Gang Starr, still one of the best
Nine years after the death of Guru, DJ Premier breathes life back into Gang Starr with previously unheard vocals from his deceased former collaborator.
Almost ten years after their MC died, Gang Starr have made a comeback with One Of The Best Yet, a “new” record, and it’s all thanks to Guru’s incredible creativity. He left behind a number of unused archive tracks which ended up in the hands of DJ Solar, an enigmatic character he became close to during his last few years, while his relationship with his longtime partner DJ Premier diverged.
The latter, together with Guru’s family, eventually bought about thirty tapes from Solar in 2014 and from 2017 onwards he set about building an album around these posthumous vocals. “I never lost faith, or waivered” said Premier in an interview with The New York Times. “I still felt it inside of me, it just happened to be nine years later after Guru’s death. I’m a patient guy.”
And it was worth the wait. DJ Premier takes us back to the golden years of American hip-hop (the 90s) with boom bap productions and a star-studded lineup of featuring artists including J. Cole, Jeru The Damaja, M.O.P., Q-Tip, Royce Da 5’9” and Talib Kweli.
Premier pickaxes away at the infinite supply of soul to reveal a wealth of samples, like on Lights Out with M.O.P. (which samples from The Temprees’ Dedicated To The One I Love, released on Stax) before launching into a mise en abyme by cutting out Guru’s vocals on Natural and Playtawin (from the 2003 album The Ownerz).
The single Family and Loyalty - clearly a message for DJ Solar - samples the piano from He Looked Beyond My Faults by the gospel singer Larnelle Harris. One Of The Best Yet is a brilliant “real hip-hop” record and perhaps not the last from Gang Starr.