Apr 20, 2010
Rap-Jazz pioneer Guru (born Keith Elam) has died after a year long illness with cancer. He was just 43 years old.
A founder of the rap group Gang Starr, Guru came to be synonymous with the melding of jazz beats and rap music in his "Jazzmatazz" series of albums. The first of those releases from 1993 featured original collaborations between hip-hop artists and jazz legends, among them Donald Byrd, Branford Marsalis and Ronny Jordan. Three more volumes followed, the first three all charting in the top 20 on the R&B/hip-hop charts.
Guru first experimented with a rap-jazz fusion when DJ Premier and he were tabbed by Branford Marsalis for the seminal track "Jazz Thing" on the Mo' Better Blues soundtrack. Jazzmatazz, Volume One was called "a rap album for jazz fans and a jazz album for rap fans, skillful and smart, clean when it needs to be and gritty when that's more effective, helping to legitimize hip-hop to those who doubted it".
Guru did more than take samples from jazz records and use them for his material. He had real musicians play real music in his studio, and rapped over their jams. While this might not sound revolutionary, in fact few if any others in the hip-hop community have been moved to try the same thing. And that's what made Guru special.
Click here and enjoy Guru jamming with Herbie Hancock (keyboards)on "Timeless", from his StreetSoul CD.