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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 1990 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 1998 | Virgin Records

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 1999 | Virgin Records

Considering that the only previous hip-hop hits collection to stretch two full CDs came from 2Pac (and that only after his death), Gang Starr's Full Clip is a surprising release, though it's incredibly welcome. The duo of DJ Premier and Guru has been one of the longest continuous acts on the rap scene, beginning with 1989's No More Mr. Nice Guy and a spot on the soundtrack to Spike Lee's 1990 film Mo' Better Blues. And as demonstrated by Premier's stunning productions on classic early tracks like "Who's Gonna Take the Weight," "Words I Manifest," and "Just to Get a Rep," Gang Starr hit its stride early, and just kept on hitting peak after peak during the '90s with "Speak Ya Clout," "Code of the Streets," "Tonz 'O' Gunz," and "You Know My Steez." And new tracks, usually the bane of any best-of collection, provide quite a few highlights here -- including "Full Clip," "Discipline" (featuring Total), and "All 4 Tha Ca$h." Also, the set compiles several notable B-sides -- "The ? Remainz," "Credit Is Due," and "You Know My Steez (Remix)" -- as well as soundtrack works like "1/2 & 1/2" (from Blade), "Gotta Get Over" (from Trespass), and "The Militia II (Remix)" (from Belly). Though Guru's monotone raps can grate over the course of two hours, Full Clip documents one of the best, most underrated hip-hop groups ever, from their jazzy beginnings into Premier's harder productions from the mid-'90s and beyond. ~ John Bush
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released March 8, 1994 | Virgin Records

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2006 | Virgin Records

Booklet
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 1992 | Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)

On Step in the Arena, DJ Premier and Guru hit upon their mature sound, characterized by sparse, live jazz samples, Premier's cut-up scratching, and Guru's direct, unwavering streetwise monotone; but, with Daily Operation, the duo made their first masterpiece. From beginning to end, Gang Starr's third full-length album cuts with the force and precision of a machete and serves as an ode to and representation of New York and hip-hop underground culture. The genius of Daily Operation is that Guru's microphone skills are perfectly married to the best batch of tracks Premier had ever come up with. Guru has more of a presence than he has ever had, slinking and pacing through each song like a man with things on his mind, ready to go off at any second. Premier's production has an unparalleled edge here. He created the minimalist opening track, "The Place Where We Dwell," out of a two-second drum-solo sample and some scratching, but is also able to turn around and create something as lush and melodic as the jazz-tinged "No Shame in My Game" without ever seeming to be out of his element, making every track of the same sonic mind. For an underground crew, Gang Starr has always had a knack for crafting memorable vocal hooks to go with the expert production, and they multiply both aspects on Daily Operation. Every song has some attribute that stamps it indelibly into the listener's head, and it marks the album as one of the finest of the decade, rap or otherwise. ~ Stanton Swihart
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2003 | Virgin Records

Quite a few chart-topping rappers came and went during the five years between Gang Starr's fifth and sixth LPs. So many, in fact, that it's tempting to think that commercial rap had taken a turn for the worse simply because the duo hadn't been back to tend the fires since 1998. Angry and intelligent as they'd ever been, Guru and DJ Premier came right back with guns blazing, ridiculing radio DJs and program directors as "f*cking robots" and proving their case with an album full of tough, kinetic hip-hop that blows away anything on the rap charts. Guru, never the most talented rapper on the East Coast, tightened his flow considerably to match his cutting verse, and DJ Premier only continued waxing lyrical with turntables and samplers. (Compared to his outside productions during the interim, it's clear he was holding back for Gang Starr a few can't-miss productions: "Put Up or Shut Up," "Skillz," the title track.) Guru's wordplay and imagery are vivid, whether he's relating yet another inner-city tale ("Sabotage"), excoriating the record industry ("Deadly Habitz"), or casually making a play for a girl ("Nice Girl, Wrong Place"). Surprisingly, most of the guest features are pedestrian, including the lame guns-and-gangstas posturing of "Who Got Gunz" featuring Fat Joe and M.O.P. or "Capture (Militia Pt. 3)" featuring Big Shug and Freddie Foxxx. Also a letdown is Snoop Dogg's "In This Life...," the return of a favor Premier did for him on two tracks for his Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$ LP of a year back. (The only great collaboration is Jadakiss' full-flowing rap on "Rite Where U Stand.") All the Gang Starr trademarks are in place, from Premier's perfect upchoruses to Guru's reedy voice cutting or instructing, and sounding better than ever. ~ John Bush
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released September 20, 2019 | Gang Starr Enterprises LLC

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released December 26, 2006 | Virgin Records

Booklet
The fact that Mass Appeal: The Best of Gang Starr is the second greatest-hits compilation released by Virgin simply attests to the importance of the duo, one of the first great MC/DJ-producer teams in hip-hop (and both of who, incidentally, have gone on to do well as solo artists, Guru with his whole Jazzmatazz series and DJ Premier most recently on Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics). But while 1999's Full Clip was two discs of 31 tracks (some of which were remixed versions), Mass Appeal limits itself to one disc of 20 songs, and includes almost all of their singles ("You Know My Steez" is the most notable exclusion), which means that while the scope is actually greater, spanning all six of their studio albums, the depth is less. Though the tracks are not listed chronologically, the jazz-based beats of Premier and Guru's relaxed flow are highlighted and strong in each. Gang Starr staples "Take It Personal," "The Militia," "Just to Get a Rep," "Mass Appeal," "Ex-Girl to Next Girl," and "Step in the Arena" (all but the latter also found on Full Clip) are found on the compilation, as well as lesser-known though not obscure cuts like "Check the Technique" and "B.Y.S." More serious fans may be intrigued by the bonus tracks, "Natural" and "Tha Squeeze," but considering that both are also found on the 2004 Japanese import of The Ownerz, Mass Appeal is probably a better pickup for fans who've heard about the glory and genius of the group but don't own all the albums. ~ Marisa Brown
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Rock - Released January 1, 2003 | Virgin Records

Quite a few chart-topping rappers came and went during the five years between Gang Starr's fifth and sixth LPs. So many, in fact, that it's tempting to think that commercial rap had taken a turn for the worse simply because the duo hadn't been back to tend the fires since 1998. Angry and intelligent as they'd ever been, Guru and DJ Premier came right back with guns blazing, ridiculing radio DJs and program directors as "f*cking robots" and proving their case with an album full of tough, kinetic hip-hop that blows away anything on the rap charts. Guru, never the most talented rapper on the East Coast, tightened his flow considerably to match his cutting verse, and DJ Premier only continued waxing lyrical with turntables and samplers. (Compared to his outside productions during the interim, it's clear he was holding back for Gang Starr a few can't-miss productions: "Put Up or Shut Up," "Skillz," the title track.) Guru's wordplay and imagery are vivid, whether he's relating yet another inner-city tale ("Sabotage"), excoriating the record industry ("Deadly Habitz"), or casually making a play for a girl ("Nice Girl, Wrong Place"). Surprisingly, most of the guest features are pedestrian, including the lame guns-and-gangstas posturing of "Who Got Gunz" featuring Fat Joe and M.O.P. or "Capture (Militia Pt. 3)" featuring Big Shug and Freddie Foxxx. Also a letdown is Snoop Dogg's "In This Life...," the return of a favor Premier did for him on two tracks for his Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$ LP of a year back. (The only great collaboration is Jadakiss' full-flowing rap on "Rite Where U Stand.") All the Gang Starr trademarks are in place, from Premier's perfect upchoruses to Guru's reedy voice cutting or instructing, and sounding better than ever. ~ John Bush
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released September 20, 2019 | Gang Starr Enterprises LLC

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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released June 6, 1989 | Melee - Wild Pitch

You don't hear much of Step in the Arena on Gang Starr's first album. In fact, aside from some scrupulous lyrical stances by Guru ("Manifest," "Positivity") and some of DJ Premier's hallmark brilliance behind the turntables, this Gang Starr isn't instantly recognizable as the duo who would soon become one of the most respected rap groups of the 1990s. The Gang Starr of No More Mr. Nice Guy still has a leg knee-deep in the old-school aesthetic. As a result, Premier's beats are quite a bit simpler and sometimes cruder than fans have come to expect (though they are still several cuts above the rest of the class), and Guru spends considerable energy talking up his own microphone skills and tearing down the next MC's (sometimes electrifying, as on "Gotch U"). That is not the same thing, however, as saying that No More Mr. Nice Guy is a subpar album. It is not, by any means. In fact, it's quite good in its own way, but it's also safe to say that the recording is not representative of the Chrysalis-era Gang Starr that devotees would eventually come to revere. Approach this album on its own terms, though, and it has a lot to offer, namely its early, tentative steps into the sampling of jazz. The most conspicuous attempt in this direction is the fine "Jazz Music," which was, nevertheless, reworked to much better effect a few years later for the soundtrack to Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues as "Jazz Thing." The scratching showcase "DJ Premier in Deep Concentration" is an antiquated delight that dips into jazz as well, while the conscientious "Cause and Effect," the steely "2 Steps Ahead," and the uncharacteristic guest production from DJ Mark the 45 King on "Gusto" are all classics waiting to be rediscovered. Indicative or not, fans of the group will want this album, as will those with a jones for the original new-school revolution. More casual fans can probably start their collections with Step in the Arena, which is a required purchase. [The 2001 Wild Pitch Classics reissue adds three bonus tracks, the strongest of which is "Here's the Proof."] ~ Stanton Swihart