In Memory of Guru, Keith Elam - Idol Threat: Warning Shots at the Mainstream


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In Memory of Guru, Keith Elam

"Gang Starr is a reflection of the heart and soul of hip-hop culture and music. They are one of my favorite groups and one of the groups I've been most influenced by. I love Primo and Guru." - Common

Maybe this is what NaS was predicting when he proclaimed that Hip Hop was dead. Guru, born Keith Elam, died yesterday at age 43. He was one of the greatest MCs to ever grace the mic and a founding member of Gang Starr who, along with DJ Premier, was one of the greatest Hip Hop duos of their time. He was also the mastermind behind the Jazzmatazz series where he collaborated with actual Jazz musicians instead of just sampling them.

Gang Starr was one of my all time favorite Hip Hop groups. I was lucky enough to see Gang Starr live once and I don't think I ever got a greater sense of being at a “Hip Hop Show.” They outshone the other acts so much that I couldn't even tell you who they where right now, and Gang Starr wasn't even the headliners. To me it was my definitive experience of seeing a DJ and an MC rocking the stage. “Hard to Earn” and “Moment of Truth” were very influential albums for me when I was growing up and I don't think they have a single dud in their entire discography. The fact that Guru passed before these legends could produce more classics is only one of the many reasons why Hip Hop suffered a major loss with his death.

“Lemonade was a popular drink and it still is/I get more props and stunts then Bruce Willis/A poet like Langston Hughes and can't lose when I cruise/Out on the expressway/Leavin the Bodega I say suave/Premier's got more beats then barns got hay” -Guru, “DWYCK”

I remember the first time I heard Gang Starr. The video for Code of the Streets was playing on tv and I remember thinking how sinister the strings and the scratch sample sounded together. I wasn't sure what I was hearing but I knew I liked it, and once Guru's monotone rasp came on I was instantly hooked. I remember how well Guru fit between Premiers beats. I remember thinking for the first time that being hardcore didn't have to mean being aggressive or loud, Guru's laid back confidence was as street as any grime or growl. I remember my friend letting me borrow a Jazzmatazz cd on the bus and I gave it a shot on the strength of it being a Guru project. It was my first exposure to Jazz. I remember finding out that Guru and Premier weren't originally from NY, yet they were embraced as if they were. It was the first time I understood that in Hip Hop “where you're at” mattered as much as where you're from.

“Bald Head Slick” had a charisma with his words and an unforgettable voice that demanded attention with a nuance and calm demeanor that defied it's booming sound. It was as heavy as Chuck D's bass combined with the smoothness of Qtip, and it was a fitting complement to Premier's grimy, sparse, boom bap beats and the perfect vehicle for the voice of Hip Hop and the streets. RIP to a true MC and visionary.

“Sometimes you gotta dig deep, when problems come near/Don't fear things get severe for everybody everywhere/Why do bad things happen, to good people?/Seems that life is just a constant war between good and evil” - Guru, “Moment of Truth”

Guru's Myspace:

Gang Starr Myspace:"

Buy Guru 8.0 - Lost & Found:
Guru 8.0 at

Buy Gang Starr – Full Clip:
Full Clip: A Decade Of Gang Starr

Buy Jazzmatazz Vol. 4: Jazzmatazz, Vol. 4 at

Gifted. Unlimited. Rhymes. Universal.

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