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artist information


Born Keith Edward Elam on July 17, 1966 in Boston, Massachusetts, Guru (and occasionally Baldhead Slick), is an American rapper, and the lyrical half of Gang Starr, together with DJ Premier. With his Jazzmatazz album series, he is also considered to be one of the pioneers of hiphop/jazz crossover. The name Guru is an acronym that stands for "Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal" and the less often used "God is Universal, he is the Ruler Universal".


Founded in 1987, Gang Starr built a sizable following in the early 90's, releasing classic albums like, Step in the Arena (1991) and Daily Operation (1992). Guru's lyrical style is based on battle rhymes delivered smoothly, modestly, and with sly wit; he typically avoids using overwhelming charisma, focusing instead on his rhyming ability. His formidable skills on the mic earned him legions of admirers. Over the years he has even taken on younger rappers, including Jeru the Damaja, as proteges. He is credited with DJ Premier for executive producing Jeru's debut, The Sun Rises in the East (1994).

In 1993, he released his first solo album, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1. The album featured collaborations with Donald Byrd, N'Dea Davenport and Roy Ayers, while his second LP, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality, featured Ramsey Lewis, Branford Marsalis and Jamiroquai. The Jazzmatazz albums are commonly considered some of the best rap of the early 90s, Guru's reputation was also bolstered through the continued success of Jazzmatazz, Vol. 3: Streetsoul (2000) and Baldhead Slick & Da Click (2001).

Moreover, recent Gang Starr albums have continued to garner Guru critical acclaim. Prominent Boston underground rapper Mr. Lif frequently cites Guru as a major stylistic influence; he appears as a guest with Lif on the Perceptionists' debut album, Black Dialogue (2005).

Besides Gang Starr, his Jazzmatazz and solo albums, Guru has collaborated with countless artists since the early 90s. Not only in hiphop, but also with artists from various genres such as pop, electronica/dance, acid jazz and even brass bands.

His "first proper solo album", in his own words, was Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures (2005), released with the help of producer and new backup MC and producer Solar (who is not to be confused with MC Solaar from France). The album was a failure with both fans and critics, but it still managed to sell relatively well for an independent release.

Guru's latest project is the fourth installment in the Jazzmatazz series, entirely produced by Solar. It was released in early June 2007 and received good reviews and comments from fans.

Gang Starr's current status and future are unknown.

More on this topic is to be found in the main article for Gang Starr.

Producing, acting and label ownership

Not really unusual for a rapper, Guru also feels home behind the mixing board. He has co-produced all Gang Starr tracks since 1989, and produced (or co-produced) much of his solo and Jazzmatazz work, and has also acted in several movie productions throughout the 90s and 00s.

Besides his Jazzmatazz projects, Guru also started a record label called "Ill Kid Records" in the mid 90s. With some help from DJ Premier, several 12" vinyl singles and the album Guru presents Ill Kid Records were released. Most of the material was by artists loosely connected to either Guru, DJ Premier or the Gang Starr Foundation. However, as of 2005 the label seems to be history, as he founded "7 Grand" with Solar, on which his recent solo singles and albums have been released.


Gang Starr albums are listed in the group's main article.

Jazzmatazz Albums

Album coverAlbum information
 Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1
  • Released: May 18, 1993
  • Billboard 200 chart position: #94
  • R&B/Hip-Hop chart position: #15
  • Singles: "Trust Me", "Loungin'", "No Time To Play" & "Le Bien, Le Mal"
 Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality
  • Released: July 18, 1995
  • Billboard 200 chart position: #71
  • R&B/Hip-Hop chart position: #16
  • Singles: "Watch What You Say" & "Livin' In This World"
 Jazzmatazz, Vol. 3: Streetsoul
  • Released: September 26, 2000
  • Billboard 200 chart position: #32
  • R&B/Hip-Hop chart position: #8
  • UK chart position: #74
  • Singles: "Keep Your Worries", "Lift Your Fist", "Certified" & "Supa Love"
 Jazzmatazz, Vol. 4: The Hip-Hop Jazz Messenger: Back To The Future
  • Released: June 5, 2007
  • Billboard 200 chart position: N/A
  • R&B/Hip-Hop chart position: N/A
  • Singles: "State Of Clarity"

Various Albums

Label Compilation (Various Artists)
Album coverAlbum information
 Guru Presents Ill Kid Records
  • Released: 1995
  • Billboard 200 chart position: -
  • R&B/Hip-Hop chart position: -
  • Singles: -
Baldhead Slick All Star Album
Album coverAlbum information
 Baldhead Slick & Da Click
  • Released: September 25, 2001
  • Billboard 200 chart position: #122
  • R&B/Hip-Hop chart position: #22
  • Singles: "Where's Our Money?!/In Here" & "Cry/Pimp Shit"
Solo Album
Album coverAlbum information
 Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures
  • Released: May 10, 2005
  • Billboard 200 chart position: -
  • R&B/Hip-Hop chart position: #54
  • Singles: "Cave In", "Step In The Arena 2" & "Hood Dreamin"

Guru has appeared on various mixtapes throughout his career, and has released two of those on his own: "The Official Guru Gang Starr Mixtape" (2004, CD, with various freestyles over well-known beats) and "Back To The Future" (2007, CD, in support of Jazzmatazz Vol. 4, with b-sides and remixes).


  • Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories 2005 as 8-Ball
  • Kung Faux 2003 as Voice Over/Various
  • Urban Massacre 2002 as Cereal Killah
  • Grand Theft Auto III 2001 as 8-Ball
  • 3 A.M. 2001 as Hook-Off
  • Train Ride 2000 as Jay
  • The Substitute 2: School's Out 1998 as Little B.
  • Who's the Man? 1993 as Martin Lorenzo