Bizarre, sad, and strange are not words I would use to describe the music of iconic hip hop group Gang Starr who revolutionized the genre in the mid-to-late nineties with albums like Daily Operation and No More Mr. Nice Guy. But, unfortunately, those three words do describe the story surrounding the death of the group’s legendary emcee Keith Elam, aka GURU, who died last month at 43.
So let’s explore a part of this tragic story that involves artists being forced to tour even when their health is failing.
Editor’s note: article first published as The Bizarre Death of Emcee GURU Can’t Destroy Gang Starr’s Legacy on Blogcritics.
As I’ve noted above, I wrote an article for Blogcritics about the strange unfolding of events surrounding Elam’s death and I’d like to focus on a part of the story that came to light when emails where hacked that revealed Elam being forced to tour.
To get the full story I invite you to read my full article, but for our live music purposes here, I’ll share a brief section from my article that made me think about a practice that I hope isn’t a reality for other artists.
“Then things got even stranger on May 10th, when the Village Voice reported that “an anonymous hacker made public emails sent between Solar and various parties, including documents that seem to indicate that Solar is more evil than anyone could have even guessed. The emails appear to show that Solar forced GURU to tour instead of seeking medical help; that he controlled GURU’s access to his own email account and various other web presences…”
Now, when I read that Village Voice report I stopped for a moment to think about things from an artist perspective.
I started to wonder how many artists face this problem today?
And I really wondered how Solar was able to “force” Elam to tour.
Was Elam bound by some sort of legal obligation?
Was the situation that dark and manipulative that Solar could force one of hip hop’s best emcees to tour when his health was failing?
Are there artists who are being forced to tour against their will in today’s touring circuit?
Are there legal contracts that artists sign that require them to tour even when they have a life-threatening disease like cancer?
Can we learn anything from Micheal Jackson’s confusion about his AEG 50 concert deal to make sense of this bizarre GURU story?