Veteran rap artist GURU, best known for his pioneering hip hop work as part of the MC/producer duo Gang Starr along with DJ Premier, died April 19 of complications due to cancer. A flurry of controversy has surrounded GURU’s final months, since word of the extent of his illness first broke in February. Of interest, and a large source of confusion for fans and media, was the relationship between GURU and his musical and business partner for the last several years, Solar. Members of GURU’s family began complaining publicly that Solar was somehow blocking family access to GURU. Solar, who established himself as the sole gatekeeper to word of GURU’s condition, denied this, telling Hot-97,”That’s completely untrue. It’s been unfortunate that this has been so out of perspective and untrue”.
The issue came to a head after GURU’s death made news, as a “farewell letter” to fans was released, purportedly written in the last few weeks by a dying GURU. The letter detailed GURU’s loyalty to Solar, specific disowning his former DJ, Premier, the existence of a foundation dedicated to “carrying on” GURU’s charitable works, and that GURU’s son, KC, is to be watched over by Solar and Solar’s family. The letter led many to believe that it was not in fact written by GURU, but Solar himself. This theory was further flamed by a statement from Patricia Elam, sister to the late rapper, denying the family’s knowledge of any foundation in Guru’s name, and rather shockingly, stating that GURU had never regained consciousness after the initial coma in February, directly contradicting statements made by Solar.
Obviously, the intricacies of the relationships involved in this matter are confusing, a mix of private and public record, innuendo, rumor and deception, and will take some time to fully become clear to fans and the media. However, as worldwide fans continue to mourn the Jazz/Hip Hop/Hybrid rap veteran, we cautioned against any money being spent in his honor, whether it be to a memorial event, which both sides have independently hinted at organizing, or, more specifically, the foundation the letter mentioned. On that last bit, we decided to take a closer look ourselves.
In the letter, the writer specifically mentions the “Each One Counts Foundation”. According to national public records, there are two listings for non-profit organizations named “Each One Counts”.
The Each One Counts Foundation, Inc., founded in 2006, is listed as being headquartered in Pound Ridge, NY. The website, www.eachonecounts.org states “The sole purpose of the Each One Counts Foundation is to raise funds to ease the physical pain and suffering of terminally ill children who are receiving pediatric hospice or palliative care.”
This is not too far off from the “farewell letter”, which states, “I have a non-profit organization called Each One Counts dedicated to carrying on my charitable work on behalf of abused and disadvantaged children from around the world and also to educate and research a cure for this terrible disease that took my life,” although “abused and disadvantaged children” don’t seem to necessarily be much of Each One Counts’ equation.
What is also not clear is what the writer of the farewell letter meant by “I have”. Each One Counts Foundation, Inc. lists Brian F. Harrington as its president, and other officers of the organization do not, on the surface, appear to have any connection to GURU or Solar. We attempted to contact the foundation to ascertain whether or not they were indeed the one that GURU was recommending, but as of the time of this posting, Birthplace Magazine’s calls to Harrington have not been returned. The organization is active however, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few years, largely through grants. However, the foundation lists a golf outing in 2009 as it’s only visible “event”, and while tax documents do show payments made to hospitals, it is not entirely clear how Each One Counts Foundation, Inc raises the funds, or how their foundation operates.
The second foundation listed, Each One Counts, Inc., founded in 2003, is headquartered in Nanuet, NY and lists Denise Sandoval as the “in care of name”. Public documents show very little additional information about this organization, so either it is defunct, or they have not filed appropriate paperwork with the government. It is more likely that this organization is simply not very active, but we cannot tell for sure.
Exactly which foundation the letter was referencing, remains unclear. Many news sites and hip hop blogs are citing the Each One Counts from the letter as “GURU’s foundation”, when his actual involvement or endorsement, if any, is not clear at all. Birthplace Magazine has also reached out to YO! Promotions who handles public relations for 7 Grand Records, GURU and Solar’s label, in an attempt to clarify the foundation issue, and we were told our request was forwarded to 7 Grand. We have not heard back.
We continue to await responses from these parties, and will update as more is known.