Born Keith Elam, Guru began his career in the mid-1980s as MC Keithy E. After dropping out of graduate school to pursue a rap career, Guru relied heavily on his jazz background and was considered an influential figure in the hip-hop scene of the 1980s and 90s who successfully bridged hip hop and jazz. Guru partnered with Christopher Martin, DJ Premier, in 1988. Led by his trademark voice full of rich and gravelly tone—the power of which Guru acknowledged in 1994's song "Mostly Tha Voice"— Gang Starr released six influential and critically acclaimed albums, two of which, Moment of Truth and the hits collection Full Clip, were certified gold. Suffering from multiple myeloma, Guru fell into a coma after experiencing respiratory problems. He died in New York at the age of 48.
Guru is an acronym for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal.