10 years ago today we lost one of Hip-Hop’s greatest emcees and someone I was fortunate enough to call a friend – Keith ‘Guru’ Elam!
I’d been a fan of Gang Starr since Guru and Premier’s early work on Wild Pitch but in 1994 my connection to the group became personal when the “Hard To Earn” album dropped.
I was 18-years-old with dreams of making my mark as a Hip-Hop journalist here in the UK, but at that point my attempts to get my writing in print hadn’t yielded any success.
Guru’s rhymes on “The Planet” immediately struck a chord with me as he detailed the struggles he’d gone through as an aspiring artist trying to get his voice heard in the rap game.
“The Planet” became something of a personal anthem of mine, with a couple of the closing lines from the track sticking in my head as I continued chasing my own break – “But I’ma be aight still, Cos I’ma keep writing s**t and perfecting my skills.”
Fast forward to 1998 and whilst I’d succeeded in getting my work used by a couple of underground / independent outlets, I’d yet to make it into any major publications.
It would be a review I did of Gang Starr’s “Moment Of Truth” album that would change that.
At that point I’d pretty much decided that my writing dreams were unlikely to become the reality I’d been hoping for. But I’d already written that particular Gang Starr review so, thinking of it almost as a last shot, I sent it out to different publications (as I’d already done with numerous other pieces) attached to a cover letter introducing myself.
That “Moment Of Truth” review grabbed the attention of Will Ashon, who was then music editor at Trace magazine, which resulted in me being asked to cover a number of albums for the mag. That refuelled my self-belief to keep pushing on and, shortly after, a few other things fell into place with my work also being used in a number of other publications. The rest, as they say, is history.
I once told Guru that story during one of our many conversations. We were in the back of a London taxi heading to Tim Westwood’s studio for Guru to pre-record a radio interview.
I remember that big smile Guru had came across his face, he dapped me up and said “Yo, I’m pleased to have helped you get to where you needed to be.”
That was a real full circle moment for me and something that I will never forget.
In my experience, Guru was a genuine individual who spoke from the heart whether he was talking on or off the record – he had a relentless passion for the culture of Hip-Hop and was truly grateful for the love his music received.
RIP Guru – thanks for the rhymes, thanks for the inspiration, thanks for the memories- gone but never forgotten!
Myself and Guru in London, 2009