Hip-hop has seen a lot of faces and characters over the years. From the early eighties to now, the game has seen several dudes come in hot as white coals on a barbeque grill, only to fizzle out faster than a sparkler on the Fourth of July. Many gimmicks and trends have come and dominated the game for a season, only to blow out as swiftly as a birthday cake candle and forgotten sooner than the wish that went along with it. Only a few groups have been able to stand the test of time, not following the trends or compromising the quality of their music or integrity in an attempt to stay relevant and sell records. Gang Starr is one of those anomalies.
For those who may not know, Gang Starr was comprised of DJ Premier (who if he is not the greatest hip-hop producer of all time, he’s 1B, next to Dr. Dre; yeah I said it) and the late Guru on the mic (rip). We last heard from the legendary duo in ’91 with their well received sophomore effort Step In To The Arena, in which the duo showed progression from their mediocre debut No More Mr. Nice Guy. They would return in ’92 with their 3rd release, Daily Operation.
Like the rest of Gang Starr’s catalog, Daily Operation didn’t earn the duo any hardware for units sold, but it did garner favorable reviews from critics and more importantly, the streets. Numbers may not lie, but they don’t tell the full truth, either.
Daily Operation (Intro) – In case the song title wasn’t clear enough, this is an intro.
The Place Where We Dwell – Over a stripped down, but effective Premo instrumental, Guru big ups the borough the two New York transplants represent. Go Brooklyn!
Flip The Script – In his signature monotone voice Guru is in battle mode as he turns in decent rhymes over probably my least favorite Premo instrumental on Daily Operation. Not a bad song, just not my favorite.
Ex Girl To Next Girl – This was the second single released from Daily Operation. Premo hooks up a sick jazzy instrumental (complete with killer trumpets on the hook), which works as the perfect backdrop for Guru to reminisce about his ex-sugar momma who once had him wrapped around her finger. Classic.
Soliloquy Of Chaos – This Premo instrumental is a monster. He loops up a piece of Ahmad Jamal’s “Misdemeanor” record (which Dr. Dre also sampled a few years prior for D.O.C.’s “Funky Enough”) as Guru discusses the senseless black on black violence that plaques the black community. By the way, I love Guru’s line “did you come to see my show or to the stupid nigga playoffs?”. This one still sounds dope and is still very relevant.
I’m The Man – Gang Starr invites two member of the Gang Starr Foundation to the studio for this cipher session: Jeru Da Damaja and Lil’ Dap from Group Home. A la “Jackin’ For Beats”, Premo changes the instrumental up for each emcee. Guru bats first, followed by Lil’ Dap, then Premo drops the best instrumental of the three (it’s a monster) for Jeru, who completely steals the show and shuts this shit down, literally and figuratively.
92 Interlude – Instrumental interlude that takes a piano loop from Aretha Franklin’s “Young, Gifted, And Black”. Premo would later add drums underneath the same sample and use it for Heavy D’s (rip) “Yes Y’all” record off his 1993 Blue Funk album.
Take It Personal – This was the lead single from Daily Operation. When this song came out back in the day, I wasn’t feeling it. A few years later and even more so now, it’s clear that I was sleeping on a classic. Premo constructs a bassy instrumental with a slightly dark and awkward piano loop that Guru spits razor sharp rhymes over, scolding his adversaries without even raising his voice. On my favorite line of this song Guru says “rap is an art you can’t own no loops, its how you hook ’em up and the rhyme style troop”. I wonder who that line was aimed at. CMW? Dr. Dre? Ed O.G? BDP? EPMD? All of these artist have at one point used the same loop for a song previously to or around the same time that Gang Starr did. But Gang Starr shouts out all of these artists in the liner note, so I’m probably way off.
2 Deep – This Premo instrumental is serious (except for the hook that includes a sample of what sounds like pouring water, which I’m still not sure what it’s supposed to represent; it’s not terrible, just not sure what value it adds to the song). Guru’s all over the place with his content on this one. He starts out talking about how complex his style is and how all contenders will “catch hell” trying to get with him on the mic, then he starts discussing his childhood, his religious beliefs, and all the division in the black community. All in all, still a solid song.
24-7/365 – The loop for this instrumental interlude was actually taken from the same record the Beasties sampled for “Pass The Mic” (Johnny Hammond’s “Big Sur Suite”). I’m surprised Premo never recycled this one for someone to spit over. It’s a monster.
No Shame In My Game – Premo hooks up a melodic mid tempo instrumental (that combines a Crusaders’ sample with a loop from Bob James’ “Nautilus”, which is arguably the most sampled record in the history of hip-hop) that Guru uses to justify his life style, vices and all. He spits one of his greatest lines on this one: “life’s a bitch, who are we to judge each other, I know I got faults I aint the only muthafucka”. Well said.
Conspiracy – This one is probably neck and neck with “Flip the Script” for my least favorite song on Daily Operation. Guru sounds solid on this one as he taps into his “conscious” side, addressing the wicked schemes set in place by the government, the church, and the music industry. The issue is Premo’s instrumental, which is barely decent.
The Illest Brother – Premo loops a portion of Bill Cosby’s “Get Out My Life, Woman” (at this rate by the time I’m done with this blog I’ll have more Bill Cosby references than he has accusers) and adds a beautiful loop from Ahmad Jamal’s “Ghetto Child” (side note: years later Kanye would sample a portion of this same record for Common’s “They Say”) in on the chorus. Guru spits so many ideas and scenarios out on this one that I’m still not sure what the overall point of the song is.
Hardcore Composer – This was cool. I love the Jungle Brothers’ vocal sample on the hook (“harder than the hardest hardest hard can get”).
B.Y.S. – Is an acronym for “bust your shit”. The instrumental is built around a choppy slightly off kilter piano loop, that Guru uses to sends threats to anybody within earshot. This Premo instrumental is sick!
Much Too Much (Mack A Mil) – The production credit on this one goes to Guru and Louie Vega (a name that’s pop quite a few times on this blog). Overall, a decent joint.
Take Two And Pass – Guru discusses blunt smoking etiquette over a bassy laid back groove. This is perfect for midnight marauding, or if you’re just getting blunted.
Stay Tuned – Gang Starr ends Daily Operation with a super laidback, slightly eerie instrumental that Guru uses to talk up his team while letting the listener know this is it for now but they’ll be back later, so stay tuned.
Daily Operation picks up where Step Into The Arena leaves off. Premo strings together a quality collage of instrumentals built around jazz, soul, and funk loops that Guru uses as a platform to display his mic skills in his signature monotone delivery. The majority of Premo’s instrumentals will make you either bob your head, screw your face, or as Masta Ace once put it, “fuck up your head”, and sometimes a combination of all three (how funny would that look). There are a few meh points on Daily Operation, but the large quantity of bangers covers all of Daily Operation‘s minor transgressions.