Keith Elam (July 17, 1966 – April 19, 2010), better known by his stage name Guru, was an American rapper and member of the hip-hop duo Gang Starr. Born in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury. The name Guru is a backronym that stands for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal and the less often used God is Universal; he is the Ruler Universal, which are both references to the teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths.
Guru founded Gang Starr in 1987, and built a sizable following in the early 1990s, releasing classic albums such as Step in the Arena (1991) and Daily Operation (1992).
In 1993, he released his first solo album, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1. The album featured collaborations with Donald Byrd, N’Dea Davenport and Roy Ayers, while his second LP, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality, featured Ramsey Lewis, Branford Marsalis and Jamiroquai.
His “first proper solo album”, in his own words, was Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures (2005), released with the help of producer and new backup MC Solar (who is not to be confused with MC Solaar from France). The album reached #1 on the college hip-hop charts, but was a failure with both fans and critics. It still managed to sell relatively well for an independent release.
Guru’s latest project is the fourth installment in the Jazzmatazz series, entirely produced by Solar. It was released in early June 2007. May 19, 2008 Guru and Solar released Guru 8.0: Lost And Found. All the projects produced by Solar were met with generally negative reviews by critics and fans due to Solar’s lackluster production efforts, yet Guru states he will not work with DJ Premier again.
On February 28 2010 Guru suffered a cardiac arrest and, following surgery days later, fell into a coma. He woke from the coma but died on April 19, 2010 after a long battle with cancer.