Keith Elam (July 17, 1962 - April 19, 2010), better known by his stage name Guru, is an American rapper and member of the hip-hop duo Gang Starr. Born in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury [note 1], he is known for delivering complex lyrics in a unique monotone style. Members of the hip-hop community[specify] consider him to be one of the pioneers of hiphop/jazz crossover. The name Guru is a backronym that stands for "Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal" and the less often used "God is Universal, he is the Ruler Universal".
On February 28, 2010 Guru suffered a cardiac arrest, on March 2, he was reported to be recovering after surgery.
Founded in 1987, Gang Starr built a sizable following in the early 90's, releasing classic albums like Step in the Arena (1991) and Daily Operation (1992). Guru's lyrical style is based on battle rhymes delivered smoothly, modestly, and with sly wit; he typically avoids using overwhelming charisma, focusing instead on his rhyming ability, which developed into his trademark monotone style. Over the years he has even taken on younger rappers, including Jeru the Damaja, as proteges. He is credited with DJ Premier for executive producing Jeru's debut, The Sun Rises in the East (1994).
In 1993, he released his first solo album, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1. The album featured collaborations with Donald Byrd, N'Dea Davenport and Roy Ayers, while his second LP, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality, featured Ramsey Lewis, Branford Marsalis and Jamiroquai. The Jazzmatazz albums are commonly considered some of the best rap of the early 90s, Guru's reputation was also bolstered through the continued success of Jazzmatazz, Vol. 3: Streetsoul (2000) and Baldhead Slick & Da Click (2001).
Moreover, recent Gang Starr albums have continued to garner Guru critical acclaim. Prominent Boston underground rapper Mr. Lif frequently cites Guru as a major stylistic influence; he appears as a guest with Lif on the Perceptionists' debut album, Black Dialogue (2005).
Besides Gang Starr, his Jazzmatazz and solo albums, Guru has collaborated with countless artists since the early 90s. Not only in hiphop, but also with artists from various genres such as pop, electronica/dance, acid jazz and even brass bands.
His "first proper solo album", in his own words, was Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures (2005), released with the help of producer and new backup MC Solar (who is not to be confused with MC Solaar from France). The album reached #1 on the college hip-hop charts, but was a failure with both fans and critics. It still managed to sell relatively well for an independent release.
On February 28, 2010, Guru went into cardiac arrest and, following surgery, fell into a coma. It was claimed that Guru had briefly wakened from his coma but died on April 19, 2010, aged 47, from multiple myeloma.
In a letter purportedly drafted on his deathbed, Guru asked that Solar manage his posthumous image, likeness, etc. on behalf of himself, and his son KC, and that DJ Premier not associate himself with Guru. Solar claimed that Guru had awoken from his coma to release the statement whilst members of the rapper's family stated that he never regained conciousness from his coma. Guru's family claimed that Solar prevented them from contact with Guru during the latter's final illness. The validity of the death-bed letter has been challenged by Guru's family.
In 2007 Guru was ranked at 45 for the Top 50 MCs of our time: 1987-2007
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