Rapper/composer Guru (real name Keith Elam) first rose to prominence as the “lyrical half” of the hip-hop duo Gang Starr, one of the first outfits that attempted to fuse jazz with rap. After three albums by Gang Starr hit record store shelves (1989’s No More Mr. Nice Guy, 1991’s Step in the Arena, and 1992’s Daily Operation), Guru launched his own solo career, issuing Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 in 1993. The album featured guest appearances by the likes of Roy Ayers, Donald Byrd, and N’Dea Davenport of the Brand New Heavies, and was followed up two years later by a sophomore solo outing, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality, which again featured a variety of special guests (including Ramsey Lewis, Branford Marsalis, and members of Jamiroquai).
Despite his solo career, Guru remained true to Gang Starr as well, continuing to contribute to further albums such as 1994’sHard to Earn and 1998’s Moment of Truth. In 2000, five years after his second solo outing appeared, Streetsoul (the third in the Jazzmatazz series) was issued, again featuring a stellar cast of supporting characters: Herbie Hancock, Isaac Hayes, the Roots, Erykah Badu, and Macy Gray. Wasting little time, Guru returned directly to the recording studio, issuing a follow-up one year later, Baldhead Slick & da Click.
It took four years for the next Guru release, Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures, to come out, the first on his new label, 7 Grand Records, with beats by Solar(who became a vital force on 7 Grand’s subsequent releases). The MC used the same producer for his next installment of Jazzmatazz, Vol. 4, which, as always, included a number of guest vocalists and instrumentalists and was released in the summer of 2007, along with the “raw” companion disc Guru’s Jazzmatazz – The Timebomb: Back to the Future Mixtape.Guru 8.0: Lost and Found, the rapper’s fourth full-length release on 7 Grand, followed in 2009. In addition to the aforementioned artists, Guru collaborated with some of rap music’s best-known producers, including fellow Gang Starr member DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Alchemist, Ayatollah, and DJ Spinna, as well as Ice-T, Naughty by Nature‘s Treach, Killah Priest, and Ed O.G. After battling cancer, Guru suffered a heart attack on February 28, 2010 and fell into a coma from which he later emerged; however, he died on April 19, 2010 at the age of 43.