Gang Starr
Daily Operation



by Robert Crumb EMERITUS
March 4th, 2006 | 21 replies

Release Date: 1992 | Tracklist

It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to consider Gang Starr the hip hop equivalent of the Velvet Underground. In regards to influence, both are recognized and respected wide and far as innovators. Each group worked in a style that stood far enough outside of the mainstream so as not to draw too much popular acclaim, but just accessible enough to gather a small, devoted following. Both also had a member who courted the mainstream. For the Velvets, it would be Lou “the original rock and roll pervert” Reed. For Gang Starr, you’ve got one the most influential mainstream producers of the 90's, DJ Premier. Even the monotone delivery of Gang Starr lyricist Guru echoes Lou Reed’s disaffected Noo Yawka street-level speech to an extent.

Of course, comparing Gang Starr and the Velvet Underground is about as pointless as comparing the theological teachings of the Pope and an Ayatollah. Do I really need to tell you the difference" My point is that you can relate anything to anything. And in the spirit of that dubious statement, let’s talk Tears for Fears, and Norm Peterson and New York hip hop.

Daily Operation is Gang Starr’s third album, and in many ways, predicts the direction of then-forthcoming hip hop classics like Illmatic, Ready to Die and Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). In fact, Daily Operation is directly responsible for two of those, without question. Illmatic and Ready to Die bear the unmistakable mark of DJ Premier, who played a role in the production of both albums. But unlike those and other 1994 gems, Daily Operation didn’t quite manage the same commercial appeal.

Together, the duo of Guru and Premier simply does not cater to the mainstream of any generation. The candid, outspoken nature of Guru’s rhymes plays a large part in this; his perspective is often presented in the form of scathing critiques on mainstream culture’s ills. On “Soliloquy of Chaos,” he vents about a street kid who causes a violent ruckus at a live performance, effectively quashing his chance to turn the place out. The first verse, told in a textbook narrative, leads into the second verse, a slightly abstract damning of street violence in general. “Conspiracy” is heavier on the straight-up preaching, which is perhaps one of Gang Starr’s biggest contributions to underground rap. For better or worse, I suppose.

Combine Guru’s heady rhymes with the fact that Premier has perhaps more grit here than anywhere else in his catalogue, and you’ve got a formula for a cult-hit. While Premier always sticks closely to a raw, elastic sound, he’s in especially full effect here. Daily Operation hops from smooth jazz-inflected sampling to freestyle scratching to left-field, avant trickery, often on the same track. “Hardcore Composer” is the perfect instance; The track opens on a steady, laid-back beat with light scratching thrown in under Guru’s verses, only to slide into a sample that sounds like a piano pratfall. His standard fall back, however, is the perfectly cut loop as heard on “B.Y.S.” or “2 Deep.”

Like all the great hip hop duos, Premier and Guru build off and accentuate each other’s strongest characteristics. Since Guru excels at penning a strong verse but not so much at writing a solid hook, Premier fills choruses with well-placed turntable handiwork and clever vocal samples. “Ex Girl to Next Girl” captures this perfectly and shows off Guru’s ability to coin a sweet catchphrase. Same deal on both counts with “Flip the Script,” another token hip hop phrase that’s been employed by more than a couple MCs.

Arguably the greatest moment of Daily Operation comes from neither of the group’s two members, though. “I’m the Man” is a posse track, or a small one at least. Guru and DJ Premier bring a couple of their boys on for the four-minute three-verse banger but it’s Jeru the Damaja who rips it in the end. After an nod-worthy Guru verse and a sub-passable note from Lil Dap, Jeru comes out in full glory, one minute of pure hip hop perfection. Premier shows off his versatility by switching up the track between every MC, which gives the song a live-take feel. And when the beat for Jeru pops in, a rollicking bass line coupled with brass stabs, it’s like akodhflksjdhflas. So he does it right:

MCs step up in mobs to defeat us when
We rock knots and got props like Norm Peterson
Lots of friends, lots of fun, lots of beers
Got the skills, kreeno so I always get cheers
Troop on like a trooper, no Tears for Fears
I'm a get mines cuz the crew'll get theirs
Cut you up like Edward Scissorhands
You know the program, I'm the mutha***in' man

Whether or not that scans perfectly from a poetic standpoint doesn’t really matter since Jeru’s flow explodes like a beretta blast to the forehead.

Daily Operation might not amount to much more than 18 tracks of influence to some, but a willing and schooled ear will hear not only seeds, but also the redwood trees themselves. Certainly Gang Starr’s impact on their genre is large but execution here is as flawless here as on anything that came afterwards. We're not talking nostalgic hero worship here. The Guru’s molasses-creamy lyrical mode comes as a step in the evolution of the unmelodic MC; although he lacks the energy and emotion of other rappers, his strength is as, he says, all in the voice. DJ Premier’s beats need no defense, they speak for themselves. Combined, it’s like Wonder Twins, without the sissy rings.

Don’t think you can relate" Anything to anything, baby.

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user ratings (218)

Comments:Add a Comment 
March 4th 2006


Gang Starr rules all, I've heard about half these songs because they were on the two-disc Full Clip album. They are without a doubt one of the absolute best hip-hop groups out there. I think they were never overly popular because of Guru's delivery and people hate to think about music.
I can't give this album a full rating but you are probably right at a 4.5
Review was easy to read also, nicely done

March 4th 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

Finally, a Gang Starr review, good work, I might do Moment Of Truth once I get the time.

This was imo the first of a trilogy of classic albums for Gang Starr (followed by Hard To Earn and Moment Of Truth) although I actually only rate one of them 5/5. I believe an album can be classic without being 5/5.

Word to praising Jeru, he kills that track. Have you heard his solo-debut The Sun Rises In The East? It's a crazy album, with Premier in a very interesting form.

The Jungler
March 4th 2006


Good Review. I've only heard two or three singles from this band and I loved them.

March 4th 2006


This really was a great review. I've listened to some Gang Starr and didn't really like it. I don't know why but I just couldn't get into it, maybe I'll give it another chance sometime soon.

Robert Crumb
March 4th 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

Word to praising Jeru, he kills that track. Have you heard his solo-debut The Sun Rises In The East? It's a crazy album, with Premier in a very interesting form.

Yep, very impressive album. I was debating whether to review this or that, actually. I'll probably still do that one at some point. It would be very cool to see another Gang Starr review, too, so do that.

Zesty Mordant
March 8th 2006


I reckon I need more Gangstarr, all I've heard from them is "The Militia" and I love it.
I've also heard Guru's Jazzmatazz but that's kinda 'meh'.

May 11th 2007


Would be better if a few songs were cut.

January 11th 2009


album rules, rating bumped to a 4

June 27th 2009


finger lickin' good

Shadowed Reflection
June 11th 2010


Album Rating: 5.0

something so addictive about this album. the one after is nearly just as good, but I think I prefer Guru's style here - it's a little more laid back, plus there's less smack talking. Soliloquy of Chaos is great.

June 11th 2010


maybe its his hat

August 31st 2010


did anyone else know guru was 8ball (bomb guy) from GTA3.. lol

December 1st 2010


Album Rating: 5.0

Love this album, personally my favorite hip hop act to listen to.

August 1st 2012


I liked the part where you discussed the choruses of the songs. Thinking about it for a second, I'm unable to name a Gang Starr song where Guru actually raps the chorus! Of course, Premier's scratch hooks are a signature of his, and it's interesting to think that this ritual may have come about because Guru either didn't like writing hooks or he never came up with anything very good.

I hope you don't mind some constructive criticism, but the Velvet Underground comparison dragged on a bit too long. It's interesting to pop the idea into the reader's head to compare the two but that's all that's needed IMO. Coming from a hip hop angle, it made me skeptical moving forward reading the review regarding whether or not you actually have a solid hip hop background.

Finally, I agree that this record has a gritty sound, and it's interesting to consider the possibility that it influenced RZA in the making of 36 Chambers.

January 11th 2015


Album Rating: 5.0

are you implying that Guru is a shitty vocalist with that Velvet Underground comparison

February 21st 2015


Album Rating: 5.0

few give Guru the props he deserves as an MC

January 22nd 2016


Album Rating: 3.0

I give guru props

August 12th 2016


So dope

August 12th 2016


Album Rating: 3.0

I'm not huge on this one but everything else they've done is dope.

April 29th 2017


ex girl to next girl has such a good beat oof

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