February 28th – After a nearly two year-long battle with cancer, Guru of Gang Starr suffers a heart attack and goes into a coma following surgery on this day in 2010.
Guru would never awaken from his coma and would pass away on April 19th of the same year.
Guru who was born Keith Edward Elam in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1961, graduated for Morehouse, College in Atlanta, Georgia with a degree in business administration.
Guru, an acronym for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, began his career in music when he founded Gang Starr in 1987. Gang Starr whose lineup at the time included B-Down a.k.a. Mike Dee, D.J. 1, 2 and Guru who at the time was known as Keithy E The Guru released three 12 inch singles on Wild Pitch Records produced by Mark The 45 King, Donald D and J.V. Johnson.
In 1989, the group disbanded with Elam shortening his stage name to simply Guru and forming a new lineup with DJ Waxmaster C, who later became known as DJ Premier. That same year, the duo released their first single on Wild Pitch called “Words I Manifest”, followed by their debut album “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, which became a cult classic.
Gang Starr would go on to release five more albums on Chrysalis and Virgin Records that would become bona fide hip-hop favorites.
They also founded The Gang Starr Foundation musical collective that would help to launch the careers of Jeru The Damaja, Bahamadia, Freddie Foxxx, Afu-Ra, Group Home and Krumb Snatcha to name a few.
DJ Premier would also go on to become one of the most respected and sought after producers in hip-hop handling production duties on recordings by KRS-One, the late Notorious B.I.G., DAS-EFX, Nas, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rakim as well as metal band Limp Bizkit and pop star Christina Aguilera, with a list that goes on.
Both Guru and DJ Premier have been instrumental in the development of the hip-hop/jazz fusion movement.
Besides incorporating jazz samples in his beat-making production, DJ Premier also collaborated with jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis on the 1994 album “Buckshot LeFonque” on Columbia Records where the two combined their talents working alongside great musicians like Roy Hargrove, Kevin Eubanks, Albert Collins and Greg Phillinganes.
In 1993, Guru released the first of his “Guru’s Jazzmatazz” series pairing the MC alongside jazz greats like Donald Byrd, Roy Ayers and Branford Marsalis as well as French rap star MC Solaar.
Guru released three more “Jazzmatazz” installments up until 2007.
Guru released his first solo album in 2001 called “Baldhead Slick & Da Click” which was mainly a hip-hop/r’n’b fusion.
Guru followed that up with his second and last solo album “Version7.0 – The Street Scriptures”, released in 2005. Guru has appeared in several films including “Who’s The Man?”, “3 A.M.”, “Train Ride” and “The Substitute 2 – School’s Out”, just to name a few.
Guru had one of the most distinctive voices in hip-hop and his contributions to the development of it as an art form can never be overstated.