EXPIRED: 04/19/10 – Keith Elam, 47, grew up in Roxbury, Massachusetts. For many in Roxbury, at the time, you had two career choices. You could join a gang – or you could dream about becoming a star and getting out of the hood.
For Elam it was different. His dad was a Boston judge. His mom was a major force in the Boston public school system. Elam went to college in Atlanta and graduated with a business degree and later took courses in fashion at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
But Elam still had Roxbury in his blood – that conflict of gang member and stardom. He dropped out to pursue a rap career.
He started at the mic as MC Keithy E, then formed a band called Gang Starr in 1987. He changed his name to Guru at the time, stating it stood for “Gifted Universal Rhymes Unlimited.” Other times he explained that Guru was an acronym for “God is Universal; Ruler Universal” a reference to the teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths.
GangStarr’s original 3 CDs failed, so Guru added some new members to the line-up, including DJ Premier, and they started a fruitful and successful period. 1998’s Moment of Truth and the following year’s Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr went gold.
Over the last two decades, Elam also released 4 records of collaborations with other artists under the titles Jazzmatazz Volumes 1-4. Contributors included: Donald Byrd, N’Dea Davenport, Roy Ayers, Chaka Khan, Ramsey Lewis, Branford Marsalis and Jamiroquai.
He also released solo records in 2005 and 2009. The first, Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures was produced by Solar and only reached #54 on the Billboard R&B albums charts, receiving mixed reviews.
Elam’s more recent Guru 8.0: Lost And Found, released last year, also in collaboration with Solar, fared better.
There’s some controversy around Elam’s death.
On February 28, 2010, Elam went into cardiac arrest and, following surgery, fell into a coma. Solar was with him during his final days, as was Elam’s family and DJ Premier. Solar allegedly claims that Elam had briefly wakened from his coma. DJ Premier and members of Elam’s family stated that he never regained consciousness. Meanwhile, the family claim that Solar prevented them from contact with Elam during the his final days.
And then there’s a death-bed letter that Solar says he has in his possession that he’s not showing anyone – or so the rumor goes.
Regardless. What is known is that a planned Gang Starr reunion for a 7th album is off. Permanently.