Gang Starr
Hard to Earn


4.5
superb

Review

by IAJP USER (42 Reviews)
September 1st, 2010 | 50 replies


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist


Sometimes it's absolutely ridiculous to look back at a year in time and popular music and observe history being born. I was alive in 1994, but I was only four, so east and west coast rivalries were not on the agenda. 1994 was the year that Hip-Hop exploded: Illmatic, Ready To Die, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, The Sun Rises in the East, Do You Want More?!!!??!, Ill Communication and The Diary; but a few records all released within the same twelve months.

Another classic was unleashed early on in the year, and as would be expected it was buried amidst a mass of timeless classics; hip hop albums that literally defined the genre and cast an extremely long shadow for all other years to sit in. The band was Gang Starr, and the release was the now classic Hard to Earn. Gang Starr had been around since 1989, and were by no means unheard of, Step Into The Arena and Daily Operation were rightly known as classics in their canon, but on their next album, DJ Prem ripped up his own manual, compiling deep, swamp thick jazz and skittering drum grooves for Guru to spit his laconic and relaxed style over.

The group themselves are extremely undeserving of their self-assigned moniker: less gangstas, and more outspoken critics of street life and the fascination of guns from young inner city males. Guru got out of his rut selling drugs and hustling with his uncanny ability to sound as relaxed as possible; whilst tearing suckas in two with his fast flow, hilarious rhymes, and poignant tales of the disturbing street life in New York.

Hard To Earn finds Gang Starr in a more aggressive mood though, seemingly rabid in it's own attempt to constantly reinvent itself, Premier frequently samples other rapper's one-liners (on A Long Way To Go, Phife-Dawg's 'Now here's a funky introduction', is repeatedly scratched over), and their catchy choruses (the superb standout Suckas Need Bodyguards features Rob Base' spit 'I'm not a sucka so I don't need a bodyguard'). It is in this recycling that Gang Starr's sound really thrives - acknowledging the sounds that have went before but reusing them to a devastatingly catchy effect, providing the tracks with hooks that could never possibly be gained from Guru's repetition alone, a technique which has been copied very heavily to this day.

However, it is on tracks like the Planet that G-Starr unleash their true potential, a bizarrely inspirational track about dropping comfortable surroundings to do something truly worthwhile, while completely acknowledging the tough life this would truly be ('That shit was rough cause my pockets was bare, and like the sayin' goes, sometimes life ain't fair').

The truth is though, whether Gang Starr spit rhymes about gangsta exploits past, reinventing themselves, or rap battles turning sour into real-battles, the voice sounds true, authentic, and believable. Best of all, Guru's flow, technique and lyrics leave you absolutely astounded; his understated and often slow style may grate occasionally, sounding more like a very dry speech at times, quickly flitting back into genius territory. Much more than that, it is on Hard to Earn that Gang Starr come of age, a wannabe rap group they have ceased to be just that; Guru and Prem are older and they seem wiser for the five years they'd been on the scene. Call it wizened, or call it experienced, regardless, Hard to Earn is Gang Starr at both their creative peaks, with Premier sampling delicious jazz beats and basslines, Guru is free to let loose and spew his intelligent vitriol everywhere.



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user ratings (147)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
IAJP
September 1st 2010


378 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

40th review..wowee. hip hop still misses guru.

JustJoe
September 1st 2010


1399 Comments


Well put, indeed. Pos'd. I really need to reacquaint myself with Gang Starr.

R.I.P. Guru.

IAJP
September 1st 2010


378 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i just feel sad every time i hear him rhyme nowadays. love guru, real shame as well because he died when i lost all my G-starr cd's. had to buy em all again but it was worth it. cheers man.

Masochist
September 1st 2010


8084 Comments


However, it is on tracks like the Planet, a bizarrely inspirational track about dropping comfortable surroundings to do something truly worthwhile, while completely acknowledging the tough life this would truly be ('That *** was rough cause my pockets was bare, and like the sayin' goes, sometimes life ain't fair').


Is there supposed to be one more sentence in this paragraph (perhaps something like, "However, it is on tracks like the Planet,...(SNIP)..., that the album shines/that Premo proves his mastry of the art/that Gang Starr show themselves as legendary/etc." It seems the point you were trying to make is missing from it (unless I'm reading it wrong).

Other than that...good review! "Mass Appeal" is the only thing I've heard from this, but it's ace.

IAJP
September 1st 2010


378 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah sorry that was correct what you said there. i'd been sunbathing this morning and i came in to write and my eyes were fucked from the sun..haha cheers

random
September 1st 2010


2270 Comments


I remember Mass Appeal. I'll get this.

AggravatedYeti
September 1st 2010


7685 Comments


I still need to get this

SlyJak
September 4th 2010


68 Comments


Yeah: this album is THE SHIT. One of the fist Gang Starr albums I got into. Most tracks are great. Premier (God 1) and Guru (God 2) come together so well.

Its a shame the game's monotone king passed so young. But, like in his verse from Full Clip makes known: "more than a decade of hits, that'll live forever" - we can always play back the tracks.

KILL
January 8th 2011


72280 Comments


rules hard

Digging: Throwing Muses - Throwing Muses

BigPoppaDiesel
January 26th 2011


150 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This album is a BEAST!!! "DWYCK" was nutzz! "Mass Appeal" & "Code of the Streets" are some of Primo's best work. Great review considering you were only 4 when this hit. Man did you miss out on a TRUE hip hop period. Guess you just had to be there.
R.I.P. Guru

BigHans
March 3rd 2011


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Rules

Inveigh
March 3rd 2011


25184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yep, Gang Starr's best imo

man Poppa Diesel hit on a few of my favs already

Digging: Nero Di Marte - Derivae

BigHans
March 3rd 2011


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah those are the three best songs, along with Suckas Need Bodyguards

Inveigh
March 3rd 2011


25184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

agreed. love Blowin Up The Spot too

AggravatedYeti
March 3rd 2011


7685 Comments


I need to hear this again. I don't think I've listened to it in almost 6 years. At least not since high school.

Inveigh
March 3rd 2011


25184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love Guru (especially early to mid 90s Guru) but he is massively overrated overall as a rapper

especially on this site (obviously there are exceptions)

BloodSweatandBeers
March 3rd 2011


1014 Comments


such a good album, def gonna listen to this again soon

random
March 3rd 2011


2270 Comments


I'm bumping Mass Appeal, broskis!

Psilocyanide
May 27th 2011


1823 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mass Appeal's beat is too good.

Tupik
May 30th 2011


673 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Tonz 'O' Gunz omg



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