Rapper Guru, who attained fame with his conscious, jazz-inflected brand of hip-hop in the groups Gang Starr and Jazzmatazz, died Monday after a long battle with cancer. He was 43.
The rap performer had been hospitalized in February after suffering cardiac arrest and falling into a coma.
Born Keith Elam and raised in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, he founded Gang Starr in the ’90s in New York; his professional handle was an acronym for “Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal.”
Working in tandem with DJ Premier, Guru flexed a jazzy hip-hop style that eschewed gangsta rap clichés. Gang Starr released six albums between 1989 and 2000; the group’s bestseller, 1996’s “Moment of Truth,” climbed to No. 6 on the national charts.
After a bitter split with Premier, Guru founded Jazzmatazz, which took his fusion of jazz and hip-hop even further by employing such well-known instrumentalists as Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock and Ramsey Lewis. The unit’s fourth and final album was issued in 2007.