One of the great voices of hip hop is in a better place. Keith Elam better known as Guru was one half of Gangstarr along with DJ Premier. Guru leaves behind a healthy catalogue of pure hits from his days with Gangstarr and then solo with the critically acclaimed Jazzmatazz series of albums. There he collaborated with jazz greats from Donald Byrd to Roy Ayers and more contemporary artists like Erykah Badu and N’Dea Davenport. While hip hop had always sampled from jazz Guru took it a step further and worked with that genres living legends to create new tracks destined to become classics. Back in 1998 I had a chance to meet and have a lengthy conversation with Guru at a friends house. Aside from being completely shocked that he was there I was pleasantly surprised with his demeanor. He did not pull the “yo Im a rap superstar kid, I can’t talk to you” routine. Instead we stood and talked about jazz and hip hop fusion and I was asking him if he saw similarities ( to jazz ) in Drum n’ Bass and furthermore if hip hop would embrace it as it had jazz. We had differing opinions ( and for the record Guru was correct after the Goldie and KRS 1 collab I have not heard anything else by way of hip hop and DnB collabs ) but still managed to agree on other musical tastes and topics. I feel fortunate to have had that personal memory of someone I listened to on a regular basis. Gifted. Unlimited. Rhymes. Universal. Rest in peace Keith Elam.
UPDATED: Just read the letter Guru allegedly wrote to his fans. He goes out of his way to exclude DJ Premier from any future dealings with Guru’s namesake, image, music etc… interesting. Something not right about that.
In no particular order here are my top 5 Guru/Gangstarr tracks ( song titles are direct links to iTunes ):
Le Bien, Le Mal