Gang Starr

Step in the Arena, Gang Starr's second album.

Gang Starr with a handful of other acts defined the New York hip hop sound in the late eighties, early nineties.  Oddly enough the primary founder of Gang Starr, Guru, isn’t even from New York City, he was born and raised in Boston Massachusetts but after years lived in Boston he decided to move down to Brooklyn to attempt to be a part of NYC’s thriving rap scene.  In a way Gang Starr’s story is that of rags to riches with Guru going from being a complete outsider in the New York rap community to becoming one of it’s major players and most respected acts.

Guru didn’t guide Gang Starr to such acclaim on his own though.  Very early on in Gang Starr’s life(1989) Guru hooked up DJ Premier.  In my opinion DJ Premier is one of those most talented hip hop DJ’s to ever walk this earth.  His beats are creative and original.  There are multiple layers to each track, fresh samples are a standard.  He interjects fills to alleviate silence or to accentuate certain lyrics giving you the feeling that there’s actually a person behind the controls and Guru just isn’t rapping over a prerecorded track.  Even though the early Gang Starr albums are almost twenty years old now, to listen to those alThe Gang Starr Foundation - circa 1994bums today the beats are as fresh as they were on it’s day of release.

Gang Starr managed to maintain a certain level of a two way respect not only for the act but also for it’s listeners.  Guru himself rarely swears on a track and you never get the feeling that it’s missing.  He speaks about some difficult situations but in doing so he uses literal verbiage to get his point across and in doing so he nullifies the need for cussing.  I find this technique to further captivate teh listener while the beats initially take you in the constant lyrics and story telling style keep you listening.  Don’t get me wrong, he does swear but it’s no where near the level of his contemporaries.

All of the Gang Starr albums I find to be quality releases while I do find the earlier ones to be a bit more consistent.  Gang Starr’s crew goes by the name of The Gang Starr Foundation and while some of it’s members are top notch some tend to be lacking.  On Gang Starr’s later album’s Guru gives more and more tracks to the Gang Starr Foundation and due to the variables with the crew these tracks can be the best and worst on the album for this reason I like the older albums when the Foundation only took part in a track or two.  I’d say anything up to and including Hard to Earn are my faves.

1) No More Mr. Nice Guy [1989]
2) Step in the Arena [1991]
3) Daily Operation [1992]
4) Hard to Earn [1994]
5) Moment of Truth [1998]
6) Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr [1999]
7) The Ownerz [2003]

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