The following article will appear in tomorrow's Boston Phoenix, which went to print late yesterday, before GURU released this statement to AllHipHop.com. As reported, he is doing well. Furthermore, though, he is no longer in a coma. We're all pushing for a big recovery here; hopefully this woke some hip-hop fans up to how we need to respect the architects while they're still here with us.
“So whassup?” “Moment of truth.” “Above the clouds?” “Credit is due.” Those were just a few Gang Starr song-title sentiments that fans cried on social networks following the news that hip-hop legend Guru suffered a heart attack in New York City, where he has been hospitalized in a coma since Saturday.
Besides Brooklyn, where Guru and Texas-born producer DJ Premier helped write the blueprints for East Coast boom bap, the news especially rocked Boston, where Guru was born Keith Elam in 1966. Since word of his comatose condition surfaced, several national reports traced his career back to the landmark 1989 single, “Words I Manifest.” But in Roxbury, many memories go back further, to the mid-’80s when Elam rocked microphones as M.C. Keithy E.
“He was always an excitable dude who was trying to do the next big thing,” says Big Shug, a Gang Starr member who is in touch with Premier and others who have gathered at Guru’s hospital bedside. “He was smart and ambitious — once he learned about the rap game and decided that was what he wanted, he never stopped from there.”
Though raised on tough blocks, Guru does not have a stereotypical hip-hop pedigree. His father, Harry J. Elam, was the first African-American judge appointed to the Boston Municipal Court of Massachusetts. In high school, Guru rode the METCO bus to Cohasset; later he graduated Morehouse College in Atlanta. No doubt his worldly experiences manifested in some of the most enlightened street-savvy cuts in hip-hop history.
The Gang Starr catalogue is deep, with six celebrated full-lengths spanning nearly 15 years. As a solo artist, Guru is best known for his four remarkable Jazzmatazz compilations, in which he teamed with the likes of Branford Marsalis for organic feats that would inspire countless hip-hop artists to dig beyond samples and experiment with live instrumentation.In recent years, Guru has mostly worked with Solar, his producer and partner in 7 Grand Records. In September 2008, the duo performed a memorable tribute to John Coltrane at Northeastern University, and the year after dropped the album Lost and Found. Through it all, there has been much speculation about the state and fate of Gang Starr, as Shug and Premier have for several years remained at an amicable distance from Guru. That said, it appears that personal differences have already been forgotten.
“All that stupid shit is out the window right now,” says Shug. While Guru remains in a med-induced coma, Shug reports that his Monday surgery was successful, and his brain is relatively healthy despite being deprived of air in an asthmatic episode that led to his heart attack. “He still has a long road to recovery, but the whole Gang Starr family is with him the whole way.”