ALBUMS: On Brand With Gang Starr
After a tragic legal tangle, the final studio LP from DJ Premier and the late GURU comes to light
Artist: Gang Starr
Album: One Of The Best Yet
Label: To The Top / Gang Starr Enterprises
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Guru (Keith Edward Elam) was undoubtedly one of the most talented lyricists to have ever graced the rap game. A true wordsmith—his bars were fluid and his messages were both timeless and thought-provoking.
As one-half of the beloved duo, Gang Starr, his music will continue to live on thanks to the efforts of his legendary partner and producer, DJ Premier, who has been working for the last nine years to put together the group’s seventh and final studio album.
Together they would become one of the defining sounds of Hip-Hop’s Golden Age in the ‘90s. The combination of Guru’s steadfast lyricism and Preemo’s legendary scratching, helped them establish a signature sound that was unforgettable. In addition to their success together, both Guru and Premier, would individually find success with their own solo careers.
Guru’s death in 2010 was both untimely and unexpected. After suffering a heart attack caused by multiple myeloma—a rare form of blood cancer—he left this earthly plane at the young age of 47.
But this would not stop Premier from working towards trying to preserve his legacy. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, he explains how Guru was frequently busy recording. “So that’s what made me start going, ‘Man. I know there’s got to be a lot of unreleased stuff that exists.’”
The project was met with adversity from the very start, due to a hard fought legal battle with producer John Mosher, a.k.a. DJ Solar, who had claimed control over the ownership of Guru’s posthumous material. While a 2014 court ruling would determine that the late rapper’s estate be returned to his family, the case was stalled by appeal.
Two years later, when Premier caught word that Solar was ready to sell, he made a deal to purchase 30 of the previously unreleased recordings for an undisclosed amount. “Whatever the ransom’s going to be, I’ll pay for it,” Premier said in an interview with The New York Times.
Nearly a decade in the making, One of the Best Yet, truly lives up to its name. But it is more than just the nostalgia that drives this record. Sure, it’s pretty incredible that after more than 16 years of waiting, fans finally get to hear a new Gang Starr album, but that still doesn’t quite fill the Guru-sized void still missing from today’s music.
Fans expecting to hear more of the same will not be disappointed since most of the late-emcees verses were recorded between 2005 – 2009, but they might be pleasantly surprised to see that the guest features include much more than just the usual suspects, such as Group Home, Big Shug, NYG’z, M.O.P., and Jeru the Damaja, as well as several special guest appearances by some hip-hop veterans, including Talib Kweli, Freddie Foxx, Q-Tip, and Royce da 5’9”.
VIDEO : Gang Starr feat. J. Cole “Family and Loyalty”
The album’s lead single, “Family and Loyalty” was aimed at attracting the younger crowd with some help from J. Cole, who helps send a wholesome message with a track that is both timeless and uplifting.
“Bad Name,” the album’s second single, is another stand out track with an old school style. Preem scratching on the turntables, lays down the foundation for Guru to grab the mic and lyrically dissect his view on the state of rap culture.
“Word to God, if Big and ‘Pac were still here / Some of these weirdos wouldn’t act so cavalier / We all know that the game has changed / It’s crazy out here and rap’s got a bad name”
Guru’s lyrical prowess was unmatched, which is made clear with one of the album’s more unexpected collaborations, “Get Together,” featuring R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo and Brooklyn emcee Nitty Scott.
Overall, the album can feel a little predictable at times, and it certainly could have been longer than 37 minutes, but it is everything fans could have hoped for and more. One of the Best Yet includes 18-tracks of pure greatness that live up to the Gang Starr brand.
AUDIO: Gang Starr One of the Best Yet (full album)
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