I'm a white guy on the front-end of my mid-30s with a suburban upbringing on the resume. What that says about my present and future, greater minds will determine somewhere along the way.

But what that says about my past is, among other things, I was immersed in the growth of rap music. Knee-deep in what was then a burgeoning new music scene full of real-life lyrics and an "I'm better than you on the mike and watch me prove it right now" braggadocio. As rap developed and turned into hip-hop, artists came and went. Some stuck around for a while.

Guru stuck.

With his gravelly, raspy voice and solid lyrics, Guru stood out. His rhymes were more recognizable than his Gang Starr partner's beats. Hard to believe something could outshine a DJ Premier beat, but Guru had the voice to do it.

I'm several hours into my Guru musical appreciation after discovering Tuesday morning that the "Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal" died Monday of complications from cancer. Guru, real name: Keith Elam, battled the disease for more than a year.

Gang Starr never experienced the mass appeal of mainstream, crossover artists (not used in a negative connotation here), but to hip-hop heads, the duo was dynamic.
With songs such as "Take It Personal," "Step in the Arena," "Just to Get a Rep" and "Mass Appeal," Gang Starr crafted a streetwise sense without being too over the top.

I could go on and on and blog poetic about the Guru's skills. But, when artists die, it's always best to let their words do the talking. So enjoy this nine-video playlist of some of the Guru's finest work.

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Note: Some of the lyrics may be for an older audience. 

READGuru's supposed letter to fans | Our Top 5 MCs of all time

MORE: Leave condolences on Guru's Facebook fan page.