I’m a little too young to be shattered by Guru’s passing — I mostly think of him in the context of Gang Starr, and of Gang Starr as the group that got a lot of great DJ Premier beats and made magic with them — but it’s hard not to be hurt by another hip-hop legend dying early.
Dying young isn’t new to entertainment or music, sure, but hip-hop artists dying young when the art form is still more or less in its nascence (consider that video games are older than hip-hop, Pong predating “Rapper’s Delight” by five years) seems especially cruel. Losing titans like Big, Pac and Big L to murder is bad; illness taking away people like Dilla, Big Pun, Eazy-E, and Guru makes rap feel ever more precious, ever more an object of youth.
Maybe this is why I think “Young Forever” seems less like appropriated ’80s kitsch for rap’s first lounge act, and more like a timeless slice of the strain to remain young or Young: However old you get, you will be preserved in time by what you created at the moment you created it, and if you did things in your youth, it will be that part of your life that gets remembered.
So I hope Guru is remembered as the rapper who justified the Gifted Unlimited, Rhymes Universal sobriquet and made great, gritty music, and not as the pawn of a disturbingly controlling “friend” in his sickness.
I also wish someone would blend up “Mass Appeal” and the best song Incubus ever recorded, “Drive,” so I could stop thinking of “A vague and haunTING mass ap-pe-yul” when I let that Preemo beat play in my head. But that’s me.
Rest in peace, Keith “Guru” Elam.