just from those different angles.
OKP: Some would say that an engineer’s most valuable asset are their ears, others may argue it may be something else. What have been your tried-and-true methods that have helped you to be successful in your career?