After a protracted struggle with cancer, Keith “Guru” Elam of Gang Starr has passed away. He was just 43.
There’s been some question in the internet era about Guru’s capabilities as a rapper. They should be dismissed. His is the greatest case against the modern, dogmatic definition of lyrical lyricism. Because Guru’s strength lied not in hot punchlines or clever multi-syllable rhymes but purely in his ability to instill wisdom. Maybe that particular brand of wisdom has aged poorly or maybe it’s just that the whole positive (and never negative) aspects of his raps don’t hold up under the cynicism of today’s new jacks, but to grow up listening to Gang Starr was to be schooled. Having a Gang Starr tape was like having a wise uncle. And yet Guru was never soft. NWA presented the idea of street knowledge only to quickly tip the scales too far to the streets. Many of Gang Starr’s successors only ever focused on one side of the coin. Guru was balance. And he will be missed.
I’m about to go in on some #RIPGURU posts over at the Tumblr. Rarities, scans, articles, whatever I can find around here.