Young Guru Explains How Success Happens

young guru success

Renowned audio engineer, record producer and DJ, Young Guru is widely known for mixing 10 of Jay-Z’s albums as well as playing a crucial role in the music of other artist’s careers including Beyonce, Rihanna, T.I and Ludacris. In this interview, Young Guru explains how he first got into music production, how he met Jay-Z as well as providing tips to become successful.

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About Young Guru

My name is Young Guru, I’m an engineer by trade. I’ve engineered for a lot of the top people in the music business from Hip-Hop to RnB. I guess my most famous and main client would be Jay-Z. I’ve been doing it since about 1985, and professionally since about 1986.

I was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and Delaware to me is a great place because it’s sort of in between in terms of size. It’s not too small that it feels like a small small town, maybe like a Mid-West small town, but it’s not so big that it feels like New York City.

The Beginning

When I was 12 or 13 years old and someone said “I want you to DJ a party for me”, it meant that I had to have speakers and amps, wires, records, microphones, the whole nine. I had to learn everything, so that education carries forever. So I learned about equipment early out of necessity.

The effect that engineering has on sound is sort of like saying it’s the difference between someone just going to the supermarket and cooking a meal and someone going to culinary school. Both people are cooking and both people are probably going to have a meal that you can eat, but the guy that went to culinary school is going to have a huge palette of things that he can do.

Earning Jay-Z’s Respect

Young Guru and Jay-ZThe first day that I actually worked in a session for Jay, I got into an argument, not an argument but a discussion with one of Jay’s partners about if Jay is better than Biggie. To me, Biggie is the greatest rapper to ever walk the face of the Earth, so I didn’t back down in that argument, and I kept giving verses and examples and all these other things, and I think Jay respected the fact that I wasn’t like clamming up in front of him because he was in the room and I’m arguing against him.

It’s just that the honesty and knowing that I’m not going to tell you that “ay, just cos you’re Jay-Z, I’m not going to say this song is great”. No, I critique him probably heavier than any other person because I know the level that he has to be held to in the public.

The Success Mentality

When I have a kid walk up to me and say “oh my God, the snare throw that you put on the Fat Joe record is incredible”. You know, that’s success to me, that I have someone listening to my music in that manner. It’s always vibe over money. If the vibe is not right, there’s no amount of money that’s going to make it right to me.

I went to Howard on an average Friday and it was just like heaven. And from that moment, I was like “oh I’m going here”. The normal thought pattern is that you go to school for 12 years, you graduate and go to school for another 4 years to train to do something, and then once you graduate from school, life starts. There was a point in Howard when the light clicked and I realized “oh, life already started”. That’s the realization, that life already has started.

young guru class

Young Guru taught African History as a teen and is currently a Professor at USC.

…and I think this is the most important attribute of any successful person, is how they deal with momentary failure. Because some people fail and they look at that failure as the end or they don’t get what they want immediately and they say “oh well I tried.

The person that’s successful doesn’t look at the failure as the end. They look at it as “Ok, I’ve got a setback. How am I going to get past this?”. But in their mind, they’re never taking their mind off the fact that this is what I want, and I’m not stopping until I achieve what I want. This is their mentality.

I guess my message to kids who want to pursue what I’m doing or anything in life, would be to take it extremely serious.

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