One week ago, on April 19, 2010, Guru—MC of ’90s jazz/hip hop pioneers Gang Starr—passed away from multiple myeloma (a form of blood cancer). But with all the 420 festivities (see the photos) and commemorations (watch the videos), I never got to memorialize him until now.
The eroticism of celebrity death has been on my mind since Type-O Negative singer Peter Steele’s naked cock pics. But even though Type-O’s glamorous/retarded image fascinates me, musically and physically I’ve always preferred Guru. He was hot both on and off the mic.
So in the Jazzmatazz tradition, we have this artistic extrapolation.
Gang Starr—consisting of Guru and DJ Premier—were pretty happening in the 1990s. Back then rappers were taking a pummeling in the media for being terrible influences on kids and stuff. Gang Starr and the new wave of jazzy hip hop were seen as the antidote. They were abstract and artistic and could sidestep charges of selling out, too.
Gang Starr front man Guru (born Keith Elam in Boston on July 17, 1962) had a smart, socially progressive, and masculine—but not anti-female—image. Basically Gang Starr’s bold production and vocals were for the dudes, and the concepts didn’t scare ladies away. Which meant a zillion guys bought the album in an attempt to get laid. I’m sure it worked—Moment of Truth and Full Clip both went gold.
Guru had this deadly serious, aiming-right-at-you style of delivery that was pretty cool. He was like Mile Davis re-born as vocalist—no vibrato allowed. It was all a bit of a throw back to the Black Power proto-rapping of the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron—and it was as close to straight-up talking as you could get, which I liked at the time.
Gang Starr eventually fell apart. The unmarried Guru hooked up with a producer named Solar and the two took some heat. They were accused of being gay, which is like the kiss of death in the hyper-masculine hip hop world.
Here’s Solar denying the “Guru’s gay” rumors to MTV:
“That’s untrue, completely unfounded,” he said. “Guru is a family man, I’m a family man. I don’t want to say anything against anybody living a certain type of lifestyle—everybody is free to live their life how they choose to live it—but that’s not my lifestyle or Guru’s lifestyle. We’re straight men. He dealt with women and family. I dealt with women and family. There’s never been any blurring of the lines whatsoever.”
I think it’s kinda undignified that artists even have to respond to this sort of crap. Then again, if Guru was gay he should’ve just admitted it. It would have been a real step forward for everybody.
But it wasn’t the gay rumors that killed Guru’s career—he had a heart attack and slipped into a coma back in February. He never recovered and died last Monday in New York at age 47.
Though Guru had natural sex appeal he never, as far as I know, appeared nude in Playgirl magazine like Type-O Negative’s singer/architect Peter Steele did. Which is a goddamn shame—Guru was way rad!
Ah well I can dream:
And to preserve the sanctity (and mystery) of Guru’s masculinity, I try to imagine him with a lady…but:
Oh well. Guru and Peter Steele may be gone, but their mighty penises will not soon be forgotten.
Rest in peace, gentlemen..