Information remains scarce, but presumably Guru remains in critical condition. I’ll spare the reigning “Fuck Solar” sentiment because speculating on their relationship is tasteless and probably pointless. Though admittedly, calling another man “Lord” is arguably the only thing stranger than calling him “Daddy.” At this point, all we can do is hope that that Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal recovers swiftly and his family is allowed to monitor his progress/visit regularly. Judging from the e-mails I get, I suspect that at least a quarter of this site’s readership was entering the world when Gangstarr was stepping into the arena. Thus, their knowledge of one of the greatest duos of all-time is limited to hearsay. Thankfully, Matthew Africa can remedy this with his stellar Gangstarr greatest hits mix. For those who heard his earlier DJ Quik mix, you know that this is essential listening. A tracklist and message from Matthew about the mix below — credit is due.
2. You Know My Steez
3. Just to Get a Rep
4. Mass Appeal
5. Step in the Arena
6. Now You’re Mine
7. The Militia feat. Freddie Foxxx
9. Take It Personal
10. The ? Remainz
11. Full Clip
12. DWYCK feat. Nice & Smooth
13. Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?
14. Jazz Thing
15. Soliloquy of Chaos
16. Check the Technique
17. Credit Is Due
18. Speak Ya Clout feat. Jeru the Damaja & Lil Dap
19. It’z a Setup feat. Hannibal
20. Words I Manifest (Remix)
21. 2 Deep
22. The Place Where We Dwell
23. Suckas Need Bodyguards
24. Flip the Script
25. What You Want This Time?
26. Love Sick
27. Ex Girl to Next Girl
28. The Planet
29. Make ’em Pay
30. Execution of a Chump
31. DJ Premier Is In Deep Concentration
32. Take Two & Pass
33. Gotta Get Over (Taking Loot)
34. Rite Where You Stand feat. Jadakiss
35. I’m the Man feat. Lil Dap & Jeru the Damaja
36. Code of the Streets
37. Tonz ‘o’ Gunz
38. Next Time
Gang Starr is one of my favorite acts from the 1990s. There is no rap group I listened to more in that era, although De La Soul, Outkast & A Tribe Called Quest all run pretty much neck and neck.
Still, in recent years I haven’t listened to Gang Starr much. Maybe it’s because they haven’t released any new music since 2003. Maybe it’s because in the last decade the school of hardcore hip hop that they defined stagnated and played out so hard.
For me, this mix was about rediscovery. It grew out of an episode of 2 Busy Saying Yeah from a few weeks ago; after reading about Guru’s health troubles, I devoted a 2-hour episode to Gang Starr’s music. It was my first time mixing a lot of the songs in years and it felt so good, so natural, that I knew I had to turn it into tape along the lines of my previous tributes to $hort, Kells, etc.
Unlike those mixes, which I struggled with for weeks and months each, this was a breeze. I spent an afternoon figuring out the track list, recorded the mix live one evening and then spent a few days puttering with the multi-track to clean it up, add drops and get it down to CD length.
I drew tracks from all six of Gang Starr’s albums, and each is represented more or less in proportion to how much I like it: 1992’s Daily Operation tops them all with 9 selections, although 1990’s Step in the Arena, 1994’s Hard to Earn and 1998’s Moment of Truth all feature prominently with 7, 6 and 5 tracks, respectively. The first and last albums got kind of short shrift, although there were more songs I would have included from each if I hadn’t run out of space. They have one of the strongest catalogs in rap music and there were a lot of additional songs, verses and scratch parts I wish I could have included.
Big thanks to my man XJ, who laced the cover, and my main man DJ Eleven on quality control.