Moment of Truth: Goodbye, Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal


I got one lyric pointed at your head for starters
Another one, is pointed at your weak ass heart…

Keith Elam was a Boston rapper who succumbed to cancer on April 19, 2010 at the age of 43.

Everyone knew him as Guru (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal) and he was one of the best rappers that I’ve ever heard.

He was the lyrical half of the legendary Gang Starr crew along with the stone cold DJ Premier.

During hip-hop’s mythical golden age – a period of time encompassing Public Enemy‘s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988), Dr Dre‘s The Chronic (1992), and The Wu-Tang Clan‘s classic Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers (1993) – Gang Starr dropped 3 classic records and commanded a ton of respect from audiences and rappers everywhere.

He was the nearly perfect rapper for his time.

He had genuine style, masterful next level lyrical skills and the best DJ on or off the map.  He would battle anybody at anytime and many of the songs on the first 3 Gang Starr records are battle tracks.

And when the golden age started to fade and new styles emerged, Guru dropped the first Jazzmatazz record and blazed a whole new trail.

Gang Starr would go on to throw down 3 more excellent studio records and a couple of compilations.  DJ Premier recorded countless mixes and Guru guested on countless singles.

It’s tough to imagine that Guru is gone so early.  I didn’t even know that he was sick.  But when I think of the quality of work that he did, the imagination and conviction and positivity that he brought to every record that he cut, I can’t help but think that any of us would be blessed to achieve even a fraction of that work with even a fraction of that passion and authenticity.

But don’t take it from me.

Here’s what Kool Mo Dee wrote about Guru in his classic book There’s a God on the Mic: The True 50 Greatest MCs

“…Guru is the kind of MC that I live for.  A positive lyricist who can flow and bring it across effectively!  Guru has an elite level of respect from me because he always, always, always brings so much substance… If you want to hear some of the best Hip-Hop work ever done, pick up their LPs.  ALL OF THEM!!!

Pop America may not know it, and some of urban America might not know, but I know, and I’m telling you, Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, GURU, IS ONE OF THE GREATEST EMCEES EVER.”


Sean Cranbury is the Executive Editor of Books on the Radio. He's also Founder and Creative Director of the Real Vancouver Writers' Series. Sean is General Manager at the legendary Storm Crow Tavern and consults with literary arts organizations on digital communications strategies.

1 Comment

  • Reply April 20, 2010


    great tribute post, Sean. this is a loss indeed.

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