Hip-hop is a known young man's sport, and this is the year many of the newer talents stepped up to the plate. However, you have to remember the legends. Today (July 17) is one of those days. Guru of the legendary Gang Starr would've been 54 today.

Hip-hop history nearly lost Guru to fashion; he was taking graduate courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology before he made the move to hip-hop. The rapper founded Gang Starr in 1987, and after having small success, he got very lucky by finding one of the greatest DJs and producers in hip-hop history. DJ Premier and Guru teamed up to make a formidable force.

The two were great on their own, but this was a perfect paring. There's a musically harmonic element to hip-hop that many forget in favor of their need for lyricists. Guru had lyrics, but nothing sounded better on Premier's breaks than his jazzy, smoked-out vocals. Gang Starr quickly became a hallmark of New York's hip-hop heritage: 1991's Step in the Arena and 1994's Hard to Earn (which features "Mass Appeal," DJ Premier's greatest production) are regarded as classics by the hip-hop heads.

Gang Starr continued into the new millennium until Guru announced in several interviews that the duo split in 2006. The rhymer continued to release solo work (including the jazz rap series Jazzmatazz) until he fell out of the public eye. Unfortunately, when he made headlines once again, it was revealed that Guru had been battling myeloma. Guru suffered a heart attack and went into a coma in February of 2010, and passed away under longtime collaborator Solar's care two months later on April 19. He never reconciled with DJ Premier.

The circumstances surrounding his death remain tenuous; before his death, Guru wrote a letter stating he had no desire to reconnect with DJ Premier. Many suspected Solar wrote that letter. However, what isn't up for debate is that he's sorely missed.

Listen to Gang Starr's "Moment of Truth"

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