photo by William Hernandez Gang Starr headlining the 2003 Soulfrito Festival in Miami.
My first memory of Gang Starr, the legendary duo of MC Guru and DJ Premier, comes from mid- to late 1992. I was living in Colombia and had a friend with a satellite TV who recorded hip-hop videos from BET's Rap City. I'll never forget the first one I saw, for their classic track "Dwyck," which featured Nice & Smooth and was shot at the pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Fast forward 11 years to October 2003. I was covering the Soulfrito Festival for Urban America Newspaper. Gang Starr was the headliner for the event, and it was worth waiting in the sun all day, almost getting heat stroke. Guru and Primo performed all the hits from their recent album, The Ownerz. It wasn't until after 11 p.m. that they did a press conference, and after that I was able to interview Guru and DJ Premier while they walked to their transportation back to the airport.
I remember vividly walking through a corridor with then, and Guru putting his hand on my shoulder. It felt as if I was walking with Muhammad Ali or George Foreman to boxing ring. I was so excited and nervous interviewing one of my favorite hip-hop groups that my hand holding the tape recorder started trembling. This would turn out to be Gang Starr's last-ever performance in Miami.
A year or so later, I was able to talk to Guru again, this time over the phone, to discuss his Jazzmatazz 7.0 project. That was the last time we spoke.
Guru, born Keith Edward Elam, passed away this past April 19, at age 43, after a year-long battle with cancer. As I type this story my eyes are getting watery and I'm trying my best to hold the tears from coming down my face. We've lost a pioneer, legend, and hero in hip-hop. Rest in peace Guru! Thank You for all the great memories and music throughout the years. My sincere condolences go to the Elam family, the Gang Starr Foundation, and all his fans.
Below, check out another photo of that last Miami show, and official statements from both the Elam family and DJ Premier.
-- William Hernandez
|photo by William Hernandez|
Official statement from the Elam family:
April 21, 2010
The Elam family wishes to thank the fans of our son/brother/father uncle/nephew/cousin Keith aka GURU for the outpouring of love, concern and support.
Our hearts are broken by the loss of someone we loved so much. GURU was devoted to his young son, who will most keenly feel his absence.
GURU suffered from multiple myeloma for over a year. Accrued complications from this illness led to respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. As a result, GURU was in a coma from mid February until his death and never regained consciousness. Early on the morning of April 19th, he became hypertensive due to low blood pressure. He again went into cardiac arrest and slipped away from us.
GURU died far too young but he was, and we are, proud of all his many legendary musical contributions.
The family is not aware of any foundations established by GURU. We know and understand that countless fans want to express their condolences and love and, to that end, we are planning a memorial event in the near future that will be all-inclusive. Please look for further details from the family as they become available.
Official statement from DJ Premier:
IT WAS A SAD DAY FOR ME TO GET CONFIRMATION ON THE DEATH OF A MAN WHO I WILL CONTINUE TO CALL MY BROTHER, KEITH ELAM, BETTER KNOWN AS GURU OF THE LEGENDARY GANG STARR.
FROM 1988-2004, WE EXPERIENCED SO MUCH SUCCESS TOGETHER THAT WE WERE ABLE TO EXPAND OUR BUSINESSES INDEPENDENTLY AND GIVE EACH OTHER WHAT GURU CALLED "CREATIVE SPACE", BEFORE PLANNING TO REUNITE FOR OUR 7TH LP WHEN THE TIME WAS RIGHT. TRAGICALLY, WE WILL NEVER REACH THAT DAY.
I'VE BEEN ASKED TO COMMENT ON A LETTER SPEAKING ILL OF ME WHICH WAS SUPPOSEDLY WRITTEN BY GURU IN HIS DYING DAYS. ALL I WILL SAY ABOUT IT IS THAT OUR TIME TOGETHER WAS BEAUTIFUL, WE BUILT A HIP HOP LEGACY TOGETHER, AND NO ONE CAN RE-WRITE HISTORY OR TAKE AWAY MY LOVE FOR HIM. ONE THING I WOULD NEVER DO IS PLAY AROUND WITH THE TRUTH ABOUT HIS LIFE.
I WILL CELEBRATE GURU'S LIFE... I WILL HONOR HIS MEMORY... I WILL GRIEVE WITH THE ELAM FAMILY OVER HIS UNTIMELY DEATH... I WILL REMEMBER THE GANG STARR FOUNDATION AND ALL OF THE ORIGINAL MEMBERS OF GANG STARR WHO CAME BEFORE ME - WE ALL KNOW EACH OTHER... MOSTLY, I WILL CHERISH EVERYTHING WE CREATED TOGETHER AS GANG STARR, FOREVER. I'M GONNA MISS HEARING HIS SIGNATURE MONOTONE VOICE WHEN HE WALKS IN THE ROOM, BUT THE SONGS WILL ALWAYS BRING IT BACK TO ME....HIS RHYME FLOWS WERE INSANE, AND I WILL NEVER REMOVE HIM FROM MY HEART AND SOUL.......REST IN PEACE TO THE MAN WHO FELT "SATISFACTION FROM THE STREET CROWD REACTION" ... I LOVE YOU GOO.......DJ PREMIER