sat 31/10/2020

CD: Gang Starr - One of the Best Yet | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Gang Starr - One of the Best Yet

CD: Gang Starr - One of the Best Yet

Back by dope demand? Guru raps from beyond the grave on a mixed album

Before the days of stardom on Jay-Z and Kanye’s scale, before Brooklyn became a millionaire’s playground, Gang Starr were deeply influential in hip hop and became pioneers of jazz rap.

Before the days of stardom on Jay-Z and Kanye’s scale, before Brooklyn became a millionaire’s playground, Gang Starr were deeply influential in hip hop and became pioneers of jazz rap. However, Guru disassociated himself from long-term partner DJ Premier as far back as 2006 and yet here we are, nine years after his death and 16 years after their last album together listening to the duo in stereo. A long legal battle resulted in some of Guru’s old tapes featuring around 30 unreleased rhymes being given to his family, allowing DJ Premier the opportunity to "retrofit" melodies and samples around his old partner’s words. 

There’s more than a slight air of cashing in here. But look at Tupac’s posthumous output – seven albums and counting. And DJ Premier’s pedigree is hard to dismiss – there aren’t many of hip hop’s royalty that DJ Premier hasn’t worked with (those mentioned above, Dre, Snoop, Nas etc). None of the aforementioned appears on One of the Best Yet, the "support" coming from those closer to home including Q-Tip, Ne-Yo and J Cole.

It’s good to hear Guru again. He had one of the most velvety and distinctive voices in the field and produced truly memorable lyrics (one example on this album comes on "Bless the Mic", where he compares himself to less gifted writers – ‘as opposed to those with mediocre prose’). "Bad Name" is an album highlight full of the catchy beats Gang Starr so adroitly produced back in the 80s and 90s. The mood throughout is unashamedly old school. But as with other efforts like the single "Family & Loyalty" it doesn’t have a great deal of longevity and the appeal wanes quickly. It’s all slightly tawdry – we’re told in "What’s Real" that some of Guru’s ashes sat in the studio as the album was produced. 

Having said all of that, listening to One of the Best Yet did make me go back to Step in the Arena ("Who’s Gonna Take the Weight" really stands the test of time) and the Jazzmatazz albums, which was a pleasure. If you need some nostalgia, that might be the better route than through this.

Kathryn Reilly's website / @kathrynsreilly

The mood throughout is unashamedly old school

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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