As one half of the seminal duo, Gang Starr, Keith "Guru" Elam embodied a New York demeanor. Still, the rapper—who died Monday after a long bout with cancer—influenced many not based within the five boroughs.
Award-winning Atlanta producer DJ Toomp remembers DJ Premier's right-hand MC for his black nationalistic messages.
"First thing that ran through my mind [when I heard Guru had passed] was [the video for] 'Manifest,' when he had those glasses on and looked like Malcolm X", Toomp shared with VIBE. "I will always visualize him as the first rapper who got on TV and portrayed Malcolm X. That song and video had a strong impact on me because I’m a huge pro-black brother. So I’m going to always remember him as that dude."
The producer, who was defeated by Dr. Dre in the first round of VIBE's Greatest Hip-Hop Producer of All Time tournament, also expressed the main factors that sustained Guru as an icon.
"Guru always kept it one hundred, that's a big part of what makes him a hip-hop legend. He was always about putting a positive message out there. You got a lot of cats who was riding on that for a minute, but when the game changed you didn’t hear from them," he says. "But dude was still coming back. He was the first dude to get on a straight jazz track and take it there. You have to give it to him straight up, he was an innovator." —Tracy Garraud