EMI Music joins music fans around the world in mourning one of hip-hop’s most respected innovators, Guru, who passed away Monday at age 43. Guru’s inimitable MC flow and lyrical style transcended genre, creating an influential new sound and elevating social consciousness in hip-hop. EMI Music and Virgin Records are honored to have had the privilege of working with Guru and his Gang Starr partner Premier for their brilliant, landmark achievements in recorded music, as well as Guru’s acclaimed Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 album.
Critically acclaimed hip-hop duo Gang Starr first hit the scene in 1989 and more than a decade of chart hits followed.
Gang Starr’s DJ/producer, Premier (“Primo”) and MC/lyricist, Guru, experienced their first critical embrace with the release of 1991’s Step In The Arena. The album, an upfront sociopolitical departure from the prevailing style of the time, reached #19 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and #121 on the Top 200. The title track and “Just To Get A Rep” both hit #5 on the Hot Rap Singles chart, while “Lovesick” reached #11.
Through the 1990s, Gang Starr’s chart success improved steadily with each new album release. 1992’s Daily Operation peaked at #14 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and reached #65 on the Top 200, fueled by the #1 Hot Rap single “Take It Personal” and the #5 single “Ex-Girl To Next Girl.” 1994’s harder-edged Hard To Earn took the #2 position on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and #25 on the Top 200, with the chart-crossing hits “Code of the Streets,” “Mass Appeal,” and “Dwyck.”
Four years later, Gang Starr returned with what would become their sole #1 album, 1998’s Moment Of Truth. The album topped Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and reached #6 on the Top 200, and The New York Times praised it as “classicism of the best kind.” Moment Of Truth’s radio hits found success across Billboard’s Rap, R&B, Dance, and Hot 100 Singles charts.
Throughout Gang Starr’s run and beyond, Guru enjoyed great solo success. Since 1993, Guru’s jazz roots have been showcased in his acclaimed solo recordings and performances. For his solo album releases, Guru collaborated with a who’s-who of jazz, hip-hop and soul luminaries, including Roy Ayers, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, the Roots, Erykah Badu, Macy Gray, and Isaac Hayes.
“The longevity comes from being in touch, connected with the streets, being a fan,” Guru told Soren Baker in a July 1999 interview. “Premier and I are fans of the music. We listen to everything. We maintain that hunger, that same energy that we had when we first started in the game.”
Music, hip hop fans and EMI mourn his passing.