Classic Album: Gang Starr – Moment of Truth

I must admit that I was a bit surprised that the rest of the brothers have neglected Gang Starr from their music collections, though it excites me that I’m welcoming you all to something new.

Gang Starr consisted of two members, MC Guru and DJ Premier. By the point that this album was released in 1998 both as a group (this was their 5th album) and side projects (Guru’s Jazzmazztazz and DJ premier well know beats through the famed D&D studios) Gang Starr were arguably at the top of their game. This album had ALLOT of expectations around it from all levels. The questions was could classic Hip Hop live in 1998?

If you recollect in the 1998 it was a time of champagne and fur coats in rap videos, the back end of the West Coast Vs East Coast beef and the accent of No Limit records….. essentially there was allot of whack rap being released. It was also a time that independent hip hop was gaining traction. The rise of the internet was allowing underground independent hip hop record labels such as Rawkus, ABB Records and Fat Beats distribution to have a wider reach. Very much at the forefront of boom bap backpack rap Gang Starr whom had allot to prove with this album. Their record label wanted radio plays, they wanted to keep their street cred. The result could go either way. Could they still engage the mainstream whilst keeping the backpackers happy?

This album for me was a masterstroke in making a complete album without losing credit. The NY underground boom bap is heavily represented with tracks like ‘You Know My Steez’, ‘The Milita’ and ‘Work’. On the other hand they dipped their toes into the mainstream with tracks like ‘Royalty’ and the reflective ‘Moment of Truth’.

Guru’s voice commands respect and his lyrics span from insight to straight battle raps. Look up the lyrics for ‘You Know My Steez’. I must have listened to that track 100 times in the first day I had the album. As for the beats that DJ Premier came with, and the cuts….. to this day are some of the best!

This album brings back allot of memories for me, I was listening to it when my plane was approaching London when I came over to UK for ‘a few months’ in 2001. Inspecta Deck’s verse on ‘Above the Clouds’ being one of my favourite of all time and apt as the plane broke through the cloud cover of the UK to expose London. ‘Work’ is still one of my favourite tracks to get me going when I run. The tingle that I got the first time I heard ‘You Know My Steez’, and how I lost my shit when I first hear Freddie Foxx on ‘The Militia’.

I still come back to this album, it’s a classic. Give this some time and enjoy. There’s lots to get stuck into with Moment of Truth.

 

4 comments

  1. whyohwhyohwhy

    This is really great. I definitely feel a bit ashamed I’ve never really owned any Gangstarr stuff apart from the odd track. Likewise I’ve had a real love for the old school and on first listen, I thought this was a lot older then 1998, but then that’s their vibe.

    They’re definitely a classic pairing: cool, introspective lyrics and cool, slick raw beats, so the album feels instantly accessible, and I’ve taken to it straight away. It feels like I’ve listened to it a few dozen times from only a few tries, and it just washes over you. Will it stick with me? Who knows? But it’s a lovely piece of classic hip hop to get into.

    Amen, Nolan!

  2. David Allison

    Confession: it turns out I did know this album. In fact, I think I owned it. Doh. I was mixing it up with Guru’s Jazzmatazz album (another stone cold classic). Anyway, what is there to say? Dope beats, baby. It’s just such a good listen.

    What really strikes me is what a long, long way away 1998 now is. This vibe now feels quite languid, quite laid back, compared to its modern counterpart. Sure, Guru’s lyrics are political and on point, but it’s funny how time changes how something sounds – and I think that’s true of hip hop more than most. This just feels so accessible, but maybe even more than it did at the time.

    I think that, for example, that 6 Music don’t play anything like contemporary hip hop (thought that is slowly changing) and its (largely white) listenership are much comfortable hearing old De La and Public Enemy tracks, and remembering the good old days, rather than being smacked round the face by Kendrick. But fuck me, do you remember hearing the first time you heard Public Enemy? I bought Yo Bum Rush The Show because I’d read about them in NME, and it scared the SHIT out of me. I mean, in a good way, but I just didn’t know what to make of it. Now of course, it just sounds like old school classics.

    Same here with Gang Starr. Hard to remember what impact this sound would have had at the time – this vibe has been plundered to effect for 20 years now, and so some of that freshness has obviously gone. So it’s a testament to how good the beats and rhymes are that it still stands up so well.

  3. misterstory

    Confession: I used to listen to a lot of metal. Really. All sorts of metal. ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ by Slayer … still one of my favourite albums. I listened to it twice through on Saturday in the gym. I bet we’ve never talked about that.

    Anyways. My sister had a boyfriend called Tim who’s best friend took me under his musical wing, he’d make me tapes of metal albums I couldn’t afford and he’d sneak new stuff on at the end in the gap at the end of a C90. This was my intro to Jane’s Addiction, Helmet, Black Flag …. and Public Enemy. I thought he’d made a mistake but then I was hooked. To be fair, I don’t think sneaking Gang Starr on would have made the same impact and of course PE then did Bring the Noise with Anthrax and that helped.

    Still loving this album though.

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