I’m a little late on this but I’ll take a the pass cause I found this really great.I just ran into this on Vimeo.It pretty much speaks for itself and Brian Pace who posted this and wrote the excellent write up about this on Vimeo killed it.So long story short Thank You Brian 🙂 and enjoy!!! Rest In Peace (RIP) Keith “Guru” Elam
The Pace Report: “Revive Da Live’s Big Band Tribute to Guru” The Keith Elam Tribute Segment
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One of the most important groups in hip-hop was Gang Starr. Consisting of DJ Premier and MC Guru (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal), the two men would make a dent in music.The guys would go on to make make an unprecedented six recordings spanning over two decades. Their raw street edge as well as lyrics that range from the awareness of gang violence, to the praise and respect of black culture and history, Guru and Primo didn’t sell their soles to the rap game and the record business.
To really understand the real legacy of Gang Starr, here’s a brief history of how the two connected. Guru was born Keith Edward Elam on July 17th, 1961 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Elam’s parents, his father a prominent lawyer and now judge, and mother worked in the Boston public schools, stressed education to all of his siblings. Before beginning his rap career in earnest, Guru graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1983 and took graduate classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
Music was his passion as he decided to quit graduate school during the early 1980’s. As hip-hop was shaping up to become a music force which later would become mainstream, he’d rap under the name of MC Keithy E. It wasn’t until 1986 when he changed his name to Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, a.k.a Guru. A year later he founded the group Gang Starr hooking up with DJ and producer Premier. The two ended up with a record deal on Wild Pitch Records and dropped their first album “No More Mr. Nice Guy” in 1989. Their debut single “Manifest” was an instant classic and was a hit on both radio and the new video music formats that developed during rap’s infancy.
It wasn’t until director Spike Lee used the group’s signature record “Jazz Thing” for his 1990 movie “Mo Better Blues” that put them on the map. Premier began really using a lot of jazz riffs for break beats introducing the Hip-Hop generation to the music a lot of MCs and rappers were using as samples. When the duo dropped their second release “No More Mr. Nice Guy” was the calm before the storm. Primo’s signature production and cutting over his beats added to the gritty rhyming style of Guru. By their third release “Daily Operation,” the group recorded a classic triggering off a slew of crate gems like “Take It Personal,” and “Code of the Streets.”
Guru took a bold leap when he produced and spearheaded what would become a landmark in Hip-Hop. His 1993 release of “Jazzmatazz” volume 1 would be one of the most important crossroads in both jazz and rap. Guru recorded a record of original music along with some sampled jazz loop, along with some of the living legends of the music. The disc featured Branford Marsalis, Ronny Jordan, Courtney Pine, Lonnie Liston Smith, Roy Ayers, and Dr. Donald Byrd. Fusing both a live jazz band with rap was both ingenious and a critical success. He would also go on to record three other “Jazzmatazz” projects featuring diverse artists like Kem, Bob James, Vivian Green, and Chaka Khan.
Both he and Primo would ride high on the success of their solo projects as well as other Gang Starr projects like “Moment of Truth” in 1998 and their last record “The Ownerz” in 2003. But friction between the two as well as the change in climate of rap music took a toll on them both creatively. Guru formed 7 Grand Records with producer and rapper Solar in 2005 and released the fourth volume of “Jazzmatazz.” and in the summer of 2007 released what would be his last record before his timely illness.
Guru died on April 19, 2010 at age 47 while battling cancer for over a year and a half. He suffered a heart attack that lead him into a coma.
The Revive Da Live Music Group paid tribute to Guru at Le Poisson Rouge as part as their 5th year anniversary. For the last five years Revive Da Live has produced innovative and fresh programming that continues forge both the legacy of hip-hop and jazz music. The Revivalist is a daily music and cultural blog that keeps abreast of the latest in the world of jazz, hip-hop, and happenings of the pull of urban America. These guys have been able to successfully take their shows all over the world featuring the likes of legendary musicians like Pete Rock, Roy Ayers, and Stefan Harris.
The Big Band Tribute was arranged and conducted by trumpeter Igmar Thomas and pianist/accompanist Marc Cary. These two divided the show into two parts: 1) featuring the music of Gang Starr. This included the music performed by the Revive De Live Big Band that showcased the music of both Guru and DJ Premier. 2) showcase and feature music from Guru’s solo “Jazzmatazz” recordings. The Hip-Hop community showed up in full featuring live performances from Peter Gunz, Lord Finesse, O.C., Jeru the Damaja, and Greg Nice of Nice and Smooth.
Guru’s musical legacy was timeless in that he invented music that will be around long after he’s gone. Raising the bar on producing great music while elevating black culture without the exploitative and negative stigma that has seeped into this generation’s Hip-Hop. A true original and a Hip-Hop icon around the world. The mere fact that Revive Da Live and their big band performed his music proves that Guru’s gone, but not lost.
by Brian Pace
Rest In Peace (RIP) Keith “Guru” Elam (July 17, 1961 – April 19, 2010)