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Young Guru defends record companies in lecture at MIT

Gimel Androus Keaton, the audio engineer, record producer, and DJ better known by his stage name “Young Guru,” delivered a lecture at MIT on Mar. 6 in which he discussed the impact of new technologies on music and other creative industries.

Currently an artist-in-residence at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, Young Guru has worked with rapper Jay-Z for over a decade and has been involved in the careers of musicians like Beyonce, Ludacris, Rihanna, and Mariah Carey.

During the nearly two-hour talk, he expressed concerns about the future of the music industry.

“How do new people get in and break through this noise of the Internet?” he asked. “At the same time that it gave us power and control, it also gave the power and control to everyone.”

In defense of record companies, he argued the need for filters, aggregators, and experts, as opposed to crowd intelligence, drawing parallels to trends affecting mid-entry positions in the service and healthcare industries.

Young Guru credited his venture into music to his “incredible parents,” who supported his decision to pursue music instead of basketball. He also addressed media stereotypes of hip-hop.

When asked what tool he would develop if he had a team of MIT students, Young Guru said that he would like to perfect 360-degree sound, which he predicted would have huge impacts on virtual reality technologies for video games and movies.

The lecture, titled “Young Guru: Design and Destruction,” was the first in the “Hip Hop Speaker Series” organized by the Arts at MIT and TapTape, a music start-up founded at MIT in 2014. Moderated by Ian Condry, head of the foreign languages and literatures department at MIT, the event marked the first time Young Guru has spoken at MIT.

—Angela Leong