RIP Gang Starr’s Guru
July 17, 1966 – April 19, 2010
Apr 20, 2010
Story by: Michael Tedder for CMJ.com
Keith Elam, a.k.a. the New York-based rapper Guru, has passed away at the age of 43 due to cancer-related illness. As both a member of the revered duo Gang Starr and the guiding force behind the Jazzmatazz series, which innovatively paired MCs and singers with hip-hop production techniques and jazz greats like Donald Byrd and Roy Ayers, Guru (short for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal) was relentlessly innovative with both his rhymes and his choice of collaborators.
Elam had reportedly been battling cancer for an undetermined length of time, and suffered a cardiac arrest in March that temporarily left him in a coma. On his death bed, Guru allegedly left a letter that praises his partner Solar (who produced the 2007 Jazzmatazz album Vol. 4 The Hip-Hop Jazz Messenger: Back To The Future), and distances himself from his ex-Gang Starr collaborator DJ Premier. The authenticity of the letter, available to read here has already been called in to question by high-profile fans such as Questlove and Just Blaze. And while this alleged letter is creating some controversy, the most important thing to remember about Guru is that he achieved a balance between commercial success and artistic daring during his life that is rare for any genre, and that no one with even a passing interest in hip-hop should live without the Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr compilation in their collection.