Keith Elam aka Guru passed away on Monday. Guru was the MC for the prolific hip-hop duo, Gangstarr. It would be too much to say Gangtarr changed my life, but they were definitely one of the major influences that led me to listen to much more East Coast hip-hop (along with Boogie Down Productions) than I had when I was in my teens in the 1980s. When I was 17 and 18 I was primarily listening to West Coast “gangsta” rap but the conscious sounds coming out of NYC spoke to me on a much deeper level. Gangstarr were part of that scene. While the scene has long since died, the rhymes, beats and memories remain. Rest in Peace, Guru. You will be missed.
Here is a touching remembrance written by Keith’s brother, Harry.
Also check this out, Jazz and Hip-Hop, Can They Really Mix?: Part 1 and II.
Below is a montage of Gangstarr videos. This is not meant to be some sort of definitive list, just some of my faves.
Manifest (from No More Mister Nice Guy, 1989)
Just to Get a Rep (from Step in the Arena, 1991)
Step in the Arena (from the album of the same name)
Take it Personal (Daily Operation, 1992)
Mass Appeal (Hard to Earn, 1994)
Next Time (Moment of Truth, 1998)
Skillz (The Ownerz, 2003)
It’s Gettin’ Hectic, from the Brand New Heavies, Heavy Rhyme Experience, Vol. I, 1992]
Loungin’ (featuring Donald Byrd). This is from Guru’s first Jazzmatazz LP, 1993.
Sights in the City (featuring Courtney Pine on alto and soprano sax and flute, Carleen Anderson on vocals and Simon Law on keyboards) from the same album.