I must confess that prior to listening to 8.0: Lost & Found, I had never heard of Guru. Does that make me a musical ignoramus? Some would argue yes. After all, Guru was a key pioneer in creating a fusion of hip-hop and jazz (to say nothing of his work with Gang Starr). I happen to love jazz, but consider myself a mere dilettante when it comes to hip-hop appreciation. By way of research, I checked out key tracks from his earlier Jazzmatazz albums. I found the music intriguing and was excited to hear the new 8.0: Lost & Found.
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm dimmed as I listened to the album. Much of 8.0: Lost & Found is a crushing bore. The beats, unimaginative with only a few exceptions, sound like something a child might have programmed on a toy synth. Too many of the songs hooks are forgettable. In fact, among the best aspects of the entire album is that the individual songs are short. Not one track out of seventeen even hits the four minute mark. Each song gets in, does its thing, and gets out.
There are a few clever samples weaved into the strongest moments on the album. The title track, also the opening cut, incorporates the main riff from The Animals "House of the Rising Sun" and proves to be a suitable match to the atmosphere of the song. On "After Time," a portion of Queen's "We Are the Champions" is used to evocative effect. Plus, the stuttering, herky-jerky beat commands attention and elevates the song. But again, these are interesting surprises that serve as interruptions to the overall monotony. While "Divine Rule" is a sprightly track, the pacing of the album is dull as dishwater. From cut to cut, the tempo doesn't change significantly.
Guru's flow is crystal clear, with precise enunciation. But the lyrics don't do much to elevate the uninspired feel of the entire project. "Like Pacino I'm a unique hero/Still bringing you the heat like De Niro," he raps in "Best of My Years." Isn't referencing those particular actors, having long ago descended into self-parody themselves, a little passe at this point? Lines like "The new millennium's here/It's virtual and digital" are about as inconsequential as it gets. "New" millennium, really? After nine years does that still warrant a mention?
A couple decent tracks emerge along the way, joining "After Time" as highlights. "Stop Frontin'" is a tirade against "corporate crap" and fake "gangstas." Not especially original subject matter, but delivered with enough conviction to make it believable.
"It's A Shock" imagines a society in which the movie Robocop has proven prophetic. The song, which opens with actual dialogue from the Paul Verhoeven classic, is amusing mainly because of how dated the reference is. Yes, it remains a great satirical film to this day, but it came out twenty-two years ago. In a way, that's how old 8.0: Lost & Found feels.