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[whitespace] GURU and DJ Premiere
Starr-ting From Skratch: GURU and DJ Premiere re-enter the hip-hop realm.

Starr Power

Gang Starr releases a two-disc set that covers the last and next decade

By Cory Feldman

FOR OVER a decade Keith Elam (a.k.a. GURU) and Christopher Martin (a.k.a. DJ Premiere) have been laying down underground tracks. The Gang Starr duo is just about the only surviving old-school hip-hop group to receive accolades in its day. Preem's innovative beats and GURU's remarkable lyrics have recently been anthologized in Full Clip. In this two-CD, 33-track album, it is easy to hear Gang Starr's smooth evolution over this past decade. A few new cuts, old staples and rare B-sides make this compilation less a best-of and more a testament to what has been 10 solid years and five solid albums.

Old heads will notice that the album is newcomer-oriented. "Manifest," with the remarkable Thelonius Monk-imbued bass line, is the only track off No More Mr. Nice Guy (1989). A third of Full Clip comes out of 1998's various soundtracks and Moment of Truth.

Premiere says that this album was meant to hold fans over until the next one, but also "helps the people who just got into us last year or the year before to see how long we've been around and to catch up on some homework that they didn't get to do before the test came out."

The album has nearly every B-side, every soundtrack cut (Belly, Mo' Better, Blade), and hits like "Just to Get a Rep" (Step in the Arena, 1990), "You Know My Steez" (Moment of Truth, 1998) and "Soliloquy of Chaos" (Daily Operation, 1992).

Premiere, who produced this Immaculate Collection, comments, "There were still other songs that we wanted to add, but we couldn't go too overboard. We want people to buy our old albums, you know what I'm saying?" Full Clip doesn't make a collection, it completes one. For the full effect, invest in the albums of old-school artists like James Brown, Dizzy Gillespie and Kool Herc, all of whom turned up in Gang Starr's flow.

Full Clip's Disc 1 opens with Gang Starr live doing a shout-out to the recently deceased/murdered Big L (of New York's DITC). The audience starts chanting "Big L, rest in peace" in a call and response which forcefully bleeds into the next cut, "Full Clip," an angry newborn from Gang Starr. (This song is also on DJ Clue's released mixtape "You Can't Impeach the President.") "Full Clip" slanders sellouts, and while GURU doesn't name names, the suspects are obvious. GURU says, "A lot of guys are faking moves and selling records. And a lot of people are not elevating the minds of the listeners. I'm not saying every song has to do that. But at the end of the day, I'm looking for some type of something that will make me ... I want to learn something." GURU has proven in these new tracks that hip-hop can be thoughtful and bold and still sell.

"Discipline," another new addition, proves that the latest tracks, albeit more commercial than the word "underground" implies, are still tight. It is refreshing to hear lyrics like "Just because I make records don't mean that I'm gassed and just because I'm rappin' don't mean I chase ass." Says GURU, "A lot of people have misconceptions about rap entertainers. I sort of addressed all that ... plus I've been in this too long. I'm not trying to make dumb decisions anymore."

The first disc also contains "Ex Girl to the Next Girl," which is reminiscent of the intelligent, narrative rap style that GURU spit on Daily Operation (1992). The disc ends with one of GURU's personal favorites, "DWYCK Featuring Nice & Smooth" (Hard to Earn, 1994).

The second disc opens with the final new cut, "All 4 Tha Ca$h" (1999). This track is, as Premiere points out, "a story joint. It's real phat. Real ghetto." It's the street-story of a girl who plays her man and hooks up with his friend, and then it all blows up. The addition of the hard-to-find "The ? Remains" is a treat, since it's otherwise only available on vinyl (B-side of "Suckas Need Bodyguards," 1994).

GURU's rhymes about ghetto ills, industry corruption and the meaning of hip-hop have raised standards and consciousness for a decade now. With the addition of Premiere's remarkable scratch and sampling techniques, this album is the flavors.

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From the December 2-8, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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