5 Years Ago Today We Lost Keith “Guru” Elam & Nothing Was The Same

April 19, 2010 was one of the most difficult days for Hip-Hop Heads. That day, after six weeks in a coma (announced February 28), Keith “Guru” Elam was confirmed dead in a Manhattan hospital. The Gang Starr founder went into cardiac arrest, following the coma in the midst of a private, reportedly year-long battle with myeloma, a form of cancer. A father, a son, and a brother, Guru left so many mourning, including millions of fans and admirers.


In the midst of some difficult and complicated controversies, the final six weeks of Guru’s life brought great consideration to the often-overlooked MC, producer and songwriter. With Gang Starr on hiatus since their 2003 album, The Ownerz, Guru had been working on various independent projects, collaborating with the likes of Common, Jean Grae, and Slum Village, among others. The Boston, Massachusetts-born artist also maintained his Jazzmatazz series (which began in the early 1990s), working with David Sanborn, Bob James, and Ronnie Laws in the final volumes. However, with the passing of one of Hip-Hop’s most consistent and steadfast figures, more than 20 years of music was examined in greater light. While Guru never released a #1 album, or won a major, mainstream award, the MC was enshrined as one of the true masters of his craft.

Although Guru’s name was not mentioned in the 2011 remembrances during that year’s Grammy Awards, the Hip-Hop community mourned loudly. With hospital visits from estranged friends and family, the Gang Starr and Gang Starr Foundation has been a revived focal point, in Guru’s honor. DJ Premier released (and later re-released a mix in his friend, creative partner, and longtime roommate’s honor. Onetime proteges and Ill Kid Records duo Group Home released Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, their first studio album in a decade, which featured another great pupil in Jeru The Damaja. Bumpy Knuckles (a/k/a Freddie Foxxx) joined Premier to make “The Gang Starr Bus.” Pre-New York City Gang Starr member Big Shug released a series of songs about his own partner, including a part in “Propaganda,” premiered earlier this week. Other friends and affiliates including Fat Joe, Doo Wop, Bun B, and Jay Electronica made mention of Guru in verses, songs, and public appearances.

Five years after the fact, Guru continues to receive the love, respect, and attention that he commanded in a career that began in the mid 1980s. The MC who proclaimed “it’s mostly the voice” is remembered for his authoritative style, wisdom-influenced lyrics, and commanding effect on keeping Hip-Hop “hard to earn.

Rest In Peace, Guru.

What is your favorite Guru musical moment?

Related: Gang Starr’s Guru Lives In Spirit. Watch His New Music Video (Premiere)