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R.I.P. Guru


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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.

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32 Responses to “R.I.P. Guru”

  1. khal Says:

    keithy e was definitelyt like having a wise unc, one who’d share a blunt w/ you and teach you some of life’s ills. RIP.

  2. BENJY Says:

    today was gonna be marcberg day too smh

  3. Tray Says:

    In fairness to the detractors I’ve never been able to decide whether Guru was wise or just sounded wise. To me though that’s one of the charms of listening to Guru (and KRS), the occasionally comical claims to be imparting super-deep wisdom to the listener. In any event I can’t imagine a rapper who would’ve made a better duo with Premo, and he’ll be sorely missed.

  4. brad Says:

    There’s nothing wrong with revisionists, but they should at least be able to comprehend whatever they’re revising. Guru’s detractors are usually clueless. RIP

  5. DR. NO Says:

    to grow up listening to Gang Starr was to be schooled. Having a Gang Starr tape was like having a wise uncle.


    Bottom line. The shit Guru schooled me on I still carry with me. RIP.


    Yeah, there are always certain things that a lot of people are simply wrong about. And anyone who trys to make the case for Guru being wack is an idiot, and above all, wrong. This isn’t an argument or any substance, and wasn’t one when he was alive.

    Mr. Cee killed it on Hot 97 a few hours back. Calling out lame DJ’s who had the nerve to e-mail him requesting Gang Starr songs. What kind of a fucking retarded hip-hop DJ doesn’t have Gang Starr songs on deck? Man, fuck that shit.

    Rest in Peace, Guru. Gangstarr has four fucking GREAT albums (yes, four), your opinion on this man’s work is meaningless if you disagree.

  7. noz Says:

    Tray hasn’t it been established that you discovered rap as an adult in 2003? I don’t say that to clown but because your half dismissal helps to prove the point that time has clouded the power of his music. If you were listening to this shit when you were 14 in the 90s the wisdom would seem wiser.

  8. MF Says:

    A really great songwriter too.

    Nobody – and i’m including Slick Rick, Rakim, Ice Cube, Scarface and Biggie – did do storytelling joints about set-ups better than Guru.

  9. MF Says:

    ^ What happens when you don’t proofread before submitting after you change a couple of words.

  10. drgz Says:

    “Having a Gang Starr tape was like having a wise uncle.”

    i hate all this rap revisionism. its people who couldnt be down when it was 96, they were 15, and rap was still called rap.

    the song with face? that was serious biznis. “my advice to you”…serious serious biznis. gang starr was some of the only shit i listened to growing up NOT made by my neighbors.

  11. MF Says:

    “Rapper Guru” is currently the 4th most popular trending topic on UK Yahoo. Behind the “Ash Flight Ban” and “Iceland Volcano”, but ahead of “Victoria Beckham” and the “iPhone 4G”.

    What an epitaph.

  12. thenashvillain Says:

    Step Into the Arena or Moment of Truth?

    Guru also benefited from the rare positive trait of just having a really cool-sounding voice. Legendary flow, legendary messages.

  13. TSF Says:

    Does anybody have any inside knowledge on why Guru and Premo had a falling out? I read that he didn’t want Premo to have anything to do with him, even in death. Which makes me sad on many levels, but also disappointed that we probably won’t get a retrospective tribute mix like he did for Roc Raida.

  14. er4se Says:

    gang starr playlist on blast all day… R.I.P. G.U.R.U. youngsters cant understand the impact of this duo in hip hop’s heyday… happy 4:20!

  15. earleybird Says:

    above the clouds… RIP. It was sad i heard of gurus death by wondering why they were playing six or seven gangstarr songs in a row on the mainstream radio in the middle of the day .. then I realized what happened. rest in peace.

  16. Nico Says:

    Rip uncle guru for real. His body and mind have left the planet but his wisdom and message will remain with the human race forever. Hard to earn on blast this morning.

  17. brandonsoderberg Says:

    RIP Guru. He’s great, no questions or producers other than Primo asked. That said, the quasi-clowning of Guru–because he was deeply sincere and full of conviction always–was going on when the albums were being released. It didn’t start with the internets…

  18. mrfrosty Says:

    noz, this post is written very beautiful. thanks. rip guru. definitely one of the greatest.

  19. Tray Says:

    I’m just not sure though, Noz, what exactly this wisdom consists of. (Nor do I see that hearing this stuff in 1992 when I was 7 would’ve made any difference.) He, like I say, sounds wise, but you listen to, like, ‘Who’s Gonna Take The Weight,’ and, yes, he wisely suggests that the black community, you know, take the weight, control their own fate, and find their direction through introspection, but…… like how wise really is that? There are a lot of pretty dense first grade teachers and motivational speakers and rappers in this era running around with the same not so deep “stand up for yourselves” message. Or ‘Code Of The Streets,’ maybe you are but I’m not so impressed by someone just vaguely gesturing at the system – and total corruption.

  20. nico Says:

    “at the system -and total corruption”


  21. hl Says:

    @Tray…You just don’t get it. It’s ok. You had to be there.

  22. Nick Says:

    I agree with homie Frosty…very tastefull written NOZ.
    Gang Starr represents the purest essence of Rap music.
    Timeless. RIP GURU

  23. Berto Says:

    “While others struggle to juggle tricky metaphors
    I explore more to expose the core.”

  24. brad Says:

    I think everybody should have listened to ‘Daily Operation’ when they were seven. You couldn’t ask for a better early education or musical influence than that. And, as an adult (I was older than seven when ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ dropped), I still have a lot of respect for Guru’s wisdom. Not just something to be enjoyed ironically or as something I ‘fell for’ when I didn’t know any better.

  25. drgz Says:

    5. Teeth – Philthy Rich

    Sampler of Town Thizznes Albums mixed by DJ Racks
    released 16 June 2009

    asshole. it was on a mixtape a year ago. came out well before that.

  26. drgz Says:

    damnit. hecka improper.

  27. The Planet « Says:

    […] blijkt dat over de hele wereld mensen met het duo groot zijn geworden. Rest in peace.  ( hier, hier én hier reacties en […]

  28. Does ‘Brand-Building’ Equal Selling Out? « optimummusic1 Says:

    […] Gang Starr—Guru and DJ Premier—embodied the platonic ideal of hip-hop. Caramanica, Oliver, Noz and others have written beautifully and effusively about the significance of his career and the […]

  29. GURU: IN MEMORY OF « Soul-Sides.com Says:

    […] made the deepest impression, you realize how vital he was in making Gang Starr, Gang Starr. My man Noz nailed this in his testimonial: There’s been some question in the internet era about Guru’s capabilities as […]

  30. ethical soundrebel Says:

    guru was a definite inspiration for me. this is my dedication http://djethicalsoundrebel.blogspot.com/2010/05/forever-guru-mixtape.html

  31. taio cruz Says:

    Cheers, nice writing.

  32. Gifted. Unlimited. Rhymes. Universal. « George Bush Money Says:

    […] of his passing- the anger, the frustration, the arguments on whether or not Guru was a legend (He Is), DJ Premier’s role (or lack thereof) later in Guru’s […]

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