Dig of the Month: Gang Starr – Hard To Earn

Few hip-hop groups have been able to craft a sound as instantly recognizable as Gang Starr. Guru’s smooth baritone and the beats Premo handcrafted using samples and his signature bounce have left a strong impact in the history of hip hop. March 8th this year marked the 24-year anniversary of Gang Starr’s 4th studio album Hard To Earn. On top of that, half of this legendary hip hop duo, DJ Premier, just turned 52, so all signs point to the fact that it’s time to revisit this outstanding piece of music.

GANG STARR – HARD TO EARN (1994)

1994 was a ground-breaking year for hip hop music. It is widely considered as the year in which hip hop exploded from the underground onto the mainstream. Gang Starr, formation consisting of DJ Premier & Guru (R.I.P.), were right there at the forefront of style on the New York streets.

The late great emcee Guru (acronym for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal) was one of the most distinctive voices in music, period. He passed away at age 48 in April 2010 after a year-long struggle with cancer, nevertheless his legacy continues to inspire infinitely. One of the many examples is that each episode of the Luke Cage Netflix series based on Marvel Comics’ superhero is named after a Gang Starr song. 

Rest in Peace, Guru.

 

 

On March 8th 1994, one of the group’s most critically acclaimed projects, the 4th studio album was been released to the world. Consisting of 17 tracks with features from MC Eiht, Nas, Nice & Smooth, and members of the Gang Starr foundation like Group Home (Lil Dap & Melachi the Nutcracker), Jeru the Damaja & Big Shug, it became one of the all-time hip hop classic albums.

From their existing repertoire it was the first album that received a Parental Advisory label. It is quite raw in comparison to the previous releases of Gang Starr. Hard n gritty, less musical on purpose, since at this point they were trying to break away from the Jazz-Rap” label that was so often used for their music until this day (due to Premier‘s heavy use of jazz samples in his beats). It was a conscious decision to separate themselves from what had gained them popularity up until that point, which in itself is a testament to their artistry and their legacy at the end of the day.

Premier has been actively feeding the world with heavy beats since the 80’s and is continuously widely considered one of the best hip hop producers of all time. His skills as a beatmaker & DJ/turntablist are undisputable. This snippet from Re:Generation Music Project by Grammy’s Association illustrates beautifully that his musical genius shines through, even when taken out of his comfort zone.

 

 

As Guru said best in the DWYCK’ track: Premier’s got more beats than a barn’s got hay”, and the statement continues to be true even 25 years later. This month, the 2nd studio album of the duo PRhyme consisting of DJ Premier & Royce da 5’9’’ was released, so to get your dose of good ol’ boom-bap & bars, go and cop the PRhyme 2 album;)

Cover photo by: Souljor of souljor.com

 

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