Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Gang Starr

  • Daily Operation [Chrysalis, 1992] Choice Cuts
  • Hard to Earn [Chrysalis/ERG, 1994] Neither
  • Moment of Truth [Noo Trybe, 1998] Neither
  • Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr [Virgin, 1999] A-
  • The Ownerz [Virgin, 2003] *

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Daily Operation [Chrysalis, 1992]
"The Illest Brother" Choice Cuts

Hard to Earn [Chrysalis/ERG, 1994] Neither

Moment of Truth [Noo Trybe, 1998] Neither

Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr [Virgin, 1999]
A longtime agnostic in re Guru and Premier except as regards the former's ill-advised Roy Ayers-Donald Byrd trip, I'm grateful for this exemplary compilation. For anybody wondering what "flow" can mean, Guru's smooth, unshowy delivery, cool in its confident warmth and swift without ever burying words or betraying rush, is one ideal, and Premier's steady drums 'n' bass, just barely touched by anything that would pass for a hook, undergird his groove with discretion and power. My problem has always been the music's formalism--the way it encouraged adepts to bask in skillful sounds and rhymes that abjure commerce and tough-guyism. But reducing five albums to two CDs not only ups the pop density, as you'd expect, but achieves variety by jumbling chronology and mixing in B sides and soundtrack one-offs that weren't cut to any album's flow. It's a credit to the duo's constancy that the result plays like a single release. And despite his occasional bad-girl tales and images of sexual submission, Guru's quiet rectitude and disdain for a street rhetoric whose reality he's seen make him a chronicler everybody can learn from. A-

The Ownerz [Virgin, 2003]
Why hip-hop heads worship Premier ("In This Life . . . ," "Who Got Gunz") *