By Jason Arline
It’s been 16 years since Gang Starr’s last album. After the death of member Guru, it seemed like we had heard the last of the hip-hop duo. However, with the release of their album One of the Best Yet, DJ Premiere gives us 16 tracks befitting of its title.
The album uses posthumus recordings from Guru and features artists like J.Cole, Royce the 5’9 and Talib Kweli. On the introduction track, DJ Premier uses a call and response chant recorded at one of Gang Starr’s shows. The vocals are layered over well known Gang Starr beats from tracks like “Mass Appeal” and “DWYCK.” The track really drives home that the project was years in the making and opens up the album masterfully.
In DJ Premieres’ recent interview with Rolling Stone, he talked about the process he took while making the album. After receiving Guru’s vocals from DJ Mosher, Premiere knew he had exactly what he needed to make One of the Best Yet. His goal wasn’t to make a tribute record that was filled with old recordings and beats that were shelved. He wanted it to be new, but at the same time possessing that classic Gang Starr feeling that inspired many artists of the current generation.
“They’re all brand new,” he told the interviewer. “I didn’t have beats sitting outside that I matched to his vocals. I wouldn’t want to do that.”
Premiere’s desire to make new Gang Starr tracks for the music fans of 2019 is realized on tracks like “So Many Rappers” where Guru raps about the many artists who have tried to chase success in music but for one reason or another never made it. With the influx of music due to the boom of social media and the internet, rappers like Guru are hard to come by. Guru most likely spits the verse before the change of millennia. You can tell because of his reference to the show “Yo! MTV Raps,” which stopped airing back in 1998.
However, the prophetic nature of the bars Guru spits hits home when you compare them to the current state of hip-hop. There are so many self-made artists due to the advances in technology and accessibility of passable recording equipment. There really are “So Many Rappers” today just like how Guru unknowingly predicted in his verse.
Another track on the album titled “Bad News” also resonates with the current state of hip-hop through Guru’s rhymes. He opens the song saying “Word to God, if Big and ‘Pac were still here some of these weirdos wouldn’t act so cavalier.” From the time when Gang Starr first came on the scene to now, rappers have changed by a wide margin.
Rap used to be about life on the streets and storytelling, but now its subject matter is materialistic things like money and cars. The people who were rappers were those who actually did the things they say in their songs. Nowadays rappers are “cavalier,” and they can casually say pretty much whatever they want and not be held accountable.
The album as a whole brings the ’90s flow and respect for the craft of hip-hop artists past and present. With featured artists like Q-Tip and J. Cole, the album comes full circle and in a way that passes the torch to the next generation of rappers. It reflects on the journey of Gang Starr and those who were inspired by them along the way. One of the Best Yet is Gang Starr’s last reminder to us that they were one of the greatest and most inspirational MC and DJ duos in the history of hip-hop.