Why Won’t Solar Let Us Mourn Guru?
The hip hop community lost a legend on April 19 when Guru succumbed to cancer at the age of 43. No words can articulate how significant an impact Gangstarr made on hip hop. There’s nothing else that needs to be said about the rhymes of Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal and the production of DJ Premier that hasn’t been touched. Unfortunately, rather than taking the time to grieve over another lost pioneer, a series of surreal dramatic events are overshadowing the tragic passing of Keith Elam.
What’s truly tragic about the passing of this and other hip hop legends is the drama that seemingly manages to cast a dark cloud over what should be a time of mourning. When looking at Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Big L, Jam Master Jay, Proof and others, one can’t help but notice the controversy right-wing media hounds manage to translate into “dying at the hands of the hip-hop lifestyle.” While the community grieves, the controversial lives of the fallen become the stories that seems to eclipse the fact that a father, husband, brother, son, friend and legendary musician has been lost.
Guru’s life wasn’t cut short from a hail of bullets. What took his life was a condition known as multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood. The condition tragically cut short the life of a man who wasn’t living a lifestyle which could be deemed as violent. The music he made wasn’t controversial nor considered celebratory of an aggressive society. Guru should be mourned properly. But his so-called friend and business partner Solar has prevented this story from being about the loss of Keith Elam.
What Solar has managed to do is beyond unthinkable. As the only individual controlling all of the information before, during and after Guru went into a coma after suffering cardiac arrest on February 28, Solar could have handled the situation in a more dignified way than he has thus far. Initially shrouding the situation in secrecy was bizarre but understandable. As a private person, I comprehend how one wouldn’t want to get the media involved until the situation is resolved. Depending on the severity of the condition, one could also understand if Guru didn’t want anyone—including his family—to see him at his weakest. But all of this is hypothetical—we don’t know if these were Guru’s true wishes.
What’s turned the community on its ear and put everything we thought we knew in question is what transpired after Guru’s passing. Solar released a letter, supposedly penned by Guru, that was a shock to those who read it. In the letter, Guru spends a majority of his time showering Solar with praise. Following the words dedicated to his “partner,” the letter shifts gears to completely disconnect DJ Premier from anything that has to do with Guru’s “likeness, events tributes etc. connected in any way to my situation, including any use of my name or circumstance for any reason and I have instructed my lawyers to enforce this.” It then goes back to praising Solar before saying the work he and Solar did “represents a legacy far beyond its time.”
Those that have either worked or been close to Guru were immediately up in arms over the letter. Not a single person close to Guru—outside of Solar—believe these are Keith’s words. Releasing a letter such as this seems to be an egotistical move by Solar, crafted to push his personal agenda. If these were truly Guru’s words, the release of the letter could have waited until the initial shock of his passing set in.
Mind you, Solar also released a statement—again, supposedly written by Guru—on March 31 stating he had come out of the coma and was recovering. The letter is being challenged by Guru’s family who state he never came out of the coma.
So what’s the deal here?
To make matters worse, Solar went to MTV News to discuss the letter no more than 48 hours after Guru’s passing. You couldn’t help but notice the look Sway was giving Solar. The explanation was hollow and seemed rehearsed. It lacked the passion someone has when they lose a loved one. It was defensive of Solar rather than complimentary of Guru. Far be it from me to say how one should or shouldn’t mourn. But all of these circumstances compound into a situation bordering on and becoming completely bizarre.
Since his death, numerous people close to Guru have come out to say the relationship between Solar and Guru was not as Solar makes it seem. I’m sure there will be numerous interviews coming in the near future that will bring the truth to the forefront.
What’s sad about this drama is that, somewhere in this sad debate, there’s a man who’s lost his battle to cancer. A son has lost his father. A father and mother have lost their son. Solar has only been working with Guru since 2005. Whatever relationship was forged between them in those five years hardly overshadows the relationship a mother and father have had for 43 years. Even the two-decade relationship DJ Premier maintained with Guru until the group disbanded in 2003 should entitle him to a say in how Guru will be remembered. After all, it is GangStarr who made a monumental impact on the culture.
What it seems we have here is a man jealous of a legacy he couldn’t duplicate. Rather than mourn a hip hop legend’s death, we’re busy dealing with a control freak who’s jealous of and trying to control a legacy he couldn’t forge himself.
As Guru’s soul rests “Above The Clouds,” we ask Solar to push his personal agenda to the side and allow the family, friends and fans to let their voices be heard. We do not need another cloud cast over the passing of one of hip hop’s elder statesmen.
Solar, why won’t you just let Guru be great?