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Hip hop lost one of its all-time greatest this week.

Guru (aka Keith Elam) died on April 19th of a heart attack. He’d also been waging a prolonged battle with cancer.

I’m a Gangstarr fan and love Guru’s solo stuff. His body of work personifies the savvy smoothness unique to hip hop done right (listen to “Feel the Music” and you’ll get what I mean)

There are a couple of things about the man that I think we, as business people, can learn from.

The distinct voice: I’ve always found Guru’s description of his style amusing and appropriate. He referred to it as “monotone.” It was. More than that, it was distinctive to the point of being entirely unmistakable. It was wholly his own and formed a bedrock of consistency in his music. Add to this DJ Premiere’s (Guru’s longtime producer and the other half of Gangstarr) unique style of production and you had a truly original recipe.

In the world of marketing, “be remarkable” is now tossed around as though it is easy to do. Guru actually was.

The Renaissance person and borrowing from other worlds: I’ve written about how it is super important when you blog, design new products, start thinking about a new campaign, etc to layer elements from a number of different realms.

Guru was a master at this. His Jazzmatazz series brought together a myriad of talented musicians from different realms and showcased the best sides of hip hop, jazz and other genres. Proof positive about the correlation between remarkable output and fusion.

Constant collaboration: Collaboration is a hallmark of hip hop. Guru took it to another level in terms of quantity and quality. He worked with all-stars from across the music industry including Brandford Marsalis, Dilated Peoples, Jamiroquai, Roy Ayers, MC Solaar, Donald Byrd, Kool Keith and numerous others.

Collaboration expands the network. Though it sometimes fails due to ill-matched personalities and/or skills, you have to constantly be looking for ways to engage in it.

R.I.P. Guru.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Max says:

    Nice piece, Guru is a legend forever- he founded a music that will unfortunately will be scarce in the future with all the candy hip POP that is around today!

  • Thanks Max.

    Even if this style of music is now MIA, Guru’s body of work will live on. I think those of us who are (or will become) familiar with it are very fortunate. Moreover, as I say in the post, there’s elements of this man’s art that can be applied elsewhere to achieve success.

    Have a great weekend!

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