Filmaker Byron Hurt Releases Tribute to Guru-Never Before Seen Footage

Dear Friends, Family, and Colleagues:

On Monday, April, 19, 2010, Hip-Hop lost one of its legendary rap artists, Guru. I was saddened to hear about his death. Guru was one of my favorite rappers, and the rap group he founded with DJ Premier, Gang Starr, was one of Hip-Hop’s iconic rap groups.

On March 26, 2003, I interviewed Gang Starr for my film Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes on the set of his music video,“Rite Where U Stand,” in Brooklyn, NY. Click on the video image below to watch never seen before clips from that interview. This is my personal tribute to Keith Elam, better known worldwide as Guru. Thank you Johnalynn Holland for editing this tribute

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3c0YKQrSC8

I enjoyed meeting Guru and had the opportunity to interact with him on another occasion in New York City a few years ago. I found him to be a very approachable, intelligent, likeable guy. I thought you might be interested in reading this homage, “My brother, Gang Starr’s Guru,” written by Harry Elam, Jr. He has an interesting family background and life story.

R.I.P. Guru (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal).

Respectfully,

Byron Hurt
www.bhurt.com

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Guru’s Brother Harry Pens Article for Boston Globe: My brother, Gang Starr’s Guru

My brother, Gang Starr’s Guru

By Harry J. Elam Jr.

http://www.boston.com/ae/music/articles/2010/04/23/my_brother_gang_starrs_guru/?page=1

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Boston-born Keith Elam, who rose to fame as Guru, founder of the rap group Gang Starr and a person who sought to merge rap and jazz,died earlier this week. His brother, Harry, a distinguished professor of drama at Stanford, has written this remembrance).

Harry Elam

“Positivity, that’s how I’m livin..’” So goes the lyric from my brother’s early hip-hop song, “Positivity.” My brother Keith Elam, the hip-hop artist known as GURU—Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal—died this week at the too-young age of 48 because of complications from cancer. ‘Positivity’ was what he sought to bring to the music and to his life, and for me that will be a large part of his legacy.

In February of this year, my brother went into a coma, and I traveled across the country from my home in California to see him. At his bedside, I stood and stared at his overly frail frame, his head that he had kept clean-shaven for the last 20 years uncommonly covered with hair, his body connected to a sea of tubes and wires. I listened to the whirl of machines around us and took his hand. As I did, my mind flashed back to now-distant times, so many memories. And I saw us as teenagers at the beach on Cape Cod playing in the water together. And I saw us as boys, driving to school. My brother was five years younger than me, so we attended the same school only for one year — my senior year, his seventh-grade year — at Noble and Greenough School, and I would often drive us both to school. Invariably, I made us late, yet my brother, never as stressed as me, was always impressively calm. At school he endured the jests and teasing from the other boys about being my “little brother.” I was president of the school and had charted a certain path at Nobles. But my brother found his own creative route at school, as he would throughout his life. His journey was never easy, never direct, but inventive. Through it all he remained fiercely determined with a clear and strong sense of self.

Over the years I had proudly watched my brother perform in a wide variety of contexts. While at Nobles, we had a black theatre troupe known as “the Family.” In 1973, we put on a play entitled ”A Medal for Willie,” by William Branch, and because he was only in the seventh grade, Keith played only a small role, but even then you could see his flair for performance, his comfort on the stage. At home, our older sister Patricia would teach him the latest dances, and he would execute them with verve as I watched from the sidelines, impressed with his moves, and not without a few twinges of jealousy since I’ve always had two left feet. As a teenager he raced as a speed skater. I do not remember how he became involved in the sport; I only remember traveling with my family to watch his meets in the suburbs of Boston. I do not remember if he won or lost, I do know that he always competed with great ferocity and commitment.

When he announced to me that he was dropping out of graduate school at the Fashion Institute of Technology to pursue a career in rap, I thought he was making a grave mistake and warned him against it. But as always he was determined, and in the end he would succeed beyond perhaps what even he had imagined. Early on in his rap journey, he visited me in Washington., D.C., over a Thanksgiving weekend. I was teaching at the University of Maryland then, and we went to what was perhaps the most dreadful party we had ever attended. As we hastened out the door, I apologized for bringing him to this party. My brother replied “let’s write a rap song about it,” and we did. The lyrics made us laugh as we collaborated on the rhyme scheme and rode off into the D.C. night. It is one of my fondest memories, this spontaneous brotherly moment of collaboration and play.

Keith’s big break came with Spike Lee’s film ”Mo’ Better Blues,” with his song “A Jazz Thing” underscoring the credits. I watched that film over and over again just to hear my brother at its end. Soon he was on to creating his first Jazzmatazz album with others to follow, and he became credited for creating a fusion between jazz and hip hop. To be sure, that fusion owes something to our grandfather Edward Clark and Keith’s godfather, George Johnson, who introduced Keith to jazz by playing their favorite albums for him. He credits them both on his first Jazzmatazz. That first Jazzmatazz album featured musical heroes of my youth, Roy Ayers, and Donald Byrd, and here was my brother featuring them on his album. And with this success, came tours. I have seen him perform all over the world, and each time he would give a shout out from the stage to his brother and my wife, Michele. And I was so proud. It sometimes struck me with awe that all these people were there to see my brother. I watched him deal out magic; he was in his element feeling the crowd, and them responding to his groove. This was my baby brother, the kid with whom I once shared a room. The kid whose asthma would cause him to hack and cough and wheeze at night keeping me up. But when I would complain, my parents would send me out of the room. The message was clear: Love your siblings, whatever their frailties. Shorter than me and slighter of build, my brother suffered from asthma and allergies his whole life, but he was always a survivor.

Back in 1993, when he played at Stanford University, I was in perhaps my third year as a professor there. As I walked into the auditorium that night, the assembled audience of students looked at me with a new awareness, “that’s the Guru’s brother,” not that’s Professor Elam, but the Guru’s brother.

And I was, and am, the Guru’s brother. I admired and loved him deeply, my little brother. And I was and am so proud of him, and how he made his dreams reality . And with the outpouring of love that has crowded my e-mail with his passing, I know that he touched so many with his music. My brother cared deeply about family. He raps of my parents in more than one song. They are featured on his video “Ex girl to next girl.” It was one thing seeing my brother on MTV; it was another seeing my parents. His son K.C. was the joy of his was the joy of his life.

The doctors told me back in February that there was not much chance of my brother recovering from the coma. But my brother has always been a fighter, always been one to overcome surprising adversities, so this seemed just one more. We prayed that he would again prevail. But it was not to be. Still his drive, his spirit, his energy, his positivity will live on, and so will his music. “that’s how I’m livin…”

Harry J. Elam Jr. is the chairman of the drama department at Stanford University and the author of several books, including “The Past as Present in the Drama of August Wilson.”

Sad News Today We Lost a Legend RIP Guru… He Loses His Battle to Cancer

From DJ Premier’s Blog RIP GURU

This is heartbreaking news to lose a legend like Guru..It’s heartbreaking reading his letter which personally I find a bit suspect..I’ve known Guru since 1991 or 92.. Always had a good relationship when he came to the Bay.. He made a special trip and opened up for my old Friday Night Vibe radio show.. He blessed it. He came to a surprise birthday party a couple of years later and blessed the crowd with a nice promptu performance. Over the years he’s come by shows numerous times and always had good conversation and keen insight..

Can’t say for sure what his relationship with Solar has been, but it definitely made a cool friendship strained. The last time I saw him about two years ago,  I had stayed over from a scheduled trip to catch up with Guru.. We sat down started off doing a nice interview  and suddenly it went south.. He bolted out in the middle of an interview because his boy Solar who I included in the interview got upset when I asked ‘How Do You Guys as veterans in the rap game manage to stay relevant for today’s audience? He took offense and claimed they weren’t old men.. said he didn’t wanna do the interview, Guru looked at Solar and bolted out..He bounced out refused to talk unless Solar said it was cool which he didn’t and that was pretty much last time I chopped it up with him…That was too bad….

In any case I wish him well in the afterlife He was a good dude…Today we lost a legend and he will be missed

-Davey D-


Guru aka Keith Elam has passed away yesterday morning (April 19) after a long battle with cancer.

According to Solar, Guru suffered from the malicious illness for over a year and after numerous special treatments under the supervision of medical specialists failed, the legendary MC succumbed to the disease. Guru always tried to keep this harrowing diagnosis in private but in early 2010 he had to admit himself to hospital due to serious effects caused by the disease.

Since the onset of illness, Guru tried to live a “normal” life as an influential and outstanding musician, loving father, family man, and best friend. Doctors encouraged Guru to think positive that the cancer can be arrested and that a full recovery is possible but several special treatments including hard hitting chemotherapies failed.

While in hospital with terminal cancer, Guru wrote a letter, which was provided by Solar, to his fans addressing his illness, his shining music career, his family and loved ones.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqh1s6vMfhc

“I, Guru, am writing this letter to my fans, friends and loved ones around the world. I have had a long battle with cancer and have succumbed to the disease. I have suffered with this illness for over a year. I have exhausted all medical options. I have a non-profit organization called Each One Counts dedicated to carrying on my charitable work on behalf of abused and disadvantaged children from around the world and also to educate and research a cure for this terrible disease that took my life. I write this with tears in my eyes, not of sorrow but of joy for what a wonderful life I have enjoyed and how many great people I have had the pleasure of meeting,” read the official Guru statement.

“My loyal best friend, partner and brother, Solar, has been at my side through it all and has been made my health proxy by myself on all matters relating to myself. He has been with me by my side on my many hospital stays, operations, doctors visits and stayed with me at my home and cared for me when I could not care for myself. Solar and his family is my family and I love them dearly and I expect my family, friends, and fans to respect that, regardless to anybody’s feelings on the matter. It is my wish that counts. This being said I am survived by the love of my life, my sun KC, who I trust will be looked after by Solar and his family as their own. Any awards or tributes should be accepted, organized approved by Solar on behalf myself and my son until he is of age to except on his own.”

The statement reads on, “I do not wish my ex-DJ to have anything to do with my name likeness, events tributes etc. connected in anyway to my situation including any use of my name or circumstance for any reason and I have instructed my lawyers to enforce this. I had nothing to do with him in life for over 7 years and want nothing to do with him in death. Solar has my life story and is well informed on my family situation, as well as the real reason for separating from my ex-DJ. As the sole founder of GangStarr, I am very proud of what GangStarr has meant to the music world and fans. I equally am proud of my Jazzmatazz series and as the father of Hip-Hop/Jazz. I am most proud of my leadership and pioneering efforts on Jazzmatazz 4 for reinvigorating the Hip-Hop/Jazz genre in a time when music quality has reached an all time low. Solar and I have toured in places that I have never been before with GangStarr or Jazzmatatazz and we gained a reputation for being the best on the planet at Hip-Hop/Jazz, as well as the biggest and most influential Hip-Hop/Jazz record with Jazzmatazz 4 of the decade to now. The work I have done with Solar represents a legacy far beyond its time. And we as a team were not afraid to push the envelope. To me this is what true artists do! As men of honor we stood tall in the face of small mindedness, greed, and ignorance. As we fought for music and integrity at the cost of not earning millions and for this I will always be happy and proud, and would like to thank the million fans who have seen us perform over the years from all over the world. The work I have done with Solar represents a legacy far beyond its time and is my most creative and experimental to date. I hope that our music will receive the attention it deserves as it is some of the best work I have done and represents some of the best years of my life.”

Guru, born Keith Elam, rose to fame in the 80’s as the founder of the legendary rap group GangStarr. The group released the classic single Words I Manifest followed by their critically acclaimed debut album No More Mr. Nice Guy (1989) and the classic album Step In The Arena (1991). Guru was the first artist to truly blend Hip-Hop with Live Jazz beginning in 1993, and seeing the vast influences his Jazzmatazz concept has had on the industry, it is clear that Guru’s musical contributions have been way ahead of their time. Guru has worked with such great artists as Herbie Hancock, Isaac Hayes, Donald Byrd, Ramsey Lewis, Roy Ayers, Chaka Kahn, Branford Marsalis, David Sanborn, Bob James, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, Angie Stone, Jamiroquai, Macy Gray and Damien Marley, to name a few. Despite the fact that Guru isn’t hailing from New York, he is noted as a pioneer of the New York sound and true lyrical Hip-Hop. Guru later on joined forces with hit producer Solar and formed his label 7 Grand Records with the goal to keep “real” Hip-Hop alive.

Guru’s longtime partner, Solar, issues an official statement about the lost of the legendary MC which you can read below:

“The world has lost one of the best MCs and Hip-Hop icons of all time — my loyal best friend, partner, and brother, Guru! Guru has been battling cancer for well over a year and has lost his battle! This is a matter that Guru wanted private until he could beat it but tragically this did not happen. The cancer took him. Now the world has lost a great man and a true genius. For the fans that reached out with love and support, I can’t tell you how much that meant to Guru and myself. Guru prepared this letter [read above] while he was in the hospital for the fans. I hope now that Guru has moved on to a better place! Guru is a great Black American Hero and should always be remembered as such and he is much more that just a Hip-Hop icon — he has changed the world for the better. I salute my fallen brother Guru! He will be missed tremendously!” Solar stated.

We will sorely miss Guru, both from a personal and from a professional standpoint. Our warmest condolences to Guru’s family and loved ones at this difficult time.

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcrG05S_xoE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emdVmO_7QA8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eh16a7n_44