Today marks five years since the passing of the emcee Keith “Guru” Elam. The late Hip-Hop icon was best known for his fifteen-year run with DJ Premier as Gang Starr, pumping out classics like “Mass Appeal” and “Just To Get A Rep.” With a gruff voice and rhymes that straddled between street-savvy thinking and exploring challenges faced by Black people, Guru was a unique presence in Hip-Hop and built a respectable legacy over time. He also brought Jazz and Hip-Hop together in his Jazzmatazz album series, which differed from the likes of A Tribe Called Quest in that he inserted Jazz musical sensibilities as well as instrumentation into what he did. He dared to go against the musical grain, but don’t get it twisted: he was also not to be messed with on the mic.
To celebrate the life of the late rapper, The Urban Daily wanted to do something different and put together this list of five times when Guru teamed up with other Hip-Hop veterans. Here are some of the rarer collabos you may not have heard before.
Heavy D – “A Buncha N****s”
Additional Guests: Notorious B.I.G. (As Biggie Smalls), Guru, Rob-O, Third Eye, and Busta Rhymes.
On this track from Heavy D‘s under-appreciated album Blue Funk, the overweight lover brings in a cadre of emcees who were hitting their stride in the early 90s. This track is something of a departure from Heavy D’s other all-star cut “Don’t Curse,” letting everyone here flex their lyrical might without censorship. DJ Premier produced a few tracks on the album, even flipping a Gang Starr interlude for the track “Yes Yes Y’all.”
De La Soul – “Patti Dooke”
Additional Guests: Frank Wes, Fred Wesley, Guru, Larry Goldings, Maceo Parker, Melvin Parker, Pee Wee Ellis, and Rodney Jones.
Guru crossed paths with De La Soul on their Buhloone Mindstate album, providing the hook to this track about refusing to cross over to boost popularity. Several legendary musicians who played with James Brown were on this and a few other album tracks, collaborating with De La Soul in a similar way to Guru’s Jazzmatazz series.
Nice & Smooth – “Down The Line”
Additional Guests: Gang Starr, Preacher Earl, Asu, Melo T., and Bass Blaster.
Using the same sample as the remix of Gang Starr’s “Manifest,” the two duos teamed up with several underground emcees for this lengthy collabo. This track precluded the second and more famous pairing between the two groups, “DWYCK.”
Paul Nice – “Conflict (Remix)”
Additional Guests: Masta Ace and Guru.
This pairing of two veterans representing Brooklyn felt natural when it dropped in the late ’90s. Both of them trade verses here on varying types of conflicts, cautioning against engaging in drama. Guru, who hailed from Boston, became associated with Brooklyn like block parties and Albee Square Mall.
Digable Planets – “Borough Check”
Additional Guests: Alan Goldsher, 7 Karat, Beneficent, Crescents, The, Eye Cee, Lavish, Lee Love, and Stilletto.
When Digable Planets members Doodlebug, Lady Mecca and Butterfly decided to pay homage to Brooklyn on their second album, it was only natural they teamed up with someone who influenced them. Like Guru none of the Digable members come from the NYC borough, but they represented it back when taxi drivers and tourists were scared to travel there. Mos Def fans might recognize the Roy Ayers sample as the same one he used on his “Brooklyn” anthem.
Bonus Track: – “Propaganda”
Additional Guests: Guru, Avrex, and Big Shug.
Released yesterday for the five-year anniversary of Guru’s passing, this song takes some of Guru’s old lyrics and add Avrex and founding Gang Starr member Big Shug to it. Proceeds from purchasing the song or t-shirts with “propaganda” written on them will go towards Guru’s son.