Left: DJ Premier. Right: Guru.
"We just like cockroaches. Never dying. Always living."
—DJ Premier, Moment of Truth album
Gang Starr was a Hip-Hop duo consisting of rapper Keith "Guru" Elam ("Guru" standing for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal
) from Boston, Massachusetts and producer Christopher Martin (aka DJ Premier) from Houston, Texas.
Gang Starr actually got their start in 1985. At this time, DJ Premier (then known as Waxmaster C) was not part of the group; instead, Guru founded it with DJ 1, 2 B-Down. In 1987 and '88, they released three singles on vinyl, one of which was called "The Lesson", on a label called Wild Pitch Records. The group finally split in 1989, though, and the only one left that carried its name was Guru.
However, that same year he got in contact with DJ Premier, who sent him a beat tape. He liked it so much, he invited Premier to be part of Gang Starr. He accepted.
Along with a new single, "Words I Manifest", the duo released their debut album No More Mr. Nice Guy.
The next year, a former DJ, Duff Marlowe, signed them to Chrysalis Records
. The rest, as they say, is history.
Around the time they made "I'm the Man" from Daily Operation
, they created the Gang Starr Foundation, which isn't a rap group per se, but a group of individual rappers the duo liked and wanted to sign. Its lineup was Jeru the Damaja, Big Shug, Lil Dap, and Melachi the Nutcrackernote
Around the time Moment Of Truth
was being made, Guru was charged gun possession. The album is somewhat centered around this. note
Gang Starr disbanded in 2003 after their last album The Ownerz
, after Guru had an argument with Premier and turned his back on the duo.
He would later go on to release solo albums. While Guru seemed to have wanted nothing to do with Premier after that, Premier looked as if he'd put it all behind him and remained confident that the duo would reunite for another album one day.
However, in 2010, Guru died of heart cancer, eliminating any chance of a reunion.
DJ Premier did a tribute mix on his radio show in his honor.
These days, Premier continues to produce for underground rap artists from all over the world, occasionally goes on tours (globally, even. He's played shows in Paris
, Athens, and Osaka.), has a radio show (as mentioned above) called Live at Headquarterz
, and heads an underground label called Year Round Records. He has also started a collaboration project with Royce Da 5'9" called PRhyme. Do not compare them to Gang Starr, as Royce will have you know he does not
intend to replace Guru.
Not to be confused with Bravestarr
- Alternative Hip Hop
- Bald of Awesome: Guru.
That's why they call me Baldhead Slick
- Berserk Button: DJ Premier does not like DJs who play whatever they're told to, nor does he like people revealing his samples.
- Boastful Rap: "I'm the Man," "You Know My Steez", and "Mass Appeal", just to name a few.
- Call Back: The opening of Step In the Arena references "Premier and the Guru" from No More Mr. Nice Guy.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Guru promises to deliver one to anyone who dares challenge him in a game of basketball in "Now You're Mine".
- Dream Team: Guru, Lil' Dap, and Jeru the Damaja on "I'm the Man" and "Speak Ya Clout".
- Et Tu, Brute?: Discussed in "Betrayal". Also touched on briefly in the first verse of "Moment of Truth".
- Gold Digger: "She Knowz What She Wantz" warns listeners to avoid these.
- Hidden Track: The Ownerz has the "snuck in the middle of the album" variant in the form of "Hiney".
- Hymn to Music: A bit of a specific example; "Jazz Thing" and "Jazz Music" are tributes to Jazz and legendary Jazz musicians.
- "I Am" Song: "Premier and the Guru", the very first track of their very first album.
- Instrumental Hip Hop: "DJ Premier In Deep Concentration", featuring only DJ Premier on the turntables.
- Letting The Air Out Of The Sample: At the end of "Just to Get a Rep", the sample slows to a stop.
- Lucky Charms Title: "The ? Remainz". The "?" is pronounced as "Question".
- Lyrical Cold Open: Inverted on "What I'm Here 4"; the song ends with Guru saying the last line of the verse after the music has already dropped out.
- New Sound Album: Premier said in an interview that he wanted Hard to Earn to sound less musical than the previous three albums so's to avoid Gang Starr being pigeonholed as a "Jazz Rap" duo. As a result, some of the beats sound more atonal and dissonant. Moment of Truth also counts since it was made after Premo developed his Signature Style.
- Ode to Intoxication: "Take Two and Pass" is about smoking blunts.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: From "Now You're Mine".
So prepare to suffer, boy, cause now you're mine.
- Production Throwback: The third verse of "Moment of Truth" takes some of its lyrics from an unreleased song called "I'm Not Superman" and slightly alters them.
- Punny Name: Gangster —> Gang Starr.
- Scare Chord: "Jazz Thing" has a couple in the intro.
- Sequel Song: "Speak Ya Clout" is one to "I'm the Man", featuring the same lineup of artists, but this time in reverse order.
- Shout-Out: From "You Know My Steez"
- "Brainstorm" has Guru singing part of the Community Audition theme song, albeit a slightly altered version.
- Signature Style: DJ Premier's beats are made in such a way that once you hear them, you instantly know it's him doing the production.
- Spelling Song: "The Planet", which has this as the chorus:
I'm gonna make it god dammit
Out in B-R-double-O-K-Lyn, The Planet
- "Mostly tha Voice" from the same album is another example:
My religion is rap
You say you're R-E-P-R-E-S-E-N-T-I-N-G?
You're frontin', boy, come against me
- Step Up to the Microphone: "Words from the Nutcracker", entirely rapped by Melachi the Nutcracker from Group Home.
- Three Chords and the Truth: "Same Team No Games" consists only of two musical notes, a drum beat, scratches, and pure lyricism from Guru and guest rappers NYG'z. "Brainstorm" is even more minimal, featuring only drums, some blips and sirens in the background, and Guru's vocals.
- Title Track: "No More Mr. Nice Guy", "Step In the Arena", "Daily Operation" (a 20-second Album Intro Track), "Moment of Truth", "Full Clip", and "The Ownerz". "Mass Appeal" retroactively became this on their second compilation album.
- Word Puree Title: "DWYCK", which comes from an inside joke.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: The second verse of "Moment of Truth", about how even though Guru is fearful of his situation, he'll remain calm and not buckle under the pressure.
The situation that I'm facin, is mad amazin
To think such problems can arise from minor confrontations
Now I'm contemplatin in my bedroom pacin
Dark clouds over my head, my heart's racin
Suicide? nah, I'm not a foolish guy
Don't even feel like drinking, or even gettin high
Cause all that's gonna do really, is accelerate
The anxieties that I wish I could alleviate
But wait, I've been through a whole lot of other shit, before
So I oughta be able, to withstand some more
But I'm sweating though, my eyes are turning red and yo
I'm ready to lose my mind but instead I use my mind
I put down the knife, and take the bullets out my nine
My only crime, was that I'm too damn kind
And now some scandalous motherfuckers wanna take what's mine
But they can't take the respect, that I've earned in my lifetime
And you know they'll never stop the furious force of my rhymes
So like they say, every dog has its day
And like they say, God works in a mysterious way
So I pray, remembering the days of my youth
As I prepare to meet my moment of truth
- Xtreme Kool Letterz and Letters 2 Numbers: As with many hip-hop acts, they tended to do this with their song titles. Examples include, "What I'm Here 4". "She Knowz What She Wantz", and "Deadly Habitz".