This past few weeks Id been having my own Gang Starr appreciation sessions with Step In the Arena, Daily Op & Hard To Earn on endless repeat in the whip and the crib only to realise last night that yesterday marked 2 years since the sad farewell of the “voice” and put an absolute end to ever hearing another masterpiece from the Chain and the Starr.
Gang Starr would go down as one of the greatest groups to ever rep our culture and although the argument is there as to which is their greatest release, personally the three aforementioned are un-splitable as far as personal preference and sit as 3 back to back to back releases rivaling if not overriding EPMD and Eric & Rakims flawless trifectas.
Rawness personified, Guru and Preem’s formula for these albums was nothing less than real rap, simple yet perfected from end to end and during a period when many were jumping ship or redirecting their sound the gang stayed true. That may seem like a no brainer to most dedicated heads, but maintaining dedication to the artform and blueprint amidst heavy label and dollar pressure when the biz was booming and crossover acts were rife, all the while never reaching the sale numbers of their peers, seemed a rarity if you wanted longevity. Thank god they said fuck you and your Mass Appeal, remained the same and contributed to the soundtrack of an important part of my life.
RIP Guru / Gang Starr
I remember brushing their debut “No More Mr. Nice Guy” aside after catching sight of the cover alone, by the time Step in the Arena arrived on the shelves, one glimpse at the cover and I forked out for it without even hearing a track. Preem took simple, but, not-your-typical jazz loops and crafted impeccable joints for the gifted unlimited’s flow from start to finish on this and although I cant split the 3 albums as far as a fave goes, this could well be the most perfect of all, I don’t think ive ever skipped a track in a listen, ever…
This would have to be the rawest of them all, often maligned in Gang Starr album lists, Daily Op is possibly the greatest display of raw hip hop executed at its best. I still remember the first time I heard the fader static on the intro cuts to the album opener “The Place Where We Dwell”, I loved the fact they kept that shit in the mix! Now, every time I hear it, it takes me back. Incredible.
Id also go so far as to say this LP played some significance in L.C’s initial formation, as it dropped just after Strut and myself first connected and we built over it and dissected its make-up many nights with the crew over beers and blunts…
Hard To Earn is graced with some of the greatest rap tracks ever made, the Gang Starr sound was now perfected & mastered and by the time the LP dropped in 94 the foundation had even paved the way for the likes of Jeru and the Group Home. It amazed me that such an incredible album seemed so effortless in its construction but there’s no doubt that simplicity was the key to each of these masterstrokes. Ill loops, heavy drums, complementary cuts, dope rhymes and, of course… the voice.