Keith Elam, a hip-hop artist who performed under the name Guru, died Monday after ending a long battle with cancer. Elam voiced 8-Ball, the demolitions artist with whom the protagonist escapes at the very beginning of Grand Theft Auto III.
Rockstar Games noted Elam's passing in a brief obituary on its newswire today. "Guru was truly a hip-hop legend, one of the genre's greatest voices, and we are eternally grateful for his contributions to the Grand Theft Auto series as the character 8-Ball," the studio said. "Our condolences to the entire Elam family, to our good friend and his long-time Gang Starr collaborator DJ Premier, and to everyone else who had the pleasure of knowing or working with the man."
In the game, Elam's character is the first associate of Claude, the main character, although their partnership presumably ends when it's revealed that 8-Ball rigs with explosives a vehicle Claude is meant to drive, as part of a trap devised by mob boss Salvatore Leone. 8-Ball later appears in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.
As Guru, Elam was one half of the rap duo Gang Starr, and made eight albums between 1993 and 2009.
In Memory of Keith Elam aka Guru [Rockstar, thanks James H.]