Highly influential rapper and founding member of Gang Starr, Guru (Gifted Universal Rhymes Unlimited) died on Tuesday after a year-long battle with cancer. Guru, whose real name is Keith Elam, health took a serious turn last month when he fell into a coma after an apparent cardiac arrest.
Since news of his death broke there has been an outpouring of grief from both fans and industry peers alike.
Long time collaborator and close friend, MC Solaar said that he was “one of the best MC’s and hip hop icons of all time.”
Snoop Dogg tweeted that “420 [20th April] gonna be in honor of the big homie Guru”.
“R.I.P. Keith GURU. A great man, poet, and I’m proud to say friend … 23 yrs, Damn.”
Just To Get A Rep (1991)
Guru – a member of the Five Percent – an off shoot of the black Muslim organization Nation Of Islam, was known for his intellectual and complex rhyming style and monotone delivery . He came from an era of late eighties and nineties east coast conscious rap, where themes included black empowerment, poverty and urban city life.
Along with partner DJ Premier, Guru formed Gang Starr in 1985. Together they released six albums between 1989 and 2003 including classics such as No More Mr. Nice Guy, Daily Operation and Moment of Truth. As well as a slew of revered singles – “Just To Get A Rep”, “Mass Appeal”, “Code Of The Streets”, “Ex Girl To Next Girl” and “Above The Clouds” to name a few.
Outside of his work with Gang Starr, Guru put out Jazzmatazz vol. 1-4, a critically acclaimed series of hip hop/jazz fused albums.
Ex Girl To Next Girl
After his death Solar released an open letter penned by Guru over the last month of his life. In it he says “I am very proud of what Gang Starr has meant to the music world and fans” and equally proud “of my Jazzmatazz series”.
He also writes in length of his non-for-profit organization Each One Counts:
“I have a non-profit organization called Each One Counts dedicated to carrying on my charitable work on behalf of abused and disadvantaged children from around the world and also to educate and research a cure for this terrible disease that took my life. I write this with tears in my eyes, not of sorrow but of joy for what a wonderful life I have enjoyed and how many great people I have had the pleasure of meeting”.
The letter has, however, caused controversy due to its statement on DJ Premier. “I do not wish my ex-DJ [DJ Premier] to have anything to do with my name likeness, events, tributes etc. connected in anyway to my situation including any use of my name or circumstance for any reason and I have instructed my lawyers to enforce this. I had nothing to do with him in life for over 7 years and want nothing to do with him in death. Solar has my life story and is well informed on my family situation, as well as the real reason for separating from my ex-DJ.”
This has led many in the Hip Hop world and fans alike to question the credibility of the letter and the sincerity of Solar.
Guru will be sorely missed but will live on through his music.
Interview with Gangstarr