Keith “Guru” Elam, one-half of the pioneering hip-hop group Gang Starr, died after a long battle with cancer on April 19, Mtvnews.com reported.

“The world has lost one of the best MCs and hip-hop icons of all time—my best friend, partner and brother, Guru,” longtime friend and collaborator, Solar told Mtvnews.com. “Guru has been battling cancer for well over a year and has lost his battle! This is a matter that Guru wanted private until he could beat it, but tragically, this did not happen. The Cancer took him. Now the world has lost a great man and a true genius.”

Elam rose to prominence in the late ‘80s as a part of the group Gang Starr, with partner DJ Premier. Their unique sound, created by Premier’s illustrious sample-reliant productions, helped define New York underground rap in the ‘90s.  The group continued to release solid efforts, but their 1998 album, Moment of Truth was their most critically acclaimed and biggest-selling album to date. Gang Starr’s final album, The Ownerz, was released in 2003. 

Elam also released his own solo efforts in the Jazzmatazz series, a four-volume collection that featured many jazz icons.

While in the hospital, Elam penned a letter to his fans, according to Solar.

“I, Guru, am writing this letter to my fans, friends and loved ones around the world,” the letter stated. “I have had a long battle with cancer and have succumbed to the disease. I have suffered with this illness for over a year. I have exhausted all medical options.”

Also in the letter, Elam discussed his firm request for Premier not to be involved in any events or tributes surrounding his death. Apparently, the two had been feuding for quite some time.

“I do not wish my ex-DJ to have anything to do with my name, likeness, events, tributes, etc. connected in any way to my situation including any use of my name or circumstance for any reason and I have instructed my lawyers to enforce this,” Elam wrote.

After suffering a heart attack in late February, Elam went into a brief coma. On March 3, Allhiphop.com revealed that he had woken from his coma, according to a press release they received. At that point, Elam denied rumors of his passing and fans were hoping for a full recovery.