What a sad day in hip hop it was today to hear the news of Guru passing away after losing his battle with cancer. Keith Elam, known to us all as Guru had been battling cancer for about a year and was admitted to the hospital after suffering from cardiac arrest just 6 weeks ago. Although there was word of a strong recovery, the beloved MC passed away yesterday in a New York City hospital at the age of 43.
If you don’t know who Guru was or what he and Gang Starr meant and contributed to hip hop, then you really don’t know jack shit about this culture. Gang Starr, the dynamic duo of DJ Premier and Guru created countless classic projects and songs together as a group as well as individually. Guru with his unique monotone voice and ill flow was so versatile with his rhymes. He could be conscious and empowering with songs like “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight”, “Positivity”, “Tonz ‘O’ Gunz”, or “Moment of Truth” and then hit you with his battle like aggressive styles over “B.Y.S.”, “Now You’re Mine”, “Militia” and countless others. Guru also demonstrated his talents with his solo efforts. Most notably was the release of his 4 Jazzmatazz projects which started back in 1993 and uniquely fused jazz artist collaborations with his own rhymes.
The first time I ever heard Gang Starr was when I was 11 years old. I was watching an episode of “Pump It Up” (ya’ll remember that show?) and Dee Barnes introduced the “Step into the Arena” video. That joint got me so hyped, and the video with the hood gladiators theme was dope. I became a fan ever since. They were one of the standout groups during the golden era of hip hop, an era that I am so blessed to have experienced. Guru and Premier will always be the standard in hip hop to me. Over 20 years in the game and never did they crossover or sell out, they always represented with integrity and a spirit that captured and exhibited the essence of hip hop. Guru, Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, is such a fitting acronym for an MC that has inspired so many and will continue to do so with his catalog of great music. A reminder of what timeless hip hop really is, not this fake industry driven, cookie cutter, hot single for the month bullshit. And even though we probably won’t hear any Guru tributes on the radio (although I’m sure most mixshow djs would want to), or any MTV specials, or a VH1 doc, his memory will live forever in the souls of real hip hoppers across the globe, the trueskool heads who understand what this hip hop shit is really all about. Thank you Guru, for all your contributions and leaving future generations with much inspiration for the soul.