Music Metrics Vault

Gang Starr

Data updated on 2024-07-21 21:35:06 UTC
One of the most influential MC and DJ duos, Gang Starr set new standards for streetwise, socially conscious East Coast rap with a pair of early-'90s touchstones, Step in the Arena (1991) and Daily Operation (1992), whose appeal has only grown over the decades. Beginning with these classic releases, listeners and critics heaped mounds of praise upon Guru and DJ Premier -- the former because of his socially conscious lyrics and no-nonsense stance, the latter because of his DJ-style beatmaking and jazzy sound. Following Step in the Arena and Daily Operation, Premier became one of New York's most in-demand producers, crafting hits for the city's finest MCs, including the Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Jay-Z, and KRS-One. Guru likewise collaborated with plenty of well-known artists -- Roy Ayers, Donald Byrd, N'Dea Davenport -- on his solo debut, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 (1993), and its series of follow-ups. Following Hard to Earn (1994), the duo's fourth Gang Starr collaboration overall, Guru and Premier began focusing primarily on their solo projects, reuniting infrequently for Moment of Truth (1998) and The Ownerz (2003). Guru's death in 2010 left an unfillable void in hip-hop, but Premier eventually issued new Gang Starr material in the form of One of the Best Yet (2019), featuring previously unreleased verses from Guru and appearances from the likes of Q-Tip, Jeru the Damaja, and J. Cole.

Guru (born Keith Edward Elam in Boston) and Premier (born Christopher Edward Martin in Houston) began working together in 1989. Guru founded Gang Starr a couple years earlier and had already established a working relationship with Wild Pitch Records. The partnership of Guru and Premier as Gang Starr led to a formative debut album, No More Mr. Nice Guy (1989), including the featured single "Words I Manifest" and the DJ-spotlight track "DJ Premier in Deep Concentration." Between albums, in 1990, Guru and Premier contributed "Jazz Thing" to the Mo' Better Blues soundtrack. Gang Starr subsequently moved to Chrysalis Records for their second album, Step in the Arena (1991), on which they perfected the approach of their debut -- a stark, hard-hitting jazz-rap production style, complete with Premier's masterful DJ cutting, over which Guru's battle-rap-hardened yet smoothly delivered lyrics, often thoughtful, sly, and streetsmart, take flight. Gang Starr's third album, Daily Operation (1992), furthered the duo's approach stylistically; widely considered an East Coast rap classic, it's arguably Guru and Premier's finest work, along with its predecessor.

Beginning in 1993, Guru and Premier began working separately. Guru's debut album, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 (1993), took the so-called jazz-rap style to a new level, featuring jazz musicians such as Lonnie Liston Smith, Branford Marsalis, Ronny Jordan, Donald Byrd, and Roy Ayers, along with guest vocalists such as N'Dea Davenport (of the Brand New Heavies) and French rapper MC Solaar. Meanwhile, Premier produced six tracks for KRS-One's solo debut, Return of the Boom Bap (1993), and in 1994 he proceeded to produce three tracks for Nas' debut, Illmatic (including "N.Y. State of Mind"); two for the Notorious B.I.G.'s debut, Ready to Die ("Unbelievable," an unreleased remix of "Machine Gun Funk"); five for the self-titled debut of Branford Marsalis' Buckshot LeFonque project; the entirety of Jeru the Damaja's debut, The Sun Rises in the East; and a handful of remixes for various artists. Amid all of this activity, Guru and Premier found time to record their fourth album, Hard to Earn (1994), which was more hardcore-fashioned -- as was the style at the time in the wake of Death Row's uprising -- than past Gang Starr albums. The album spawned the duo's biggest hit, "Mass Appeal," their first to reach the Billboard Hot 100 (peaking at number 67), and their eighth single to enter Billboard's rap chart.

Following Hard to Earn, Guru and Premier resumed their solo activity. Guru released Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality (1995) and a various-artists compilation, Guru Presents Ill Kid Records (1995), while Premier produced the bulk of Livin' Proof (1995), the debut of Gang Starr affiliates Group Home (a duo featured on Hard to Earn). Also in 1995, Premier produced three tracks on KRS-One, the rapper's second solo album; and two tracks on Hold It Down, the third album by Das EFX; as well as assorted remixes and one-off productions. While Guru remained more or less inactive during 1996-1997, Premier stayed busy, producing the entirety of Jeru the Damaja's Wrath of the Math (1996); five tracks on Bahamadia's Kollage (1996); six on M.O.P.'s Firing Squad (1996); three on Jay-Z's debut, Reasonable Doubt (1996); one on Nas' It Was Written (1996); two on Jay-Z's second album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (1997); two on the Notorious B.I.G.'s Life After Death (1997); four on O.C.'s Jewelz (1997); two on Rakim's The 18th Letter (1997); and two on the Lady of Rage's Necessary Roughness (1997).

In 1998, after four years between albums, Gang Starr returned with Moment of Truth, their first album to chart at number one (on the R&B/Hip-Hop album chart, that is; it peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 overall, their best showing). Moment of Truth was a significant departure from past Gang Starr efforts, very much contemporary in style; for example, the album features numerous guests (Inspectah Deck, Scarface, G. Dep, K-Ci & JoJo, M.O.P.) and bore little trace of the duo's jazz-rap beginnings. The lead single, "You Know My Steez," became the second Gang Starr hit to break into the Hot 100 (peaking at number 76). A double-disc retrospective, Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr (1999), subsequently marked the duo's ten-year anniversary. In the years that followed, Guru and Premier continued to focus on their own work. Guru continued his Jazzmatazz series, beginning with a third volume, Streetsoul (2000); he also released solo rap albums, beginning with Baldhead Slick & da Click (2001). The next Guru release, Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures (2005), arrived on his new label, 7 Grand Records; the album featured beats by Solar, who would prove to be an important contributor on additional 7 Grand releases. The fourth volume of Jazzmatazz (2007) included the typical array of guest vocalists and instrumentalists and was issued along with the "raw" companion disc Guru's Jazzmatazz - The Timebomb: Back to the Future Mixtape. Guru 8.0: Lost and Found (2009), the rapper's next 7 Grand full-length, followed shortly thereafter. Premier continued his production activity, working with superstars such as Jay-Z, Nas, and Common, as well as underground rappers such as Royce da 5'9", Termanology, and NYG'z; he even dabbled in mainstream pop, most notably working extensively with Christina Aguilera on her double-disc album Back to Basics (2006), including the Top Ten hit "Ain't No Other Man."

As for Gang Starr, Guru and Premier did reunite during the early 2000s for The Ownerz (2003), a celebrated return to form, but the reunion proved short-lived, leaving back-catalog collections such as Mass Appeal: The Best of Gang Starr (2006) to fill the void. Guru died at age 43 on April 19, 2010 after battling cancer, suffering a heart attack, and for a time falling into a coma. Throughout the 2010s, Premier steered projects such as Get Used to Us (2010), the Bumpy Knuckles collaboration Kolexxxion, and two albums with Royce da 5'9" as PRhyme (issued in 2014 and 2018). He continued to work with veterans and up-and-comers alike, from Big Shug, Dr. Dre, and MC Eiht, to Rapsody, Westside Gunn, Conway, and Benny the Butcher. Near the end of the decade, Premier released One of the Best Yet, the first Gang Starr album in 16 years. The producer adeptly utilized previously unreleased verses from Guru and contributions from a deep roster of contemporaries and pupils, including Q-Tip, Jeru the Damaja, Group Home, Talib Kweli, and J. Cole. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi

Total plays

984.4 million
Updated on 2024-07-21

Country

United States

Monthly listeners

3,365,235

Followers

952,263

Top Cities

  1. United States
    58,619 listeners
  2. United Kingdom
    63,257 listeners
  3. Australia
    50,613 listeners
  4. Australia
    43,412 listeners
  5. United States
    39,272 listeners

Related artists

Jeru The Damaja
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Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth
Brand Nubian
Brand Nubian
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Das EFX
GZA
GZA
Guru
Guru
EPMD
EPMD
KRS-One
KRS-One
Black Moon
Black Moon
Black Star
Black Star
Masta Ace
Masta Ace
Pete Rock
Pete Rock
Smif-N-Wessun
Smif-N-Wessun
Inspectah Deck
Inspectah Deck
Raekwon
Raekwon
Kool G Rap
Kool G Rap

Most popular tracks

Track Plays Duration Release date
Full Clip
Full Clip
149,074,377 3:37 1999-07-13
Work
Work
134,869,039 2:58 1998-03-31
Above The Clouds
Above The Clouds
84,001,137 3:42 1998-03-31
Mass Appeal
Mass Appeal
78,109,626 3:41 1994-03-08
Moment Of Truth
Moment Of Truth
53,935,575 4:07 1998-03-31
Family and Loyalty
Family and Loyalty
40,989,856 4:35 2019-09-20
You Know My Steez
You Know My Steez
33,824,972 4:08 1998-03-31
What I'm Here 4
What I'm Here 4
29,742,948 2:45 1998-03-31
My Advice 2 You
My Advice 2 You
22,197,820 2:32 1998-03-31
Rite Where U Stand
Rite Where U Stand
19,910,249 3:40 2003-01-01
DWYCK
DWYCK
18,431,185 4:03 1994-03-08
Code Of The Streets
Code Of The Streets
16,629,364 3:29 1994-03-08
Skills
Skills
15,542,148 3:21 2003-01-01
All For Tha Ca$h
All For Tha Ca$h
15,427,562 2:30 1999-07-13
JFK 2 LAX
JFK 2 LAX
11,587,858 3:35 1998-03-31
Discipline
Discipline
11,298,645 4:17 1999-07-13
Bad Name
Bad Name
10,798,175 2:22 2019-10-18
The Militia
The Militia
10,388,417 4:49 1998-03-31
Who Got Gunz
Who Got Gunz
8,946,119 3:37 2003-01-01
Werdz From The Ghetto Child
Werdz From The Ghetto Child
7,672,640 1:11 2003-01-01
Battle - From "8 Mile" Soundtrack
Battle - From "8 Mile" Soundtrack
6,844,254 2:55 2002-10-29
Step In The Arena
Step In The Arena
6,613,380 3:37 1991-01-15
Royalty
Royalty
6,096,111 5:11 1998-03-31
Now You're Mine
Now You're Mine
6,090,595 2:56 1994-03-08
Ex-Girl To Next Girl
Ex-Girl To Next Girl
5,524,355 4:39 1992-05-05
Just To Get A Rep
Just To Get A Rep
4,632,561 2:43 1991-01-15
B.Y.S.
B.Y.S.
4,615,904 3:06 1992-05-05
Robbin Hood Theory
Robbin Hood Theory
4,569,017 3:44 1998-03-31
Same Team, No Games
Same Team, No Games
4,321,700 3:46 2003-01-01
Take It Personal
Take It Personal
4,050,231 3:10 1992-05-05
Betrayal
Betrayal
4,048,860 5:30 1998-03-31
Next Time
Next Time
3,841,006 3:06 1998-03-31
What's Real
What's Real
3,649,087 3:24 2019-11-01
Lovesick
Lovesick
3,494,444 3:27 1991-01-15
Love Sick
Love Sick
3,494,444 3:24 2006-01-01
Put Up Or Shut Up
Put Up Or Shut Up
3,444,447 3:16 2003-01-01
Lights Out
Lights Out
3,329,757 3:37 2019-11-01
Zonin'
Zonin'
3,283,918 2:55 2003-01-01
I'm The Man
I'm The Man
3,250,250 4:04 1992-05-05
Tonz 'O' Gunz
Tonz 'O' Gunz
3,232,607 3:55 1994-03-08
Who's Gonna Take The Weight?
Who's Gonna Take The Weight?
3,186,323 3:56 1991-01-15
She Knowz What She Wantz
She Knowz What She Wantz
3,171,792 3:01 1998-03-31
Speak Ya Clout
Speak Ya Clout
3,169,860 3:36 1994-03-08
Make 'Em Pay
Make 'Em Pay
3,157,410 4:21 1998-03-31
Itz A Set Up
Itz A Set Up
2,902,874 3:49 1998-03-31
Manifest
Manifest
2,898,860 4:51 2006-01-01
B.I. Vs. Friendship
B.I. Vs. Friendship
2,854,734 4:37 1998-03-31
Check The Technique
Check The Technique
2,841,212 3:59 1991-01-15
Bad Name - Remix
Bad Name - Remix
2,756,651 3:38 2020-01-31
Get Together
Get Together
2,748,236 3:28 2019-11-01
Jazz Thing
Jazz Thing
2,742,424 4:48 1990-07-29
Hit Man
Hit Man
2,645,902 2:22 2019-11-01
The Militia - Remix
The Militia - Remix
2,619,022 3:38 1998-11-03
Militia - From The "Belly" Soundtrack
Militia - From The "Belly" Soundtrack
2,619,022 3:38 1998-11-03
From A Distance
From A Distance
2,616,460 2:31 2019-11-01
Deadly Habitz
Deadly Habitz
2,536,795 4:15 2003-01-01
The Rep Growz Bigga
The Rep Growz Bigga
2,529,192 4:56 1998-03-31
Soliloquy Of Chaos
Soliloquy Of Chaos
2,457,954 3:14 1992-05-05
Blowin' Up The Spot
Blowin' Up The Spot
2,354,194 3:11 1994-03-08
In Memory Of...
In Memory Of...
2,214,374 3:50 1998-03-31
Glowing Mic
Glowing Mic
2,018,246 3:24 2020-12-11
ALONGWAYTOGO
ALONGWAYTOGO
1,887,795 4:13 1994-03-08
New York Strait Talk
New York Strait Talk
1,844,280 4:14 1998-03-31
The Mall
The Mall
1,843,164 3:41 1998-03-31
In This Life...
In This Life...
1,744,134 3:07 2003-01-01
Peace Of Mine
Peace Of Mine
1,636,586 3:03 2003-01-01
The ? Remainz
The ? Remainz
1,607,373 3:36 1999-07-13
Capture (Militia Pt. 3)
Capture (Militia Pt. 3)
1,576,863 3:23 2003-01-01
It's Getting Hectic (feat. Gangstarr)
It's Getting Hectic (feat. Gangstarr)
1,557,767 4:00 1992-01-01
It's Gettin' Hectic
It's Gettin' Hectic
1,557,767 4:00 1992-01-01
Words I Manifest - Remix
Words I Manifest - Remix
1,551,852 5:10 1999-07-13
Take Two And Pass
Take Two And Pass
1,469,702 3:18 1992-05-05
Sabotage
Sabotage
1,442,859 2:25 2003-01-01
Playtawin
Playtawin
1,437,997 3:12 2003-01-01
Suckas Need Bodyguards
Suckas Need Bodyguards
1,436,810 3:57 1994-03-08
The Ownerz
The Ownerz
1,342,803 2:58 2003-01-01
Tha Squeeze
Tha Squeeze
1,283,606 3:28 2006-01-01
Glowing Mics - Founders RMX
Glowing Mics - Founders RMX
1,228,802 3:24 2021-04-16
No Shame In My Game
No Shame In My Game
1,212,381 3:56 1992-05-05
Mostly Tha Voice
Mostly Tha Voice
1,178,122 3:38 1994-03-08
Nice Girl, Wrong Place
Nice Girl, Wrong Place
1,175,063 3:33 2003-01-01
The Planet
The Planet
1,123,912 5:16 1994-03-08
Riot Akt
Riot Akt
1,096,878 4:04 2003-01-01
Brainstorm
Brainstorm
1,073,085 3:02 1994-03-08
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
1,029,512 2:19 1991-01-15
Comin' For The Datazz
Comin' For The Datazz
1,017,819 4:02 1994-03-08
Form Of Intellect
Form Of Intellect
1,002,645 3:40 1991-01-15
Words From The Nutcracker
Words From The Nutcracker
985,016 1:29 1994-03-08
2 Deep
2 Deep
972,065 3:39 1992-05-05
The Sure Shot (Intro)
The Sure Shot (Intro)
965,399 1:23 2019-11-01
Take Flight (Militia, Pt. 4)
Take Flight (Militia, Pt. 4)
921,017 2:56 2019-11-01
F.A.L.A.
F.A.L.A.
908,687 4:17 1994-03-08
So Many Rappers
So Many Rappers
902,455 2:11 2019-11-01
Bless The Mic
Bless The Mic
900,756 2:36 2019-11-01
Bless the Mic
Bless the Mic
900,756 2:35 2019-11-01
Business Or Art
Business Or Art
845,804 2:59 2019-11-01
Execution Of A Chump
Execution Of A Chump
843,496 2:42 1991-01-15
Flip The Script
Flip The Script
810,023 4:02 1992-05-05
You Know My Steez - Three Men And A Lady Remix
You Know My Steez - Three Men And A Lady Remix
809,797 3:29 1999-07-13
The Place We Dwell
The Place We Dwell
806,983 2:27 1992-05-05
So Wassup?!
So Wassup?!
761,158 2:23 1999-07-13
Gotta Get Over (Taking Loot)
Gotta Get Over (Taking Loot)
759,728 3:45 1999-07-13
Intro (The First Step)
Intro (The First Step)
743,652 0:55 1994-03-08
Bring It Back Here
Bring It Back Here
716,101 0:50 2019-11-01
Intro (HG, Goo, Panch)
Intro (HG, Goo, Panch)
697,762 0:47 2003-01-01
NYGz/GS 183rd (Interlude)
NYGz/GS 183rd (Interlude)
679,209 1:10 2019-11-01
Aiiight Chill
Aiiight Chill
674,166 3:13 1994-03-08
Take A Rest
Take A Rest
661,031 4:21 1991-01-15
Eulogy
Eulogy
640,466 2:55 2003-01-01
Conspiracy
Conspiracy
616,660 2:48 1992-05-05
Beyond Comprehension
Beyond Comprehension
597,497 3:14 1991-01-15
The Illest Brother
The Illest Brother
554,337 4:45 1992-05-05
Name Tag (Premier & The Guru)
Name Tag (Premier & The Guru)
516,934 0:36 1991-01-15
Mass Appeal
Mass Appeal
514,788 3:38 2006-12-26
The Meaning Of The Name
The Meaning Of The Name
483,347 2:55 1991-01-15
Hardcore Composer
Hardcore Composer
483,142 3:17 1992-05-05
Natural
Natural
480,632 2:51 2006-01-01
Much Too Much
Much Too Much
469,659 3:30 1992-05-05
As I Read My S-A
As I Read My S-A
460,954 3:02 1991-01-15
Say Your Prayers
Say Your Prayers
455,496 1:25 1991-01-15
(Hiney)
(Hiney)
453,179 1:33 2003-01-01
What You Want This Time?
What You Want This Time?
452,574 2:42 1991-01-15
Precisely The Right Rhymes
Precisely The Right Rhymes
447,898 3:25 1991-01-15
Intro
Intro
411,220 2:10 1999-07-13
Street Ministry
Street Ministry
408,584 1:26 1991-01-15
Game Plan
Game Plan
371,366 1:08 1991-01-15
Stay Tuned
Stay Tuned
371,304 2:32 1992-05-05
Royalty
Royalty
368,934 4:08 2006-12-26
Credit Is Due
Credit Is Due
359,739 4:51 1999-07-13
What's Real - Instrumental
What's Real - Instrumental
357,994 3:24 2020-12-11
Ex-Girl To Next Girl
Ex-Girl To Next Girl
240,041 4:03 2006-12-26
Family and Loyalty - Instrumental
Family and Loyalty - Instrumental
193,945 4:35 2020-12-11
Bad Name - Instrumental
Bad Name - Instrumental
185,322 2:22 2020-12-11
Lights Out - Instrumental
Lights Out - Instrumental
177,556 3:32 2020-12-11
From A Distance - Instrumental
From A Distance - Instrumental
134,217 2:31 2020-12-11
Hit Man - Instrumental
Hit Man - Instrumental
123,532 2:21 2020-12-11
Bring It Back Here - Instrumental
Bring It Back Here - Instrumental
87,441 0:49 2020-12-11
Get Together - Instrumental
Get Together - Instrumental
87,219 3:28 2020-12-11
Business Or Art - Instrumental
Business Or Art - Instrumental
82,421 2:59 2020-12-11
So Many Rappers - Instrumental
So Many Rappers - Instrumental
78,986 2:12 2020-12-11
Take Flight (Militia, Pt. 4) - Instrumental
Take Flight (Militia, Pt. 4) - Instrumental
74,806 2:56 2020-12-11
Bless the Mic - Instrumental
Bless the Mic - Instrumental
73,665 2:36 2020-12-11
Voilà l'été (Inédit) - Gang Starr & LNV Remix
Voilà l'été (Inédit) - Gang Starr & LNV Remix
72,983 3:19 1993-05-25
Peace Of Mine - Edited
Peace Of Mine - Edited
30,750 2:43 2003-01-01
Battle - Instrumental
Battle - Instrumental
15,903 2:55 2022-10-28
92 Interlude
92 Interlude
8,742 0:29 1992-05-05
Daily Operation
Daily Operation
3,699 0:27 1992-05-05
24-7/365
24-7/365
2,016 0:24 1992-05-05
One Of The Best Yet (Big Shug Interlude)
One Of The Best Yet (Big Shug Interlude)
1,126 0:29 2019-11-01
Keith Casim Elam (Interlude)
Keith Casim Elam (Interlude)
< 1000 0:16 2019-11-01
Keith Casim Elam (Interlude)
Keith Casim Elam (Interlude)
< 1000 0:16 2019-11-01
One Of The Best Yet (Big Shug Interlude)
One Of The Best Yet (Big Shug Interlude)
< 1000 0:29 2019-11-01

New releases

Glowing Mics (Founders RMX)
Glowing Mics (Founders RMX)
2021-04-16
[Gang Starr Enterprises LLC]
One Of The Best Yet (Instrumental)
One Of The Best Yet (Instrumental)
2020-12-11
[Gang Starr Enterprises LLC]
Bad Name (Remix)
Bad Name (Remix)
2020-01-31
[Gang Starr Enterprises LLC]
One Of The Best Yet
One Of The Best Yet
2019-11-01
[Gang Starr Enterprises LLC]
One Of The Best Yet
One Of The Best Yet
2019-11-01
[Gang Starr Enterprises LLC]
Bad Name
Bad Name
2019-10-18
[Gang Starr Enterprises LLC]
Bad Name
Bad Name
2019-10-18
[Gang Starr Enterprises LLC]
Family and Loyalty
Family and Loyalty
2019-09-20
[Gang Starr Enterprises LLC]
Family and Loyalty
Family and Loyalty
2019-09-20
[Gang Starr Enterprises LLC]
Mass Appeal: The Best Of Gang Starr
Mass Appeal: The Best Of Gang Starr
2006-12-26
[Virgin Records]
Mass Appeal: The Best Of Gang Starr (Explicit)
Mass Appeal: The Best Of Gang Starr (Explicit)
2006-01-01
[Virgin Records]
The Ownerz
The Ownerz
2003-01-01
[Virgin Records]
The Ownerz
The Ownerz
2003-01-01
[Virgin Records]
Full Clip: A Decade Of Gang Starr
Full Clip: A Decade Of Gang Starr
1999-07-13
[Virgin Records]
Full Clip: A Decade Of Gang Starr
Full Clip: A Decade Of Gang Starr
1999-07-13
[Virgin Records]
Moment Of Truth
Moment Of Truth
1998-03-31
[Virgin Records]
Hard To Earn
Hard To Earn
1994-03-08
[Virgin Records]
Daily Operation
Daily Operation
1992-05-05
[Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)]
Step In The Arena
Step In The Arena
1991-01-15
[Chrysalis\EMI Records (USA)]