Three years ago today, Hiphop lost one of its most recognizable voices, legendary emcee GURU of the legendary rap group Gang Starr. Born Keith Edward Elam on July 17, 1961, GURU passed away on April 19, 2010.
As reported by NYDailyNews.com on April 20, 2010
Guru’s death came almost two months after he suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized in New York. He reportedly fell into a coma after surgery.
GURU never recovered from his coma and hiphop lost yet another beloved golden era emcee.
The controversy surrounding his last days never tainted the work he left behind in the eyes of his real Gang Starr and Jazzmatazz fans. Quincy Jones once said with regards to Michael Jackson’s passing “There will be a lot written about what came next in Michael’s life, but for me all of that is just noise. I promise you in 50, 75, 100 years, what will be remembered is the music.” That pretty much sums up how I feel about GURU’s passing and the lack of relevance the controversy of his last days have on the music and hiphop.
To his fans, GURU is remembered as Ball Head Slick, the emcee with a jazz musician’s disposition. GURU is the cat that “went from X to the next” and took his time with each one. GURU is the cat that anchored classics like Dwyck with classic lines like “Lemonade was a popular drink and in still is, I get more props and stunts than Bruce Willis.” I’ll never forget seeing the video for Gang Starr’s “Manifest” on the hiphop video show “Pump It Up” with Dee. I was an instant fan.
I’ll never forget coping “Step in the Arena” from the neighborhood record shop on cassette. I went straight to my best friends house and we listened to it front to back like “wow, no up tempo running man type of tracks!” It was amazing and new. “Step in the Arena” exuded a cool jazz yet hard street poet sort of vibe that left us mesmerized at its artistry.
I remember when Jazzmatazz dropped. My friends and I thought “Damn. No more Gang Starr.” But I still found myself drawn into this new Jazzmatazz thing that GURU was on. Still, to our delight he made Gang Starr and Jazzmatazz coexist.
As a matter of fact, as a hiphop artist myself, I later made a song called “Langston Hughes”. As an act of homage I had my man DJ Rice The Sound Transmitter cut GURU’s line from Dwick “A poet like Langston Hughes and can’t lose!” Days later we found out that GURU was in a coma suffering thru his last days. Needless to say, GURU has always been an inspiration to me and countless others. So I choose to remember the good work that he left for us to enjoy.
To remember the man himself, @djsandman813 shared a promo video of Gang Starr from 1991 just before the “Step in the Arena” album dropped on Chrysalis Records. According to @djsandman813 the video “includes rare footage of Dj Premier & Guru in the studio working on their album and also a rare interview.” Thank you for sharing this with us DJ Sand Man.
In light of today being the three-year anniversary of the passing of one of our unsung heroes in hiphop, I’m rocking “Step in the Arena”, “Daily Operation” and “Hard to Earn” for the rest of the week no matter where I am. In honor of GURU, “these are the words that I manifest!” Rest In Peace to Keith Edward “GURU” Elam. Shout out to the Gang Starr Foundation and DJ Premiere.