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BBC Radio 1Xtra’s: The Story of Guru

Click here to listen to the audio documentary

Keith Edward Elam was known to the world as Guru – Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal. He made his name as one half of the legendary hip-hop duo Gang Starr and went on to reinvent the genre by fusing jazz with hip-hop in his widely acclaimed Jazzmatazz project.

But this dazzling musical success is just part of his story…a story that ended in tragedy and controversy.

In a unique programme, BBC Radio 1Xtra exclusively hears from Guru’s family, his Gang Starr partner DJ Premier, the stars who worked with him, and Solar, his last business partner, who would be at the centre of the claims and counter-claims surrounding the rapper’s untimely death.

The story starts in Boston and Guru’s father, brother and sister help tell of his growing up there as the son of a judge. Original Gang Starr member Big Shug explains how he taught this well-educated, middle-class kid to rap and of Guru’s move down the coast to the birthplace of hip-hop, New York.

It was in New York that Guru would join forces with DJ Premier to form the now celebrated final line up of Gang Starr. Side-by-side for almost 15 years and six albums, together they pioneered jazz sampling hip-hop, working with Jeru the Damaja, Snoop Dogg, Nice’n’Smooth, Jadakiss, MOP, Big L and Inspectah Deck of Wu Tang. Later Guru’s solo project, the Jazzmatazz series, brought together jazz musicians and rappers including Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, Roy Ayers, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, Kool Keith, Angie Stone and Slum Village.

DJ Premier, rapper Common and Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s Trevor Nelson will all talk about working with Guru, giving listeners an insight into his rhymes, the music, the man and his character. Radio 1Xtra’s DJ Semtex and Benji B will study Guru’s lyrics, style and delivery, looking back at when they first encountered Gang Starr, the group’s early impact on hip-hop, and how Guru’s Jazzmatazz series would cement his place as a musical innovator.

It was while moving back and forth between Gang Starr and Jazzmatazz projects that Guru would first meet the producer Solar. Although Gang Starr never officially split, Guru announced his next musical project would see him work with Solar and they went on set up their own label. It is from this point that The Story of Guru becomes disputed.

In this programme we’ll explore how DJ Premier and members of his family began to feel distanced from Guru, struggling to maintain communication with him. Even so, Guru was busy with Solar, making music and playing live. But when Guru was diagnosed with cancer, the real problems started.

While Guru lay in hospital his family claimed that Solar banned them and long-term friend DJ Premier from visiting him. Guru’s nephew posted a very public video on YouTube entitled “Guru. The True Story behind hospital and coma” in which he asked people to help him and his family gain access to his uncle, referring to Solar as “manipulative.” However, Solar says he was doing what Guru told him to and so it was Guru who chose who he wanted to visit him.

The situation peaked when Guru died on 19th April, 2010. Solar released a statement, which he says was written by Guru himself, which shocked family, friends and fans alike. Not only did it ask Solar’s family to look after Guru’s son, but it also requested his “ex-DJ” Premier to dissociate himself from Guru’s name. Many believe this letter to have been penned by Solar himself, it caused outrage among many who knew Guru, and in this programme we’ll hear both sides of the story.

Irrespective of the drama, or rights and wrongs of what happened in those final days, no one can dispute that Guru was an incredible artist. He left fans with ten albums to enjoy, including massive hits like ‘Full Clip’, ‘Just To Get A Rep’, ‘Moment of Truth’ and more.

This programme will celebrate the music Guru left behind and try to solve some of the mystery surrounding his untimely death.


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19 Responses to “BBC Radio 1Xtra’s: The Story of Guru”

  • […] Category and Tags: Article BBC, DJ Premier Blog, Guru The Story of Guru BBC Radio 1xtra's: The Story of […]

  • Comment from rollo

    solaar talks too much…he is a lying piece of shit

  • Comment from rollo

    i mean solar the faggot…peace to mc solaar

  • Comment from GEORG

    rest in peace GURU. We miss you.

  • Comment from RC

    solar you mean nigga who, but whatever this radio doc was awsome, good look for BBC for doing this because VH1 or MTV sure as Hell would have never stepped up to the challenge. R.I.P. GURU, we miss you.

  • Comment from Rasmuus

    Great document! I almost cried a little bit at the end credits. R.I.P Guru. You’ll still live on, in my headphones, in my stereo and when i’m mumble your rhymes taking a shower.

  • Comment from Sonny D

    I love these BBC Documentaries. Solaar a fucking dick for all that lying shit that piece of shit has been talking. Rest in peace Guru, forever living on, you’re music will be taught to my kids, and I’ll always keep listening to Gang Starr and Jazzmatazz. He’s the greatest MC, in my head anyway.

    If you like this documentary, they got a J Dilla documentary aswell if you wanna hear that, it’s dope too!

    Rest in Peace Keith Elam Guru.

  • Comment from mecca

    If Guru wanted to tell his family what was going on with his health and life he would of. No man can stop another man from doing anything. Gurus family,Premier& Shug can’t stand the fact that Guru didn’t want to be bothered with them. Because of their way’s and actions. There was deeper issues than what these people are talking about. So its always easier to blame an innocent person (Solar). To ease their conscious.

  • Comment from Phil Watts, Jr.

    As much as I want to disagree with mecca above, his statement about Guru not wanting to be bother with his family or any of the Gangstarr Foundation is unfortunately true, especially considering many of the interviews Guru gave in the last years of his life.

    I remember an interview (I think it was from AllHipHop or some other site) where they originally wanted to go over all of the Gangstarr releases with Guru. Guru felt pissed and threatened to walk because he didn’t want to talk about his past work and just wanted to promote his stuff with John Mosher (since people continuously confuse Solar with Solaar, I’m refer to him by his real name). He was even more pissed off that Mosher wasn’t invited. Also in that interview, he expressed some animosity toward the people of Boston in general because he feels they never gave him the respect he deserved.

    I really wished that Guru and the Gangstarr Foundation had worked something out. I hate the fact that such a great legacy like Gangstarr had ended like this.

  • Comment from rollo

    mecca = nigga who the faggot lol

  • Comment from soulbrother

    You cannot be serious when you call Solar “innocent”!? Whatever you’re thoughts are there is no denying that dude was mad shady and did everything wrong.

  • Comment from mr_b

    it appears that *mecca* is either solar himself or affiliated with him.

    a man of guru’s intelligence and life experiences would not be on his death bed trying to avoid his past. he would be trying to reconcile it. maybe he thought he would live longer, and didn’t know that his body would fail so fast. but in the end solar should have been smart enough to know that any dying man with any ounce of humanity wouldn’t wish anything but love upon is former friends / enemies that helped shape so much of his life. the people of guru’s past had been an integral part in making him the man he was when he died. gifted unlimited rhymes universal didn’t promote hate in his music, why would he in his death?

    thank you to the bbc for producing this. and thank you for your respect for hip-hop.

  • Comment from James

    For the guys who wonder, mecca = Denise Sandoval (Solar’s wife)

  • Comment from Gunnerrrrr Jam

    I don’t have any hate for Solar…The whole controversy is long past now…Guru just decided to move on after Gangstarr…It’s sad Gu left the foundation he started and could have made one last song with Preemo and for his Gangstarr Foundation fans as a way to say thanks for everything and leave on a amicable vibe. Peace RIP Guru:(

  • Comment from Lucio

    most amazing thing i’ve herd in a while preaching straight honesty

  • Comment from Josh Vazquez

    Exposing Soloar Part 1

  • Comment from Josh Vazquez

    Exposing Solar………….Again!

  • Comment from Matt Dangelo

    This interview, giving by Brownman – Guru’s trumpet player in Jazzmatazz – explains everything :

  • Comment from Leo L

    Another shred of evidence that just makes me sad seeing my beloved GURU afflicted with and killed by several deadly diseases. CANCER, PRIDE and HOMOSEXUALITY. GURU you will live forever in my heart and in my mind as one of the pioneers and innovators of the sound that I love. I know that Primo, Shug, and everyone close to you that was affected by your death knows the the truthin their hearts. Solar, rot in peace for not only taking away one of the most legendary MC’s ever, but for doing it in such a classless and evil way. Thank you for showing the world what a worthless piece of garbage you are. Nothing like a good plug promoting that BULLSHIT music you made. Don’t you realize that will NEVER be the Gang Starr or the GURU that people remember. Guru’s real music will live on forever in our hearts and minds. That garbage you make will continue to go down the toilet quicker than the last one did. Solar rot in peace, suck a dick and kill yourself. You’re worthless.

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