Guru (born Keith Elam), most well known as the voice of legendary hip hop group Gang Starr, passed away last week from brain cancer at the age of 48. Gang Starr, with Guru as MC and the amazing DJ Premier as DJ, were one of the most influential MC/DJ tandems of the early-mid 90’s picking up where Eric B & Rakim left off. They were also the first rap group to widely sample jazz music paving the way for other successful groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets.
Guru had a monotone yet menacing delivery that meant nothing but business. His temperament was comparable to Rakim though Rakim focuses much of his lyrics on his own microphone prowess (in the most creative way possible!), while Guru’s lyrics were much more socially conscious- though much less “fun” than other conscious rappers at the time like De La Soul, Black Sheep and Tribe.
By all accounts Guru was a great guy and very involved in tons of charity work. Although he lived a fantastic life 48 is way too young to die. Guru- you will be missed!
Below are some of my favorite Gang Starr jams. I am not familiar with Guru’s solo work though I have heard much of it is well worth checking out- particularly his “Jazzmatazz” album from 1993.
from “No More Mr. Nice Guy” (1989)
No More Mr. Nice Guy Amazon
2. Just to Get A Rep
3. Check the Technique
4. The Execution of A Chump (No More Mr. Nice Guy Pt. 2)
5. Step in the Arena
6. Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?
2-6 from “Step in the Arena” (1991)
Step in the Arena Amazon
7. Take it Personal
8. Ex Girl to the Next Girl
7-8 from “Daily Operation” (1992)
Daily Operation Amazon
from “Hard to Earn” (1994)
Hard to Earn Amazon
10. You Know My Steez
from “Moment of Truth” (1998)
Moment of Truth Amazon