Rapper Guru is dead at age 43 after a long battle with cancer. The New York-based hip-hop legend, born Keith Elam, had a heart attack March 2 and subsequently fell into a coma. After seemingly recovering from that hit, Guru lost his battle with a cancer-related disease on April 19. His death was announced on the DJ Premier Blog, a site dedicated to DJ Premier, Guru’s partner in the group Gang Starr.
Gang Starr released six albums between 1989 and 2003, including the critically acclaimed 1998 album Moment of Truth. As a solo artist, Guru pioneered the idea of fusing jazz and hip-hop, creating his series of Jazzmatazz records that featured collaborations with Branford Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, and Erykah Badu, among many others.
Born on July 17, 1966, the Massachusetts native burst onto hip-hop’s underground scene in the late 1980s. His rhymes were equal parts aggressive, uplifting, and witty.
Guru’s manager, Solar, released a statement confirming his artist’s death.
“The world has lost one of the best MCs and Hip-Hop icons of all-time — my loyal best friend, partner, and brother, Guru,” he said. “Guru has been battling cancer for well over a year and has lost his battle! This is a matter that Guru wanted private until he could beat it, but tragically, this did not happen. The cancer took him. Now the world has lost a great man and a true genius.”