Rapper Keith "Guru" Elam, best known as the former frontman of the group Gang Starr, died after a long bout with cancer on April 19, leaving behind a letter to his fans and prompting an outpouring of love on the web.
Guru and his Gang Starr partner DJ Premier helped define the sound of New York's underground hip hop scene in the 1990s, according to MTV.
"Their unique sound combined Premier's production palette, which leaned heavily on sampled jazz records and scratched vocals on the choruses, with Guru's uncompromising rhymes," MTV's Gil Kaufman reports. MTV has put up a collection of interviews with Guru, including one in which he discusses hip hop's influence on pop culture.
Guru's longtime collaborator Solar released a statement, saying, "The world has lost one of the best MCs and hip-hop icons of all-time -- my loyal best friend, partner, and brother, Guru. Guru has been battling cancer for well over a year and has lost his battle!"
Solar says the rapper wrote a letter to his fans while in the hospital. "I, Guru, am writing this letter to my fans, friends and loved ones around the world," it starts. "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."
In the letter, Guru distanced himself from former partner DJ Premier. "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," wrote Guru. "I had nothing to do with him in life for over 7 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."
There is some controversey surrounding Guru's split with Premier, and rumors that Solar was controlling access to the rapper.
Gang Starr premiered in 1989 with their album No More Mr. Nice Guy, and went on to make several well-regarded albums, including critically acclaimed 1998's Moment of Truth.