On April 19 the music world, hip hop in particular, lost one of its most illuminating lyricists. Guru, whose real name was Keith Elam, lost his over year long battle with cancer at the age of 43. Guru was part of one of the most prolific duos in hip hop, Gang Starr which consisted of himself and DJ/ producer Premier. Gang Starr was formed in 1985 and released six albums before disbanding in 2005.
I was first introduced to Guru in 1989. I was tween fresh out of jheri curls, watching Yo! MTV Raps after school when I saw the video to “Words I Manifest.” I was hooked from that moment on. I watched him stand behind a podium and spit as if he was the reincarnation of Malcolm X. Conscious lyrics behind a danceable sample are always a pairing for success in my book.
The combination of DJ Premier’s beats, Guru’s lyrics and monotone vocal delivery was nothing more than pristine. Gang Starr soon became one of my favorite groups releasing hits like “Mass Appeal”, “You Know My Steez”, “Step In The Arena”, “Dywck”, “Just To Get a Rep”, “Ex Girl To Next Girl” and so many more.
Another reason I loved Guru and Gang Starr was their music set the blueprint for fusion of hip hop and jazz, a genre of music I grew up listening to courtesy of my dad. Gang Starr’s music blended my childhood like no other group.
To me Guru was one of the representatives of hip hop’s golden age. It was a time of great diversity and lyricism at its finest. Throughout his career Guru showcased what is best in hip hop and it is through his and many other’s pioneering efforts that hip hop dominates FM radio and pop culture today.
Thank you for all the gifts you have bestowed on your fans. Although you are gone in body, your spirit lives every time I hear your music and the light you gave to hip hop will never be extinguished.