Gang Starr – “Step In The Arena” Album Anniversary

Gang Starr – “Step In The Arena” Album Anniversary

Gang Starr released their second studio album “Step In The Arena” on January 15, 1991.  Although this was their second album, this was the album that made them  household name.  As all Gang Starr albums, it was produced by the one and only DJ Premier.  The album is considered by many as one of the greatest albums in Hip Hop History.  In fact you can make a case about almost all of Gang Starr’s albums.

The album starts nicely with the title track’s dope trumpet track and Guru’s nasal flow:

“Once you step in the arena, cheater; you’re gonna be a-
mazed when you gaze at the armor on this leader
Fully clad and glad to find a cause, I won’t pause
Fear is a joke, slowpoke, I’m like claws
that’ll rip ’cause your gift, is merely flesh
Superficial and I wish you, would give it a rest
But if you don’t, I’ll unsheath my Excalibur
Like a noble knight, so meet ya challenger”

Guru has always been the type of MC that doesn’t waste a rhyme and everything he says has meaning.  On “Who’s Gonna Take The Weight” Guru explains the meaning of their logo:

“The weight of the world is heavy on my mind
So as my feelings unwind I find
That some try to be down just cuz it’s trendy
Others fall victim to envy
But I’ll take the road less travelled
So I can see all my hopes and my dreams unravel
Relievin’ your stress, expressin’ my interest
In the situation that you’re facin’
That’s why I’m down with the Nation
Spirituality supports reality
We gotta fight with the right mentality
So we can gain what is rightfully ours
This is the meaning of the chain and the star”

Guru is also a storyteller and always has stories to ensure that the youth “stay on course and find their direction”.  On “Just To Get A Rep” Guru gives us a glimpse on how easy it is to lose your life over a rope chain.  The album version gives us the short version but in the video version, the man that was left for dead makes a full recovery and kills his attacker.  Guru keeps us glued to the stereo to see what happens next.  On “Love Sick” he continues the story telling with a tale about a girl that needs more attention when Guru is too busy trying to make records.  The jazz influenced horns and his slow flow make it an instant hit.

But to me (and a lot of Hip Hop Heads) when DJ Premier gives us that raw beat with Guru (“I’m Gifted Unlimited, Rhymes Universal, The GURU, nursing you with a verse spilled”) intellectual lyrics, we get that complete Gang Starr feel as they do with “Form of Intellect” and “Check The Technique”.  The methaphors and similes come quickly when he spits,
“I’m rushin you like a defensive end as I recommend
that you comprehend, I could stomp you in
a battle, contest, or war, what will occur
will be the forfeiture, of your immature
insecure for sure, meek, weak visions of grandeur
To rudely awaken you, and then’ll be breakin you
Taxin without askin and trackin and snakin you
Makin you succumb to the drums of GangStarr
By far we are, truly gifted ones son”

Guru and Premier use this technique and repeat it on the next 4 albums.  I can assure you that there will never be another group like this.  As Guru once said,

“And and so.. y’know
The rhyme style is elevated
The style of beats is elevated
but it’s still Guru and Premier
And it’s always a message involved”



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