Gang Starr

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Gang Starr
Gang Starr performing in Hamburg in 1999
Background information
OriginBrooklyn, New York, U.S.
GenresEast Coast hip hop, jazz rap
Years active1986–2003
Associated actsGang Starr Foundation, M.O.P., Ed O.G., Nice & Smooth, Wu-Tang Clan, Rakim, D.I.T.C. Big L
Past membersGuru (deceased)
DJ Premier

Gang Starr was an American hip hop duo, originating in Brooklyn, New York, consisting of MC Guru and DJ/producer DJ Premier.[1] Some of their top hits include "Mass Appeal", "Take It Personal" and "Above The Clouds".[2] Gang Starr was at its height from 1989 to 2003, and are considered one of the best MC-and-producer duos in hip hop history.[3][4] They are also recognized for being one of the first pioneers of jazz rap.[4]


Original group[edit]

The original Gang Starr group was founded in Boston, Massachusetts by Guru (then known as MC Keithy E.) and DJ 1, 2 B-Down (also known as Mike Dee) with various producers, such as Donald D, J.V. Johnson or The 45 King helping out, their earliest recordings were in 1986 where they made various demos.[5] In 1987 and 1988, Gang Starr released three 12" vinyl singles on Wild Pitch Records.

Gang Starr in 2003.

Breakup and partnering with DJ Premier[edit]

In 1989, the group split and the only member willing to continue under the name was Guru. He soon got in touch with Houston, Texas native DJ Premier (then known as Waxmaster C) who sent him a beat tape, which Guru liked.[citation needed] He invited DJ Premier to join Gang Starr and in that same year they released their first single "Words I Manifest" along with the album No More Mr. Nice Guy (1989).[1] In 1990, the group was signed to the Chrysalis record label by then A&R director Duff Marlowe, a former DJ and Los Angeles Times rap music critic. The London-based label offered Guru and Premier unlimited artistic license and major-label distribution worldwide, a platform the group used to become one of the most influential hip hop acts of that decade. During their career Gang Starr helped pioneer the New York City hardcore hip hop sound. The entire Gang Starr catalog, especially Step in the Arena (1990), Daily Operation (1992), Hard to Earn (1994) and Moment of Truth (1998) are well respected among underground rap fans and critics. Gang Starr provided a track, Battle, for the sound track of the 2002 movie 8 Mile. Their track "Jazz Thing" was featured on the soundtrack to Spike Lee's film Mo' Better Blues.[1]

After several albums and tours, in late 2002 DJ Premier left Europe back to the United States. Once again Guru was faced with continuing alone and became involved in a European tour in 2003-04 with an alternate DJ.

In 2006, Guru indicated in several interviews that Gang Starr had reached its end.[6]

Guru's death[edit]

In February 2010, Guru suffered a heart attack, went into a coma, and died on April 19, 2010. Solar, a long-time collaborator of Guru, said Guru chose not to go public with the diagnosis of myeloma that was made in 2000.[7] Guru appeared to have fallen out with DJ Premier seven years prior to his death and did "not wish my ex-DJ to have anything to do with my name, likeness, events, tributes, etc."[8] There is speculation that the letter was not written by Guru, but was composed by Solar.[9] The validity of the statement continues to be heavily questioned by Guru's family and many of his contemporaries within the Hip-Hop culture.[10]

Post Guru[edit]

Soon after DJ Premier stated that there was a "posthumous Gang Starr CD/DVD project in the works," and most likely to have been released in 2014,[11] but nothing has been released. Premier confirmed in late 2015 that he was working on a Gang Starr biopic with the cooperation of Guru's sister, Patricia Elam.[12]

In 2019, DJ Premier released a new single under the Gang Starr name entitled "Family and Loyalty" featuring J. Cole, to be followed with a new album titled One of the Best Yet, scheduled for release on November 1.[13][14]


The Gang Starr Foundation was a loose collective of various people who have worked closely with the group, through either Guru's now defunct Ill Kid label, DJ Premier's production work or the management company that Gang Starr was represented by, Empire Management. Members of the foundation included Big Shug, Afu-Ra, Jeru the Damaja, Krumbsnatcha, Bumpy Knuckles, and Group Home.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Each episode title of the first season of the Netflix series Luke Cage, based on the Marvel Comics character, was named after a Gang Starr song.[15]


Studio albums


  1. ^ a b c Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. p. 371. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  2. ^ "Top 15 Gang Starr Songs". Hip Hop Golden Age. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  3. ^ Purdom, Clayton. "Gang Starr ended one of the greatest hot streaks in hip-hop with its masterpiece". The A.V. Club.
  4. ^ a b "The Mass Appeal Of Gang Starr".
  5. ^ Wang, Oliver (21 April 2010). "The Mass Appeal Of Gang Starr". NPR. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  6. ^ " : Features". 2006-06-13. Archived from the original on 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2010-04-03.
  7. ^ "Rapper Guru dies after battle with cancer". 2010-04-20. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  8. ^ "Gang Starr's Guru dies of cancer". 2010-04-20. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  9. ^ "New York rap star Guru dies at 43". BBC News. 2010-04-20.
  10. ^ "Gang Starr rapper Guru's family question 'death bed letter' | News". Nme.Com. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  11. ^ DJ Premier: New Gang Starr Album And DVD In The Works. Retrieved 2010-12-11.
  12. ^ After 'Compton' Succsess, DJ Premier Eyes Gang Starr Biopic. Retrieved 2015-08-28.
  13. ^ "Gang Starr Shares "Family and Loyalty" With J. Cole". Complex. Retrieved 2019-09-27.
  14. ^ Findlay=first (October 17, 2019). HotNewHipHop Text "Mitch" ignored (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ "SDCC 2016: Marvel & Netflix's LUKE CAGE Panel". Newsarama.
  16. ^ S, Comment from; October 17, ra Posted at:; Pm, 2019 at 10:13 (2019-10-17). "Upcoming Gang Starr LP Artwork + Tracklist + Release Date Revealed". DJ Premier Blog. Retrieved 2019-10-17.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)

External links[edit]