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Remembering Guru of Gang Starr; alleged letter to fans causes controversy

gang starrGuru, right, was one half of hugely influential hip-hop group Gang Starr, along with DJ Premier. Guru died from cancer on Monday. (Daniel Hastings)

By Sarah Godfrey

Guru, one half of seminal hip-hop group Gang Starr, passed away after a battle with cancer on Monday, but controversy is already swirling in regard to a letter the 43-year-old rapper allegedly wrote to fans on his deathbed.

This morning, Yo! Promotions, a PR agency which lists Guru as one of its clients, released a statement from producer Solar, Guru's most recent musical partner and caretaker. Solar has provided updates on Guru’s health since the rapper suffered a heart attack back in February.

In the statement, Solar said, "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.”

The release also included a controversial letter to fans, provided by Solar, that was said to have been written by Guru himself. The letter lauds Solar, while blasting Guru's Gang Starr collaborator, DJ Premier.

The letter reads: "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."

Many hip-hop fans have already taken to Twitter to denounce the letter as a fake. Yo! Promotions said in an email to the Washington Post that the release contains "official statements that have been approved by Solar."

(Remembering Guru and his music, after the jump.)

Born Keith Elam, the Boston native delivered dense, thoughtful lyrics in a trademark monotone flow over jazz-sample-driven, scratch-heavy beats from legendary producer DJ Premier. Together, the duo created one of the most revered sounds in hip-hop, releasing classic albums including 1989’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” 1991’s “Step in the Arena” and 1992’s “Daily Operation.”

Guru launched a solo career in the early ‘90s with his collaborative "Jazzmatazz" series, which paired the MC with a variety of jazz musicians, from Donald Byrd to Branford Marsalis and soul singers, including N’Dea Davenport of the Brand New Heavies. The successful works helped to silence hip-hop fans who maintained that Guru was entirely dependent on the iconic beat-making of Premier. While releasing solo efforts, the MC continued to record with Premier as Gang Starr for 1994’s “Hard to Earn,” 1998’s “Moment of Truth,” and the group’s final outing, 2003’s “The Ownerz.”

In later years, Guru collaborated with producer/partner Solar, releasing less critically acclaimed music through 7 Grand Records.

By Sarah Godfrey  |  April 20, 2010; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  News  | Tags: DJ Premier, Guru, Solar  
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I had no idea he was a sick. "Step in the Arena" is a classic, and so was "Daily Operation." I still hear portions of the classic "ex-girl" in songs nowadays from time to time. One of the first rap groups to bring in classic jazz samples to rap.

May he rest in peace, and shame on this company for either faking a letter or having an incoherent man sign a paper on his death bed.

Posted by: gt0571a | April 20, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

wow. The letter makes you wonder why he wanted nothing to do with Primo. It may come out eventually....maybe not if it's going to cause a stir. Maybe Solar will speak on it.

Anyways, one of the best and slickest to ever do it. Daily Operation is my all-time fav. R.I.P. Guru.

Posted by: cbmuzik | April 20, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

A sad day for true hip hop fans across the world. His music will live on!!! RIP Guru

Posted by: mmurphy6 | April 20, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Terrible news. I too had no idea that Guru was having health problems. All the drama aside, this is a sad day for hip hoppers all over. RIP.

Posted by: Shaybert78 | April 20, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Never heard of these people.

Posted by: forgetthis | April 20, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Gang Star was all about the trashy side of life.

Posted by: demtse | April 20, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Gang Star was all about the trashy side of life.

Posted by: demtse | April 20, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse


No he wasn't...listen to his music b*tch!

Posted by: rickyroge | April 20, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

RIP to the god...

As far as the falling out goes, Preemo doesn't appear to know what it was about and Solar is talking reckless.

At any rate, GangStarr will always be...

Posted by: kahlua87 | April 20, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Damn -I was listening to Moment of Truth over the weekend. RIP Guru!
GangsStarr one of the best ever!

Posted by: doesntmatter | April 20, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

guru's dead?

Hell, I didn't even know he was alive.

Goes to show how insignificant he was.

Posted by: rcubedkc | April 20, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

These guys got me through college in the '90s... It's a shame he and Primo had to end like that but like they say, "Everything ends badly, or else it wouldn't end". RIP

Posted by: bigceedee | April 20, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

"Gang Starr"

One would think Mr. and Mrs. Starr would have chosen a more appropriate first names for this and their other son, Porn....

Posted by: pgr88 | April 20, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse


I hope that when your day comes someone shows you the respect that you DID NOT SHOW on this thread...sometimes it is better to keep your thoughts to yourself rather than show how ignorant and disrespectful u are...have some class for the people who have lost someone they loved...liked or looked up to...DAMN!!!

Posted by: LadyT1 | April 20, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Genius- I think not. Hip hop is talentless moronic childish garbage. Throw a few inane rhymes together to a non musical beat and call it music. This countrys great black music is perishing- Jazz greats, Blues, motown and for what. Hip Hop garbage. Truely sad to see these bored thugs idolized.

Posted by: candjstone | April 20, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Genius- I think not. Hip hop is talentless moronic childish garbage. Throw a few inane rhymes together to a non musical beat and call it music. This countrys great black music is perishing- Jazz greats, Blues, motown and for what. Hip Hop garbage. Truely sad to see these bored thugs idolized.

Posted by: candjstone | April 20, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

@forgetthis: then why comment, dick?

@demtse: obviously retarded. Yo should use your real name to take credit for being so stupid. Nice work!

Posted by: spf1 | April 20, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

WTF, when will the post start to honor pedophiles?

Posted by: goziner | April 20, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

stupid @$$ trolls, if you don't like hip hop get the hell out of this thread.
RIP Guru.

Posted by: DadRyan | April 20, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

@goziner, like who? Michael Jackson?

Posted by: DadRyan | April 20, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

He was one of the greats, and the music Gang Starr made epitomized what was happening in hip-hop in the early 90s. I hope they settle this issue in the letter and have some needed tributes.

To the disrespectful comments: before it was mainstream, people wrote off jazz, blues and rock, and they called it noise, trash and talentless. Now you hear all of those styles without thinking twice about it. Coming from a family of musicians, my grandfather didn't GET jazz, my dad didn't GET punk, but their son did. There's going to be music coming out now (I'm 40) that I may not get, but that doesn't mean I should dismiss it.

Don't criticize what you can't understand, the times they are a changin'.

Posted by: eadc | April 20, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

@DadRyan well put...

RIP Guru...

Posted by: SoehntheExit | April 20, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Guru RIP! Gang Starr is one of the best hip hop groups of all time and they dropped so many classic albums. 90% of "rappers" on TV and radio these days have less talent in their bodies than Guru had in a single hair.

Posted by: miknugget | April 20, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

CANDJSTONE: you are lucky these posts are anonymous or Guru's "crew" would probably spray your house with machine gun fire!

Posted by: pgr88 | April 20, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

@SoehntheExit...Motion seconded.

The trash-talkers and know-nothings realize so little about the truth of the game. It is pointless to try and elucidate the message to them. They neither want to nor are able to understand it.

BTW - I'd take Soehn over Onalfo at this point.

Posted by: Ken_Davis1 | April 20, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

RIP Guru: Not the flashiest or the loudest just the best.

To All the Trolls, get a life, find another thread to hijack.

Posted by: hoos3014 | April 20, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Try to make a good first impression.

Posted by: whocares666 | April 20, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse


You also may not know who Gershwin, Mozart, Duke Ellington, Scott Joplin or the Delfonics are either without the help of a search engine. Does that make them any less significant to music or just proves your ignorance of music?

Posted by: ged0386 | April 20, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

@eadc: you said it all right there.

In my eyes, they just don't make 'em like GURU and Premier anymore.

Posted by: hatchlaw | April 20, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Never heard of him. He's insignificant now as he was.

Posted by: willtill | April 20, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

GURU was and will always be one of the BEST MC's EVER!!! Him and Primo were a pair that could not be touched. I liked a lot of his work, but my favorite track would either have to be "Rite where U stand" or "Full Clip". And to those on this post talking S%#t about Guru, all i have to say is listen to the Gang Starr Full Clip: A Decade of Hits. It's a great anthology and it wont let you down. You will be missed buddy.

Posted by: AdamAhmed | April 20, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Look at these idiots!

Posted by: jhayne5 | April 20, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Nice posture. f you too.

Posted by: mr14sunshine | April 20, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Who? Never heard of him or them.
All I see is another punk trying to be gangsta and perpetuating the lifestyle that keeps blacks in the ghetto and poor.
Good riddance

Posted by: dbeins | April 20, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

t1, are you really saying I, or anyone, should have respect for these low life mongrels who show zero respect for anyone or anything else. They and that crap they call music is garbage and will be thrown on the trash heap of history as soon as some of you learn that filthy, violent lyrics and a monotonous beat does not equal music.

To put these talentless punks in the same category as Gershwin, Mozart, Duke Ellington, Scott Joplin should be considered a crime. I didn't care for the Delfonics although I have one of their albums.

If all these guy are so tough, why doesn't guru's "crew" of mental cases head on over to Afghanistan and end the war all by themselves. They'd crap their pants if real bullets were whizzing over their heads.

Posted by: rcubedkc | April 20, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Genius- I think not. Hip hop is talentless moronic childish garbage. Throw a few inane rhymes together to a non musical beat and call it music. This countrys great black music is perishing- Jazz greats, Blues, motown and for what. Hip Hop garbage. Truely sad to see these bored thugs idolized.

Posted by: candjstone | April 20, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, you're not a musician. I compose all types of music, everything from jazz, hip-hop, neo-classical, electronica and fusion.

Hip-hop, the TRUE form, not what you're hearing today on the radio, is a true art form. Lyrically speaking, Guru was the best of the pack. His message was deeper than some politicians.

There are hip-hop artists that are so connected to the world scene I'd rather listen to them than a news broadcast because it's all garbage (FOX News specifically). And that's what real hip-hop gave it's listeners, the truth about the world. You no longer get that in today's rap because hip-hop isn't even played on the radio anymore.

Real BLACK music, as you say, some forms of it is boring and dumb as well. Don't feed into that "historical" crap you've been spoon-fed through the media and preservationists of musical genres. There are blues musicians who are garbage, jazz musicians who are garbage, add a big fat Kenny G to that pile, there are country musicians who are trash, you name ANY genre. They have musicians who can't compose worth a lick. I have sat down with Russian citizens who will kill you over classical artists and don't get them started on who's the greatest or more technically correct or a much more influential composer of their country or the world's time line. I almost saw two guys fight over this! The debate? Beethoven was better than Chopin. I couldn't believe it...haha! but as passionate as they were, who was I to say their music was boring or garbage or nonsense? I learned classical and like it as much as the next man...I just couldn't understand the fervor of these men.

So until you do your research, don't make biased comments...this coming from someone who has had classical training and loves music of all sorts.


Posted by: cbmuzik | April 20, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm always confused as to why people who are ignorant or aren't interested in a particular topic come in threads to make pointless, disrespectful comments. It's too bad some folks minds are so closed because they're missing an opportunity to hear the fun, refreshing, and insightful music Gang Starr produced in their heyday.

RIP to Guru. Your life lives on with the great music you gave us

Posted by: Solnoir | April 20, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Sad day for hip-hop, Jazzmatazz was sooo could put that on at a dinner party and folks would relax and chill to the sounds. I frequently used the music as a wind down from the a matter of fact...Here you go Guru. I'm winding down with my chardonnay, and you.. RIP

Posted by: LizPurcellDavis | April 20, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse


my comment to you wasn't based on the music itself and I have already wasted too much of my precious time on you and your narrow minded I will not try and explain what I meant...BUT I will just pray that you are not in a position to have influence over others and that your lil thoughts just stay as that your lil thoughts....

Posted by: LadyT1 | April 21, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

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