On April 19, 2010 Keith “GURU” Elam, one half of the underground hip hop supergroup Gang Starr passed away in New York after years of battling cancer. He had a heart attack and slipped into a coma. Web reports seem to be mixed over whether the rapper was 43 or 47. Either way, that is way too young to expire and definitely a tragedy. Most real hip hop heads will be familiar with early Gang Starr hits like “Words that I Manifest”, “Dwyck” ,”Just to Get a Rep”and “Mass Appeal”. It was their fifth album though that gained them true commercial respect, and this was the group’s most successful album to date. Moment of Truth debuted at #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and went on to sell over 500,000 copies and was certified Gold by the RIAA in May of 1998. The lead single, “You Know My Steez,” became the duo’s second Billboard Hot 100 hit in 1997. Spin Magazine ranked it as the #16 album of 1998. Other classics include “Above the Clouds” and “Royalty”.
GURU also blessed his fans with four volumes of the hip hop / jazz fusion project Jazzmatazz. It combined live jazz music with hip hop lyrics and production. He collaborated with Branford Marsalis to record “Jazz Thing” which was used over the closing credits of the Spike Lee film “Mo’ Better Blues”. This gained GURU many new fans who otherwise weren’t as familiar with the Gang Starr projects.
Sadly, there seems to be a bit of controversy surrounding Elam’s death. It seems that he penned a “farewell” letter and in it, DJ Premier (the other half of Gang Starr and GURU’S partner for many years) is not even referred to by name, but expresses the wish that Guru’s “ex-DJ” not have anything to do with “my name, likeness, events, tributes etc. connected in anyway to my situation, including any use of my name or circumstance for any reason, and I have instructed my lawyers to enforce this. I had nothing to do with him in life for over seven years and want nothing to do with him in death. Solar has my life story and is well informed on my family situation, as well as the real reason for separating from my ex-DJ.”
Many fans do not believe this letter is authentic, and that it is a ploy by new GURU collaborator: Solar. This seems simply to be a way for Solar to put himself in the middle of the madness and boost his name recognition. Either way, it is sad news when someone who brought art and music into our lives is gone and can no longer do what they were intended for. He is now a part of a sick Freestyle Cypha in Heaven with Biggie Smalls, Pac, Big L and Big Pun…The Chronicle takes a moment to pause for the artist’s death and to pour out some St. Ides. Meet u at tha Crossroads.