April 19: Old-School Rap Legend Guru Passed Away On This Date In 2010

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By Victor Trammell 

Photo credits: Thierry Le Goues / Universal Music Group

Musician Keith “Guru” Elam was born on July 17, 1962, in Boston, Massachusetts. His stage name is an acronym for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal.

He started his career as MC Keithy E in the mid-1980s. Guru leaned heavily on his jazz expertise after dropping out of graduate school to pursue a rap career. In the 1980s and 1990s, he was regarded as a key character in the hip-hop culture. Guru was able to skillfully combine hip hop with jazz. However, collaborating with a like-minded music producer (who vied for the same sound as him) helped his career take off.

In 1988, Guru teamed up with Christopher “DJ Premier” Martin to form the Gang Starr rap group.

Gang Starr released six influential and critically acclaimed albums, led by Guru’s trademark voice with a rich and gravelly tone, which he acknowledged in the song “Mostly Tha Voice” from 1994. Two of Gangstarr’s albums were certified gold: “Moment of Truth” and “Full Clip,” a compilation of hits. Guru, who later acquired multiple myeloma, went into a coma after having respiratory problems.

He died on April 19, 2010, in New York, at the age of 48.

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