Gang Starr is undoubtedly one of the most revered, beloved and influential groups in Hip Hop. Over the course of their distinguished career, they became a cultural institution and a brand you could ultimately trust. The group’s “Chain and the Star” logo symbolized power and excellence and it permeated into the cutting-edge music they created. With a handful of indelible classic albums on their resume, DJ Premier and Guru’s catalog has not only persevered but mastered the test of time. Simply, Gang Starr did not follow trends, they created them.
Though they never “officially” disbanded after the release of their last project (The Ownerz 2003), Premier and Guru still remained infinitely connected to each other even as they embarked on solo paths. Premier winning three Grammy’s along the way and assisting in turning fast rising artists such as Nas, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G. and many others into rap royalty; and his imprint included work with artists such as Drake, Christina Aguilera, Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Snoop, Mac Miller, The Game, Ludacris, Maroon 5, Common, Mos Def, Rakim, KRS-One, Janet Jackson, D’Angelo, DJ Khaled, Joey Bada$$, Royce 5’9, Twenty One Pilots, and Miley Cyrus; all of which spoke to his diversity and ability to traverse genres. In turn, Guru would go on to release his own quartet of highly influential Jazzmatazz projects.
In the interim, fans always clamored for another Gang Starr album. Though there were whispers and murmurs over the years, nothing ever panned out and the possibilities of that project being willed into existence seemingly grew more remote as the years passed by. After Guru tragically passed away in 2010 the hope seemed to vanish altogether. The one person who refused to give hope was DJ Premier. “I never lost faith, or wavered. I still felt it inside of me, it just happened to be nine years later (after Guru’s passing)” Premier commented. “We all want the things we want right now, but I am a patient guy. I hung in there and I just kept believing.”
What’s past is prologue. In September of 2017, DJ Premier embarked on a journey that had been years in the making. He did so with Guru’s aura and presence unmistakably occupying the studio with him; not only in spiritual form, but also in physical form, as the urn with his ashes sat firmly atop Premier’s production console as the iconic producer began working on the first new Gang Starr album in sixteen-years. Guru’s monotone voice, as pristine as ever, suddenly, but still unexpectedly enveloped the studio and it was as if he had been resurrected. In that moment, time stood infinitely still and there was no escaping how emotional, monumental and impactful this project would be. As is the norm with all Gang Starr projects, the responsibility of naming the new Gang Starr album rested solely on Premier’s shoulders. Undeniably, this time with much more gravity attached. After a few machinations, he settled on “One Of The Best Yet“. No one can argue that the title is apt, fitting and well-deserved.
Timeless art is often created by pain, loss, and trauma. While DJ Premier and Guru were alone in the studio again as they had been innumerable times before, this time was entirely different. Undeniably, there was solace and joy to be found. Premier had his brother and musical partner’s voice back in his life and he was hunkered down once again in his comfort zone; creating music with Guru. Yet, the experience also reinforced on a daily basis the sense of loss and grief that has been omnipresent for Premier since Guru’s death. “This album means everything to me. It’s a continuation of what I never wanted to end” Premier stated. “It’s a very foreign place for me and very emotional. I get happy, sad, excited; my feelings are kind of all over the place. But predominantly, just very happy to be making music with Guru again.”
One Of The Best Yet is many things. Yes, it’s the first new Gang Starr album in sixteen-years and it is a historic event to be celebrated and rejoiced, but it symbolizes much more than that. One Of The Best Yet further cements Gang Starr’s legacy. This literal gift of an album not only harkens you back to Gang Starr’s seminal work of the past, but it re-establishes their impact in a modern-day perspective.
To officially announce their reformation, Gang Starr released the album’s first single and video for “Family and Loyalty,” featuring J. Cole. The adulation and reaction was immediate, palpable and overwhelming! Funkmaster Flex dedicated an entire hour long-tribute set to Gang Starr before debuting the single and a Gang Starr Billboard lit up Times Square as “Family and Loyalty” rocketed up charts and playlists generating millions of streams; Gang Starr and “Family and Loyalty” also became trending topics on social media. J. Cole added further urgency by announcing that his guest appearance on the single he labeled “an honor to be a part of” and “a classic” was to be his last guest feature.
Today, with the announcement of their monumental new album, Gang Starr also released a new single, “Bad Name,” which is now available for streaming on all DSP’s. Though Guru passed away nearly a decade ago, on “Bad Name,” his voice is as magnetic, insightful and contemplative as ever with his intuitive gifts on full display. “Bad Name” proves that Gang Starr still has their finger on the pulse of the culture, as Guru plays the medium and skating effortlessly over Premier’s boom-bap to address what are still relevant and current topics, not only in the music industry, but in society in general. When you hear Guru manifest “Word to God, if Big and Pac were still here, some of these weirdos wouldn’t act so cavalier” it’s bone chilling.
As young adults, music and art brought Premier and Guru together and helped spark a brotherly bond that even death has not broken. Sixteen-years after they released their final album Gang Starr is resurrected with One Of The Best Yet; an ambitious, intense and truly captivating album that you can not only hear; but feel and ultimately connect with. In fact, it’s more than an album, it’s a spiritual cleansing. One that not only grabs your attention; but stops you in your tracks. Welcome to One Of The Best Yet!
Tracklisting & Credits for Gang Starr’s ‘One Of The Best Yet’:
- ‘The Sure Shot’ (Intro)
- ‘Lights Out” feat. M.O.P.
- ‘Bad Name’
- ‘Hit Man’ feat. Q-Tip
- ‘What’s Real’ feat. Group Home & Royce Da 5’9”
- ‘Keith Casim Elam’ (Interlude)
- ‘From A Distance’ feat. Jeru The Damaja
- ‘Family and Loyalty” feat. J. Cole
- ‘Get Together’ feat. Ne-Yo & Nitty Scott
- ‘NYGz/GS 183rd’ (Interlude)
- ‘So Many Rappers’
- ‘Business Or Art’ feat. Talib Kweli
- ‘Bring It Back Here’
- ‘One Of The Best Yet’ (Big Shug Interlude)
- ‘Take Flight’ (Militia Pt. 4) feat. Big Shug & Freddie Foxxx
- ‘Bless The Mic’
***All Tracks Produced by DJ Premier