(AllHipHop News) Today (April 19) marks the two-year anniversary of Keith Edward “Guru” Elam’s passing, after succumbing to complications from cancer. The Hip-Hop icon and pioneer was 48.
Coining himself as the “King of Monotone” and widely regarded by critics as the artist/producer who spearheaded the Hip-Hop and Jazz fusion movement with his critically-acclaimed series Jazzmatazz, Guru’s influence can be seen across the genre.
Guru formed Gang Starr in the late 1980s with DJ Mike Dee and a host of others. Disputes would later disband the group, leading him to partner with DJ Premier in 1989, who he signed a deal with under Chrysalis.
Over the course of Guru’s career, he reached the Billboard charts several times, peaking at #5 for top Independent Albums with his project BaldHead Slick & da Click. He also reached as high as #8 on the R&B Charts with Jazzmatazz Vol3: Streetsoul.
In 1995, Guru’s single ”Watch What You Say,” hit the charts with his song peaking at #13 on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi Singles Sales.
Despite an illustrious career that includes six critically-acclaimed projects with Gang Starr, including two gold albums Moment of Truth (1998) and Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr (1998), Guru’s final days were unfortunately marred by controversy.
After suffering from cardiac arrest and subsequently falling into a coma, Guru’s then production partner Solar, claimed in March 2010 that Guru awoke and wrote a letter to fans. Despite this claim, Guru’s family denied that he ever regained consciousness after falling into a coma, ascertaining that the letter was fraudulently written by Solar.
Guru’s family would eventually make their own public statements in the Boston Globe and other publications, while longtime Gang Starr producer, DJ Premier, shared his grief over losing Guru in his own public statement:
“I’VE BEEN ASKED TO COMMENT ON A LETTER SPEAKING ILL OF ME WHICH WAS SUPPOSEDLY WRITTEN BY GURU IN HIS DYING DAYS. ALL I WILL SAY ABOUT IT IS THAT OUR TIME TOGETHER WAS BEAUTIFUL, WE BUILT A HIP HOP LEGACY TOGETHER, AND NO ONE CAN RE-WRITE HISTORY OR TAKE AWAY MY LOVE FOR HIM. ONE THING I WOULD NEVER DO IS PLAY AROUND WITH THE TRUTH ABOUT HIS LIFE,” DJ Premier told fans in an excerpt from his official statement to the public.
“I WILL CELEBRATE GURU’S LIFE… I WILL HONOR HIS MEMORY… I WILL GRIEVE WITH THE ELAM FAMILY OVER HIS UNTIMELY DEATH… I WILL REMEMBER THE GANG STARR FOUNDATION AND ALL OF THE ORIGINAL MEMBERS OF GANG STARR WHO CAME BEFORE ME – WE ALL KNOW EACH OTHER”
Solar’s e-mail and Twitter accounts were subsequently hacked, revealing a number of personal conversations, images, and damaging information. At the time, a blog named F*ckSolar.com surfaced, dedicated to exposing Solar, who was accused of barring family members access to Guru during his illness. In an exclusive interview with AllHipHop.com last week, Solar said he has spent the past two years reorganizing his life.
Guru, a graduate of Atlanta’s Morehouse University and former student of Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, would have turned 51 this July. He leaves behind a massive catalog of solo and collaborative works that continue to be celebrated, especially by the Hip-Hop and Jazz communities, and was an activist for HIV/AIDS awareness and youth issues.