In Lifted, Javon Anderson examines the long-standing relationship between jazz and hip hop.

The connection between jazz and hip hop is often thought to be a one-way street: producers digging through crates, sampling jazz recordings and building loops for rappers to lay down their rhymes. One rapper by the name of Keith Edward Elam, also known as Guru, truly understood the powerful connection between the two genres.

Guru was best known for being half of the rapper-producer duo Gang Starr, offering clever, battle-ready lyrics with smooth delivery. Alongside DJ Premier, they made some of the smoothest yet hardest-hitting East Coast rap of the 1990s. However, Guru’s solo career really showcased his longstanding love of both hip hop and jazz and his ambition to closely fuse the two genres in a cohesive way.

Growing up in Boston in the ’70s, a young Elam was introduced to jazz through his godfather. “[He] would take me and my whole posse and sit us down in front of these big speakers and make us listen to jazz,” he said in Bill Adler’s liner notes to his debut solo album. In the ’80s, Guru would find his place in Brooklyn, immersing himself in the emerging culture of hip hop and beginning his music career by founding Gang Starr. The group’s music throughout their career was riddled with samples of jazz music, such as the song Mass Appeal, which makes a full song out of just three seconds of a Rhodes phrase on Vic Juris’s Horizon Drive.