Hip-hop lost one of its most distinct voices on April 19th when Guru, whose collaboration with DJ Premier as Gang Starr expanded the genre's scope, died after a year-long struggle with cancer. He was 48.

Guru ˜ born Keith Elam ˜ grew up in the Roxbury section of Boston. His father was that city's first black municipal judge and his mother was a library director in the city's public schools. Elam graduated from Morehouse College, worked as a social worker, and began graduate school at Manhattan's Fashion Institute of Technology before he dropped out in the mid-'80s, dove headlong into New York's burgeoning hip-hop underground and began his rap career as MC Keith E.

Over a 14-year span, Gang Starr released six albums, all universally acclaimed, and despite the duo's uncompromising music, which was often dense and rarely radio-friendly, had two gold albums and several Top 10 singles, including "Mass Appeal." As a solo artist, Guru recorded four editions of his Jazzmatazz series, rhyming over jazz arrangements featuring the likes of Herbie Hancock, Roy Ayers, and Branford Marsalis.

NAS - "Guru was like a vanguard of rap, Gang Starr were right there, at the forefront of style on the New York streets."

DJ PREMIER -  "I'm gonna miss hearing his signature monotone voice when he walks in the room, but the songs will always bring it back to me," we had planned to reunite for a seventh album when the time was right, tragically we will never reach that day."

QTIP - "He had one of the most distinctive voices in music, If you wanted to understand rapping, story-telling, if you want to get thugged out, if you want to get political, you could listen to Gang Starr. They just encompassed everything that hip-hop embodied."

TALIB KWELI - "Gang Starr's music was the soundtrack to me falling in love with hip hop, when we first met, Guru and his crew snuck me and my crew in at New York's New Music Seminar back in 1990.  Guru was a friend, a mentor, and a legend and will be forever missed."