(Nephew of the legendary GURU of Gangstarr)

We got some great feedback on the post we did featuring the MC KEITHY E. (Guru) Demo Tape.  We caught up with Justin-Elam Ruff at the Beat Swap Meet in Los Angeles and were able to grab copies of the tape which was yet to be released.  It was natural for us to eventually contact Justin to talk a little bit about the tape, his new clothing line and new unreleased material from Guru!

 "My name is Justin Nicholas-Elam Ruff and I am the nephew of Keith (GURU) Elam. I reside in Los Angeles, CA and am the founder of The X Label (a clothing line dedicated to preserving Guru’s legacy). Aside from the The X Label, I am an aspiring actor and film writer."

(SC)  What inspired you to release the Keithy E. Tape?

I felt that it was necessary for the tape to be released. This tape is part of the foundation that made Guru who he is today. The songs on the tape are where it all began. I feel that every Guru fan deserves to have and hold a piece of that.

(SC)  Can you tell us about how you got a hold of his early material?  Does he have other unreleased/unheard stuff?

A few months after Guru’s passing, I found myself doing some research in hopes of finding some of his earlier works before Gangstarr.  I came across a website  that had the audio to an interview that Guru (then known as MC Keithy E) did with Magnus Johnstone. Magnus Johnstone founded Lecco’s Lemma radio show in 1985. It was a groundbreaking hip-hop radio show, the first of its kind in Boston and one of the only rap radio shows in the world at that time. What made it even more revolutionary for the emerging Boston hip-hop scene was that Magnus encouraged local rap groups to come down to the station and perform on the air. Since the show was Boston’s outlet for up and coming hip-hop artists, it was a big deal to appear on the show. This demo tape earned MC Keithy E and crew the right to be on the show and share their talents to the listeners. I emailed the owner of the website I stumbled upon and days later he wrote me back. He notified me that he had access to all of Magnus’s music from artists that appeared on his show and that Guru was one of them. He graciously sent me what he had….Long story short, there is much more to be heard from Guru!

(SC)  What is the X Label all about?  What does the name mean?

The X Label is all about preserving Guru’s MESSAGE, his MUSIC, and his LEGACY! Guru’s prolific lyrics and profound voice has left a permanent mark in hip-hop history. His purpose was clear and driven from the heart. The clothing line seeks to uphold the message and continue the mission of this legend.
The name The X Label was inspired from the man himself, Malcolm X. Malcolm X had a major influence on Guru, (e.g. Mass Appeal video) and myself, so I wanted to tie it into the name.

(SC)  How has the response been so far with the Guru Cassette? 

The response has been great. I think people understand what it means to have it in there possession.  I mean this is the actual tape that essentially it all began from. It is a must have! How can a true Guru fan pass on it? I’m not just saying this because I helped recreate this tape. If Tupac’s (my favorite rapper) demo tape were released I would try to buy as many as possible ASAP!

(SC)  Many labels are pressing up tapes these days.  (Stones Throw, Nature Sounds, Redef Records)  Is it just a gimmick?  Or will there be a surge of tape collecting in the future?

I think like many things, tapes are coming back around. It didn’t cross my mind until about one year ago when a close friend (Renzo Revelli, owner of Listen Clothing) gave me J Dilla’s ‘Ruff Draft” tape and I felt a rush of excitement over the fact that this is what it used to be like. Back then when hip hop was at its peak (live & popping) it was all about getting his or her tape, popping it into the cassette, and vibing to the whole joint. I am brought back to that feeling of the early 90’s hip-hop scene when I see tapes these days. The true essence of it all. Real hip hop!

(SC)  Any last comments/shoutouts?

I would like to thank you for taking the time out to recognize this tape and what it means to his fans and hip hop. Also thanks to all of the people that support The X Label’s movement. Let’s continue to honor GURU in a positive light!

 - Make sure you check out THE X LABEL and see how you can help support and keep GURU's legacy alive.


  1. O-Dawg8130.1.12

    Nice feature once again brotha!! Big ups!! Fam! Readin this just makes me wanna open my copy! And bump it!! Props to Mr Ruff for this killer tape!!!

    1. For sure...Im hyped to hear that there is more unreleased Guru material! Make room for more Guru tapes!

  2. Justiceson31.1.12

    This is a dope article. It's apparent that this is all happening for a reason because the owner of the website didn't have to release the music. Hopefully this tape, the clothing line and the musical legacy that GURU left with Gangstarr and Jazzmatazz will keep his name ringing loudly for for those that came up with his music and for the newer generations as well. Salute. RIP GURU

    1. No doubt! I personally had to get the scoop behind this tape considering that Guru is one of my top mc's of all time and arguably the greatest voice in Hip Hop...

  3. jjohnson9.2.12

    Dope feature! Cool info about the radio show out in Boston. Wonder what other talent rolled through there and have appearances on file.

    1. Fo realz...check out that link to the Library of they did a pretty good job of archiving a lot the early Boston Hip Hop stuff. Pretty historic...

  4. Thank you so much. From "Words I Manifest" to his last release I've been riding with GURU. Definitely getting this for my collection. Always down with the Gifted Universal Rhymes Unlimited!

  5. Anonymous15.12.12

    I recieved this rape in the mail last week, But I haven't decided yet if I should break the seal or not.. How nerdy is that?!


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