Gang Starr Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr

Gang Starr are probably hip-hop music’s most striking anomalies. In a directly inverse relationship to the trajectory of the average hip-hop career, Guru and DJ Premier are achieving their peak success after ten years without having to significantly compromise their sound. Curiously, they’re one of the few groups made up of the foundation of an MC and a DJ. And in releasing Full Clip they have probably released the only hip-hop double album that can be listened to in its entirety. Evidently, the uniqueness of the group is rooted in the close relationship between Guru and DJ Premier that Guru remembers from their first conversation. “It was like an instant, spontaneous combustion, straight up like we were brothers for mad years. My long lost brother, or something.” While Guru and DJ Premier share a fraternal bond, it is the duo’s individual abilities that come to the forefront on Full Clip. DJ Premier’s beats for other artists from paragraph president Nas, to the lyrically deficient Group Home inspire fervent discussion and could easily hold down a compilation of their own. His evolution, from initial jazzy sounds to “Daily Operation”’s watershed experimentation and then to his status as arguably hip-hop’s best sonic auteur can be charted on Full Clip, consistently underscored by his precise scratching and obscure sampling. While stylistically Guru’s appealing dour monotone doesn’t waver much, it’s his mix of roughneck and spiritual rhymes and an underrated knack for the narrative that come to the fore, marking his lyrics as an enduring, distinctive body of work. According to Guru it’s always been this way. “We came in the game as real students,” he says. “The way we put our music together now is still based on the foundation that we had in the beginning.” Full Clip captures the most crucial moments, even including soundtrack selections (“Jazz Thing”) and B-sides (“The ? Remainz”) that even devotees may not own. Notable omissions, however, include the instrumental “DJ Premier is In Deep Concentration” from their debut No More Mr. Nice Guy, Hard To Earn’s “The Planet” and the ominous bass line of the “Gotta Get Over (remix)”; the lesser original is included instead. These tracks appear to be missing based on a skewing of the compilation towards the duo’s newer songs that are admittedly just as good. Any doubts are summarily dismissed by “All 4 Tha Cash,” one of three new songs included. Guru is adamant about continuing in this vein. “You’re gonna have arguments in a group that’s been together for so long,” he says, “but you have to be able to look at what’s the goal, and the common goal is that we wanna see Gang Starr go further and further. We’re not finished yet.” (Virgin)