Critics have long second-guessed the rap game, proclaiming, “I never knew it’d last this long!” True, fads come and go, there will always be flashes-in-the-pans, and the next big things that go nowhere. But, like punk and other styles that flourish underground long after their commercial spotlight has been turned off (and on again and off again), rap has enjoyed a steadily increasing rate of popularity. Some will reminisce about the Old-School, some will praise gangsta rap and its offshoots into the Wu-Tang dynasty, others denounce the manufactured-popularity of M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice, and many will embrace the complex stylings of contemporaries Company Flow, Black Star, and the Roots. Almost all, however, will revere groups whose longevity has made them an intrical part of the scene: Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Tribe Called Quest, and Gang Starr, among few others.
The latter has recently released a two-disc compilation, collecting greatest hits, B-sides, and other rarities. Full Clip: A Decade of Gang-Starr celebrates Guru’s and DJ Premier’s 10 years together, documenting tracks from each of the duo’s four full-lengths, plus soundtrack contributions, and a couple of new tracks. And what it all adds up to is slammin’ East Coast hip-hop that wack MCs and DJs should use as a primer.
So basically Guru’s spits the words out and Premier keeps the beat and scratches it up. A simple enough equation but perfected to the point where the two flow so smoothly you’d think you were listening to Mrs. Butterworth. Tons of guests pepper the tracks within, ranging from Inspecta Deck (“Above the Clouds,” from 1998’s Moment of Truth), to Jeru the Damaja (the amazing, three MC “I’m the Man,” from 1992’s Daily Operation) and of course, Nice & Smooth, who share vocals on Gang Starr’s first big hit, 1992’s “DWYCK.” They literally possess so many rhymes, they gotta keep em in Hefty bags.
Vastly underrated throughout the years, Gang-Starr is one of the few groups whose style and substance (not to mention perseverance) are deserving of a retrospective of this size. There’s really little filler among the 33 tracks featured here. My only gripe is the lack of cohesion in the order of the songs. Rather than giving us a chronological history of the group, we dip back and forth from 1998 to 1989 to 1992 back to 1997 again. Then again, true headz can program their CD player if it means that much to them—regardless, you still get tha’ flava in yo’ ear.
// Notes from the Road
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