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Questions raised over Guru death note

By | Published on Wednesday 21 April 2010

There was much speculation yesterday, following the previously reported announcement that GangStarr man Guru had died, over the validity of a letter, apparently written by the rapper on his deathbed, and published by his producer and recent musical collaborator Solar. Some have suggested that the letter, which outlines Guru’s wishes on the handling of his posthumous affairs, amongst other things, was written by Solar himself, while others have said that it’s simply very odd to publish via a press release something that, in places, reads like a last will and testament; especially so soon after someone’s death.

As previously reported, Guru died on Monday after a year’s battle with cancer. He briefly fell into a coma in February after suffering a heart attack, but later issued a statement – again via Solar – saying that he was recovering well after surgery. However, the rapper’s nephew, Justin Nicholas-Elam Ruff, then issued a statement via YouTube saying that Solar was “manipulating” Guru, withholding information about his health and blocking his family from visiting him.

The letter, released by Solar as he announced his musical partner’s death yesterday, said: “I, Guru, am writing this letter to my fans, friends and loved ones around the world. I have had a long battle with cancer and have succumbed to the disease. I have suffered with this illness for over a year. I have exhausted all medical options. I have a non-profit organisation called Each One Counts dedicated to carrying on my charitable work on behalf of abused and disadvantaged children from around the world and also to educate and research a cure for this terrible disease that took my life. I write this with tears in my eyes, not of sorrow but of joy for what a wonderful life I have enjoyed and how many great people I have had the pleasure of meeting”.

He continued: “My loyal best friend, partner and brother, Solar, has been at my side through it all and has been made my health proxy by myself on all matters relating to myself. He has been with me by my side on my many hospital stays, operations, doctors visits and stayed with me at my home and cared for me when I could not care for myself. Solar and his family is my family and I love them dearly and I expect my family, friends, and fans to respect that, regardless to anybody’s feelings on the matter. It is my wish that counts. This being said I am survived by the love of my life, my [son] KC, who I trust will be looked after by Solar and his family as their own”.

The letter then moved on the matter of his ongoing feud with his former GangStarr partner, DJ Premier, saying: “I do not wish my ex-DJ to have anything to do with my name, likeness, events, tributes etc connected in anyway to my situation, including any use of my name or circumstance for any reason, and I have instructed my lawyers to enforce this. I had nothing to do with him in life for over seven years and want nothing to do with him in death. Solar has my life story and is well informed on my family situation, as well as the real reason for separating from my ex-DJ”.

He finished by saying how proud he was of the musical legacy he leaves behind, with GangStarr as well as his ‘Jazzmatazz’ and other solo albums.

It was the section of the statement regarding DJ Premier which many fans found particularly hard to swallow, with some questioning whether a man apparently about to die would want his final words to be an angry rant about a former creative partner. It has been suggested by fans, media folk and other members of the hip hop community that this, and other statements issued in Guru’s name, were in fact penned by Solar.

However, Solar issued a repost to anyone questioning the letter’s authenticity yesterday, telling MTV: “I mean, it’s ridiculous. Guru knew this time would come. The great artist he is, us being intelligent people, we knew there was going to have to be a statement relating to this. Unfortunately, there are those who have the wicked agenda, and just can’t accept that Guru and I have handled this thing as men and not children, and this is how men of honour handle their business. He arranged his press release. I’m the repository of Guru’s life story. I recorded his life story for book and for movies. We’re not foolish. He was diagnosed with cancer well over a year ago. It’s been operations and so forth. It would be ridiculous for him to not be prepared”.

Born in Boston in 1966, Guru, real name Keith Elam, founded GangStarr in 1985, working with various producers before settling on DJ Premier. The duo then released six albums together between 1989 and 2003. In 2005, he began working with Solar, recording his solo album, ‘Version 7: The Street Scriptures’, the first to be released outside his ongoing ‘Jazzmatazz’ series, the same year. They went on to record two more albums together (including the fourth ‘Jazzmatazz’ instalment). The pair also founded the 7 Grand record label together.

PS: It’s worth noting that the Solar at the heart of this story is not French rap man MC Solaar. Because this Solar, although primarily a producer, does some MCing, he is occasionally referred to – including in a past CMU Daily – as MC Solar. But Solar is not Solaar, OK?