Beyond Comprehension
April 20, 2010 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Guru of Gang Starr - Keith Elam, has died from cancer. His passing is complicated by the sometimes bizarre actions of his business partner Solar (not to be confused with MC Solaar) during Guru's seven week hospital stay.

Solar got power of attorney and kept Guru's family members away, claiming it was Guru's wishes. When Solar called into radio station Hot 97, he sounded suspect. A purported death bed letter from Guru has been issued. DJ. Premier, the other half of Gang Starr, isn't buying it. But in the light of a 2009 interview with Guru, things are not as clear.
posted by cashman (72 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by everichon at 7:24 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by cashman at 7:25 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:28 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by electroboy at 7:28 AM on April 20, 2010


Timeless.
posted by dnesan at 7:30 AM on April 20, 2010


Never forget. R.I.P.
posted by misterhonk at 7:40 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everything Guru did is worth hearing at least once - he was socially conscious in his lyrics without sacrificing style. Step in the Arena is a classic that still holds up today as a vital listen.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:40 AM on April 20, 2010


They say it's lonely at the top, in whatever you do
You always gotta watch motherfuckers around you


I really hope that this turns out to be nothing and Guru died in peace and wasn't kept from the ones he loved.
posted by Kattullus at 7:42 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


We all must meet our moment of truth.
posted by chrchr at 7:43 AM on April 20, 2010


"I thump hard / and make em think that I'm God"

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posted by $0up at 7:46 AM on April 20, 2010


I thought there was a point when he was supposedly coming out of the hospital -- and now he's dead? What the hell??? And the whole beef with Premier, if there was one (I had no idea they were estranged) makes the situation even more strange. I'd never even heard of Solar till now, though it kind of sounds like the guy took over Guru's life toward the end.

He was an absolute poet -- he was untouchable. Hip-hop will not be the same without him.

DJ Premier is in everyone’s Top 3 as far as hip-hop producers go. Change the conversation to Best MCs and Guru doesn’t even belong in the Top 40.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.
posted by blucevalo at 7:49 AM on April 20, 2010


Guru's Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 was part of one of my favorite little mini-movements in rap/hip-hop music, along with Us3 and Digable Planets.

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posted by padraigin at 7:49 AM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


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posted by dead_ at 7:55 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by molecicco at 7:55 AM on April 20, 2010


le Bien, le Mal

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posted by blackfly at 8:10 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by joe lisboa at 8:18 AM on April 20, 2010


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He was the slickest MC, in a good way.

I'm sad to hear he died in conflict with Premier. It reminds me of the situation Dimebag was in at the time of his death.
posted by ignignokt at 8:20 AM on April 20, 2010


Guru's Jazzmatazz Vol. 1

Wow, I was listening to this just a couple of days ago. Sad to hear.

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posted by freecellwizard at 8:21 AM on April 20, 2010


Whoa. RIP.
posted by Liquidwolf at 8:26 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by chillmost at 8:27 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by AceRock at 8:33 AM on April 20, 2010


I can't believe nobody's mentioned "Daily Operation."

Ex to the Next Girl, Take it Personal, Take Two and Pass, I'm the Man (feat. Jeru).
posted by phaedon at 8:38 AM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


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posted by doteatop at 8:46 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by yeloson at 8:48 AM on April 20, 2010


I can't stand the Jazzmatazz series—bad jazz with mediocre conscious rhymes?—but I'll always love Hard To Earn.

And yeah, Guru's nice, but he'll never have a GOAT claim. Sorry to see him go out, especially with such shiesty drama around.
posted by klangklangston at 8:51 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by Smart Dalek at 8:56 AM on April 20, 2010


And yeah, Guru's nice, but he'll never have a GOAT claim.

Why make a purely opinion-based dis in an obit thread?
posted by ignignokt at 8:57 AM on April 20, 2010


Was waiting for this to show up. Guru was awesome. RIP.
posted by chunking express at 9:05 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by cazoo at 9:11 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by ardgedee at 9:25 AM on April 20, 2010


What klang said, pretty much, except I slightly prefer Step in the Arena.

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posted by box at 9:26 AM on April 20, 2010


Wow, this hurts.

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posted by joedan at 9:42 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by unwordy at 9:43 AM on April 20, 2010


[this is not the place to have your obitgrar]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:17 AM on April 20, 2010


There are a ton of soul-jazz pioneers (Donald Byrd, Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith, Freddie Hubbard) and current soul-jazz aficionados (Branford Marsalis, Ronny Jordan) who contributed to the Jazzmatazz series. While I'm not one of those who thinks that listening to Kenny G will lead people to listen to "authentic" jazz, I do think that Jazzmatazz gave a shot in the arm & in the bank account to Hubbard, Byrd, Lewis, & Ayers. Lewis & Ayers probably didn't need the bank, but exposing their brand of jazz to a new and receptive audience I think was a positive overall.

No grar here. Keith Elam helped promote a healthy synthesis.

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posted by beelzbubba at 10:35 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by juv3nal at 10:49 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by anansi at 11:02 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by jonp72 at 11:05 AM on April 20, 2010


This is not the way the story of his life should have ended. He was a pioneer.
posted by y2karl at 11:08 AM on April 20, 2010


I can't believe nobody's mentioned "Daily Operation."

I can't either -- thanks for mentioning it. All of the 90s albums are great, but that one is one of the four or five best hip-hop albums ever recorded.
posted by blucevalo at 11:17 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by rocketman at 11:19 AM on April 20, 2010


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posted by Plug1 at 11:20 AM on April 20, 2010


I'll fake you left and go right, straight down the lane
Here's one in your eye; you'll feel pain
You strain - to put together some strategy
But you're raggedy, and i'll be glad to see
The frown on your grill when I drill and thrill
Set up my offense, commence to kill
I'll be leadin from beginnin to end
And after I pound ya, you're gonna wanna make friends
And make amends for the silly, trash you were talking
Take a walk and your shots I'm swattin
with ease, and the ladies are swoonin
Clockin my swiftness, while you're droolin
You oughtta practice up and get your game refined
I've been waitin to dog you, and now you're mine
posted by neilkod at 11:46 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


And yeah, Guru's nice, but he'll never have a GOAT claim.


You obvioulsly don't know much about hip hop. Gangstar is one of the only if not the only that everyone who loves hip hop loves. I'll break that down for you.

mild hip hop listener- loves gangstar.
backpackers- love gangstar
West Coast- loves gangstar
Europe- loves gangstar
Japan- loves gangstar
The streets- love gangstar
Davis Dj's- love gangstar
Andy Rooney- loves gangstar.


Lots of people don't like Biggie, Tupac, Jay, Run DMC, LL, Jurassic 5, etc.. But everyone loves Guru. If that's not a Greatest of All Time status then I don't know what is.

lemonade was a popular drink and it still is, I get more props and stunds then bruce willis....

RIP
posted by LouieLoco at 1:33 PM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


What a voice.
RIP.
posted by hellbient at 1:56 PM on April 20, 2010


david faustino - loves gangstarr
posted by cashman at 2:10 PM on April 20, 2010


Andy Rooney- loves gangstar.

Johnny "Guitar" Watson - loves Andy Rooney. And everybody loves Johnny "Guitar Watson. Let the circle be unbroken.
posted by y2karl at 2:30 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would also like to point out that Gangstar and Guru have more signgles than most of the "goat"s combined.
posted by LouieLoco at 2:45 PM on April 20, 2010


Like I said in my deleted comment—Count the number of wack rhymes and missed beats in Timeless.

Keeping Premo constant, I'd take Jeru over Guru.

And even after all that, I still dig Gang Star. I just can't get with Jazzmatazz or Guru's solo stuff.
posted by klangklangston at 2:52 PM on April 20, 2010


You can't get with jazzmatazz...then don't.

Some of my favorite gangstarr songs:

Who's gonna take the weight

Work

code of the streets

speak ya clout

suckas need bodyguards

Words that I manifest

just to get a rep

step in the arena

You Know my Steez

what you want this time

No mr. nice guy

positivity

keep your worries

Take it personal

And when I'm 64 I'll still be able to rap guru's verse on DWYCK
posted by LouieLoco at 3:30 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Goddamn, is it really "Gotta be the greatest of all time or doesn't matter"?

FFS, you have a pioneer, someone who stuck with it, brought a lot of folks in, gave a lot of respect as he went and didn't change his style for anything or anyone.

Can we respect the man for being true to the spirit of hiphop without playing the "whose dick is bigger" game as fans?
posted by yeloson at 3:31 PM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


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posted by SageLeVoid at 3:42 PM on April 20, 2010


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posted by ST!NG at 4:12 PM on April 20, 2010


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posted by humannaire at 4:53 PM on April 20, 2010


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posted by glycolized at 4:58 PM on April 20, 2010


[i]Can we respect the man for being true to the spirit of hiphop without playing the "whose dick is bigger" game as fans?[/i]

Unfortunately, this is how hip hop is now and why I shun the majority of the culture while still being a listener to the music. (Which is weird situation now that I realized.) The thing I hate is that everything has to be so extreme, so absolute in hip hop culture. It's like their is no such thing as just appreciating an individual/group doing their thing.

Guru definitely did his thing and help invent a great sub-genre in hip hop music. He had a voice and style all his own and did not try to be like anyone else. Who cared if he was monotone. That was his instrument and he played it well? He was part of my soundtrack during my late 90s/early 00s "back packer" phase in high school. I hope Guru is making beats with J Dilla up in heaven.
posted by LilSoulBrother85 at 6:03 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I knew his steez.

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posted by zinc saucier at 7:15 PM on April 20, 2010


Can we respect the man for being true to the spirit of hiphop without playing the "whose dick is bigger" game as fans?

Hey man, take it easy. I think it's kind of disingenuous to claim that there's a distinction between "the true spirit of hip-hop" and the "whose dick is bigger" game, and that this is somehow perpetuated by resentful fans. Guru's no different than a lot of rappers; he self-aggrandizes, and he shits on the competition. This is part of the art form.

I live in a universe where DJ Premier was a way bigger deal than Guru. I don't have to think this through very far either. Jazzmatazz was great. Glad everyone enjoyed that. Jeru's first two albums? Phenomenal. My favorites cuts are: How I'm Livin'. Can't Stop the Prophet. Come Clean. Me or the Papes.

Premier also produced Nas's "Memory Lane". Biggie's "Unbelievable". Paula Perry's "Extra Extra". KRS One's "Outta Here". Group Home's "Supa Star". Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers. M.O.P.'s "Brownsville".

As a fan, it is such a messed up thing to compare the two members of Gang Starr against eachother. That Solar track was so sad. At the end of the day I don't want to judge either of these guys. I don't know either personally but I know they were both seriously talented. I doubt either of them made the kind of money that would have left them care-free for the rest of their lives. And that too is part of the legacy.
posted by phaedon at 7:55 PM on April 20, 2010


I think it's kind of disingenuous to claim that there's a distinction between "the true spirit of hip-hop" and the "whose dick is bigger" game,

The difference is you can have a LOT of people participating in the true spirit of hiphop without having to be "the only one". Sure, you compete, you battle, but not being at the top doesn't magically mean you're no longer part of the culture or the scene.

I mean, when someone who contributed a lot to the culture passes, is it really appropriate to go, "Well, he wasn't all that anyway"?

Let the MCs battle while they're alive, and let's be happy for what they gave us after they pass.
posted by yeloson at 8:20 PM on April 20, 2010


RIP
posted by Flex1970 at 8:39 PM on April 20, 2010


Gots to be the sureshot.
posted by cashman at 8:54 PM on April 20, 2010


brutal. one of my favorite rappers of all time
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:13 AM on April 21, 2010


Yeah, fucking bummer. Love, love, love Jazzmatazz. Just rediscovered it recently. Too bad.
posted by apis mellifera at 5:21 AM on April 21, 2010


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posted by jammy at 5:51 AM on April 21, 2010




Slate:

If there was any jazz in Guru's music, it was in his rapping. He was one of hip-hop's most distinctive and influential vocal stylists, a master of deadpan whose calm, clear voice transmitted many moods at once: ease and insouciance, thuggish sang-froid, hardheaded self-assurance, the unimpressed, uninflected sound of a man who had seen it all, and done it all, before. Before Guru, hip-hop's playas, preachers, and jesters always elevated their pitch. Guru showed that a blowhard could speak soft; in 2010, his legacy is audible in the suave sound of hip-hop radio. In "Moment of Truth" (1998) Guru boasted: "The king of monotone, with my own throne." Pouring scorn on knuckleheads, numbskulls, and just about everyone else, Guru's voice cut to the quick because he never raised it.
posted by ignignokt at 8:35 AM on April 21, 2010


Family issues press release

"The Elam family wishes to thank the fans of our son/brother/father uncle/nephew/cousin Keith aka GURU for the outpouring of love, concern and support.
Our hearts are broken by the loss of someone we loved so much. GURU was devoted to his young son, who will most keenly feel his absence.

GURU suffered from multiple myeloma for over a year. Accrued complications from this illness led to respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. As a result, GURU was in a coma from mid February until his death and never regained consciousness. Early on the morning of April 19th, he became hypertensive due to low blood pressure. He again went into cardiac arrest and slipped away from us.

GURU died far too young but he was, and we are, proud of all his many legendary musical contributions.

The family is not aware of any foundations established by GURU. We know and understand that countless fans want to express their condolences and love and, to that end, we are planning a memorial event in the near future that will be all-inclusive. Please look for further details from the family as they become available.

from The Elam Family"
posted by cashman at 9:24 AM on April 21, 2010


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posted by sveskemus at 9:31 AM on April 21, 2010


DJ Premier's Official Statement.
posted by yeloson at 3:25 PM on April 21, 2010


Sway interviews Solar (5 video interviews in segments).

Solar denies a romantic relationship, says Guru wrote the statements over the last year as his condition was worsening, says Guru's family is handling the funeral and he doesn't know if he'll attend, and speaks on other issues like taking care of Guru as he became worse. There's also a final piece about when he found out he had cancer (last May) and him deciding not to tell his own parents.
posted by cashman at 6:38 AM on April 22, 2010


Daily Operation is one of those crucial, golden-era records for me. While no great innovator as a lyricist, GURU's voice and flow are hip-hop monuments. He came with a singular gravitas.

This Solar business is fucking sordid and undignified. I'm sad to see it go down this way.
posted by kosem at 8:28 AM on April 22, 2010


I played "Hard to Earn" in my car so much I damn near wore out the tape. I loved Gang Starr and I loved Jazzmatazz, haters jump back. I miss Guru's style and there will never be another like him.

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posted by msali at 12:01 PM on April 22, 2010


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