Gang Starr – Hard to Earn

Gang Starr released their fourth studio album “Hard To Earn” on March 8, 1994.  The album was produced by DJ Premier and released on Chrysalis Records.

This album dropped 2 years after “Daily Operation” and after this album we had to wait four years to get their magnum opus (in my opinion) “Moment of Truth“.  This album has some of Gang Starr’s greatest hits, starting with “DWYCK“.

DWYCK” is the posse cut that everybody loves and remembers, with Guru, Smooth B and Greg Nice spitting lyrics over a jazzy bass groove from “Hey Jude” by Clarence Wheeler and The Enforcers and of course the drum patterns from “Synthetic Substitution“.  Everyone knows the lyrics to this song and who can forget Guru’s lyrics when he says,

“Lemonade was a popular drink and in still is
I get more props and stunts than Bruce Willis
A poet like Langston Hughes and can’t lose when I cruise
Out on the expressway
Leavin the Bodega I say “suave”
Premier’s got more beats than barns got hay
Clips are inserted into my gun
So I can take the money, neva have ta run”

Code of the Streets” is another banger where Guru gives us a glimpse of the criminal world as he flows over a sped up “Little Green Apples” sample.  The star of the show is Premier’s cuts as he makes a new beat from the beep from “Change the Beat” by Beside.  The man is a genius!  As for Guru, he spits

“Take this for example young brothers want rep
Cause in the life they’re living, you can’t half step
It starts with the young ones doing crime for fun
And if you ain’t down, you’ll get played out son
So let’s get a car, you know, a fly whip
Get a dent, pull a screwdriver, and be off quick
With a dope ride, yeah, and a rowdy crew
We can bag us a Benz and an Audi, too
Even a jeep or a van, goddamn, we’re getting ours, yo
Take a trip up the strip, and be like stars so
It doesn’t matter if the cops be scoping
They can’t do jack, that’s why a young brother’s open
To do anything, anywhere, anyplace
Buckwild in another court case
It’s the code of the streets”

On “Mass Appeal“, Guru goes after the MC’s that go after the commercial crowd. Using a beat sampled from “Horizon Drive” by Vic Juris and a vocal sample of Da YoungstasMoney’s growing like grass with the mass appeal” from their track “Pass Da Mic“.  If you say this is the greatest Gang Starr track ever, you just might be correct. It is Hip Hop at it’s purest!

“Oh yes I’m greater than all MC’s when I breeeze give me room please
I be like fascinatin when I be updatin
Cuttin off wack kids, pullin their trump cards
I thump hard, and mak eem say that I’m God
Niggaz be pretendin they hardcore
Never know the meaning of [RAW]
But I get props like a slogan and no man
Could ever try to diss when I kicks my jam
Lyrically def and connecting complete mic wrecking
No double checking vocals kill like weapons
But if I have to I go all out with no mic
Yeah that’s right cause I survived mad fights
And for my peeps I truly care
Cause without some of them I wouldn’t be here
And they all know how I feel
Cause suckers be like playin themselves to have mass appeal”

Tonz ‘O’ Gunz” has Guru flowing over a dope drum pattern from Isaac Haye’sBreakthrough“.  The subject matter is self-explanatory with Guru talking about how easily we can get a gun, shoot a gun and even get killed or kill someone with a gun.

Tons o’ guns everybody’s getting strapped
Tons o’ guns got to watch the way you act
Tons o’ guns real easy to get
Tons o’ guns bringing nothing but death
Tons o’ guns are in the streets
It’s big money and you know crime pays
Check your nearest overpopulated ghetto
They greet you with a pistol not trying to say hello
Mad kids packed ‘cos the neighbourhood’s like that
Want some shit that’s fat catch a victim do a stick
Kids pulling triggers, niggas killing niggas
Five-o they sit and wait and tally death-toll figures
It’s crazy there ain’t no time to really chill
Jealous motherfuckers always wanna act ill
22’s 25’s 44’s 45’s
Mack elevensak’s taking mad lives
What the fuck you gonna do in a situation
It’s like you need to have steel just to feel relaxation
Tons o’ guns

Of course there are more tracks that bang like “Speak Ya Clout” where Guru is joined by Lil Dap and Jeru the Damaja on a haunting Premier beat and “Now You’re Mine” where Premier brings the Jazz back and kills it on the turntables scratching like a mad man!  So don’t sleep on this album…in fact…don’t sleep on any album with the Gang Starr logo!!!  They never disappoint!   RIP GURU

-AL E.

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