Gang Starr is a group which doesn’t get as much praise as they should, even though they were massive in early ‘90s hip-hop. But then again, the duo of Guru (that is, Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal to you) and DJ Premier more than likely wanted it that way. They were a very subtle crew, the kind of guys who would fly in under the radar and snatch the crown off your head without you knowing it. The Gang put out six records, at least 5 of those are classics, and during the early ’90s they were a force to be reckoned with.
DJ Premier’s style of production, utilizing hard-hitting beats, ample soul and jazz samples, and record scratches over vocal soundbites became a sonic staple for hip-hop music in the early ’90s, practically defining the New York sound, and still influencing the sound of hip-hop (at least in the underground) today. He established himself as one of the premier (heh) producers of the day too, as any rapper worth their salt would often call on him for production work. Today, he’s a legend, and still putting in work.
And Guru? Well, just listen to him. The dude was brilliant. Guru was known far and wide for his biting social commentary, effortless swag, and his verbal beatdowns.
And when I say “beatdown,” I mean, beat-the-fuck-down. You see, Baldhead Slick had no time or tolerance for whack emcees. Sure, he was fantastic when it came to rapping about social issues, but he was even better when it came to straight up embarrassing and outright ruining motherfuckers. And that’s just what he did. It was his job. And business was (and still very much is) good because suckers always wanna try and get on in hip-hop.
And in “Flip The Script” from the ’92 record Daily Operation, Guru absolutely puts in terrific work. Daily Operation was my introduction to the duo, and initially I wasn’t bowled over by the minimalist beats on display, as well as the non-flashy delivery of Guru…but, you know what? I was WRONG, and damn happy I saw the light. Preem’s beat here is minimal, but effective, and Guru’s rhymes take center stage, as he drops line after line of impressive braggadocio and lyrical heatwaves. This is one of those songs I can still quote, line for line after all these years, and just a taste of how dope this duo was.
Man. Rest in peace, Guru.