Gang Starr

While listening to several cuts from Gang Starr's latest album and taking notes, I made the following observation: "Typical." However, I later realized that with any other rap group that word would be used in the pejorative sense. But not with DJ Premier and Guru. Even relative new jacks Jay-Z and Nas (that's right, I said new jacks) can't mine the beats-and-rhymes marrow of hip-hop in the way that Gang Starr does.

Nothing on The Ownerz pushes the duo's impeccable oeuvre (in business since 1989) forward by leaps and bounds. This isn't a problem. In fact there is little difference in quality or range from 1998's excellent Moment of Truth. As he proves yet again, producer Primo has an unlimited supply of genius boom-bap wizardry, turning minimal ingredients -- manic piano plunks, anthemic horn stabs -- into full sonic meals. Partner Guru still finesses his lines every time, mixing a rich Courvoisier tone with Old Gold street wisdom, on tales about backstabbing snakes ("Sabotage"), females ("Nice Girl, Wrong Place"), mind battles ("Peace of Mine"), and good old-fashioned artillery ("Who Got Guns," with pals M.O.P. and Fat Joe).

Trends be damned, mark another one up for the vets. Gang Starr wins again by maintaining an uncommonly fresh status quo.

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Brian Coleman