Gang Starr released their fifth studio album “Moment of Truth” back on March 31, 1998. The album was produced by Guru and DJ Premier and dropped on Noo Trybe/Virgin Records. This album is considered by many as the greatest Gang Starr album ever made.
Back in January of 1998, I had a friend who worked at a record store and he told me he had a special advance copy of the new Gang Starr album. The next day he handed me the copy that had “For Promotional Use Only” printed on the back of the CD case. I popped it in the CD player of my car and remembering how dope “You Know My Steez” was. I sat in my car for almost and hour and a half listening to this album. As a Gang Starr mega-fan, I can easily say that this is the most polished album (sonically and lyrically) Gang Starr had ever created.
Guru drops some crazy knowledge on “Robbin Hood Theory” where just like the fictional character, he goes after the rich and gives to the poor.
I seek Sun, deceive none, for each one must teach one
At least one must flow and show the structure, of freedom
It’s me Dunn, cause petty things we don’t need ’em
Let’s focus to create somethin great, for all that sees them
They innocent, they know not what they face
While politicians save face genius minds lay to waste
If I wasn’t kickin rhymes I’d be kickin down doors
Creatin social change and defendin the poor
The God’s always been militant, and ready for war
We’re gonna snatch up the ringleaders send em home in they drawers
But first where’s the safe at? Let’s make em show us
And tell em hurry up, give up the loot that they owe us
We bringin it back, around the way to our peeps
Cause times are way too deep, we know the Code of the Streets
Meet your defeat; this is my Robin Hood Theory… my Robin Hood Theory
Once you get to “Royalty“, you know that these cats had reached another level in the game. The track was so smooth, it crossed over without being pop. K-Ci & JoJo are on the hook and everything musically and lyrically fall into place perfectly. Premier samples a piano riff from Latimore’s “Let’s Do It in Slow Motion” while Greg Nice is heard saying “Gang Starr has got to be the sure shot” in the background from their posse cut “DWYCK“. This track is easily one of Gang Starr’s most perfect tracks ever recorded!
What can I say about “Above the Clouds“? The track has The Rebel INS and Guru trading off some dope bars while Premier takes a dope sample of “Two Piece Flower” by John Dankworth and flips it nicely. The track starts off with JFK’s speech on space flight and from there, it’s liftoff!
The one track that I love and will never forget is the title track “Moment of Truth“. It’s almost as if after they recorded it they loved it so much they made it the title track or the made sure that the title track had a heartbeat and a soul. This beautiful sounding track samples Billy Paul’s “Let’s Fall in Love All Over” and has Guru spitting lyrics like we’ve never heard before. It’s as if Guru knew he had a short time to live and wrote these lyrics. It tugs at one’s heart especially after his passing. Even his voice is different here. To me, this is Gang Starr dopes track.
Sometimes you gotta dig deep when problems come near
Don’t fear, things get severe for everybody everywhere
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Seems that life is just a constant war between good and evil
The situation that I’m facin’ is mad amazin’
To think such problems can arise from minor confrontations
Now I’m contemplating in my bedroom, pacin’
Dark clouds over my head, my heart’s racin’
Suicide? Nah, I’m not a foolish guy
Don’t even feel like drinking or even getting high
Cause all that’s gonna do really is accelerate
The anxieties that I wish I could alleviate
One of the dopest posse cuts of all time is included in this album. “The Militia” has Guru, Big Shug and Freddie Foxxx taking turns dropping some dope bars over a funky guitar riff from Barbara Lewis’s “Windmills of Your Mind“. They all are nice on the mic but Freddie Foxxx goes for broke when he spits:
No more twin Glocks, they jam up my plays
Now its twin .40 calibre Walther PPK’s
I’m in the control of my game, you must respect me like The Ref
Uh-huh, you disrespect *gun clicks* you get the tech
I turn you fake niggas on and off, like I’m the clapper
I rob so many niggas, they should call me Jack the Rapper
I’ll the illest nigga doing this, dead or alive
Gloria Gaynor on you motherfuckers, I Will Survive
You can try to come at me, but do you want the kick back?
You step inside the cage of a pit, and you get bit back, huh
My war is so tight, my drama so ill
Beef with me hangs around like a unpaid bill
I push these lyrics through any MC, and make it burn
So the niggas who be rhyming next, will miss a turn
When you speak of who’s the dopest MC, I don’t come up
But when you speak of who’s the livest MC, I stay one up, what’s up?
I got stripes like you got strikes and bogus mikes
Do what bitch niggas do best – bite
Y’all niggas can’t make up a law that I don’t overrule, overthrow
Preem’ brought Bumpy this track so I’mma let you know
Before I slide I’mma leave you this jewel
Even mechanics walk around with they tools
It’s the Militia
Lastly on “The Rep Grows Bigger“, Premier scratches some Hip Hip vocal samples from Pete Rock, Raekwon, The Beatnuts and Guru all in Premier fashion! This track oozes that Hip Hop flavor as Guru flows over a tight drum sample of “Come Dancing” by Jeff Beck. That bass line is so infectious, it’s one of those tracks that will make you level the tremble and turn up the bass. Classic Premier cuts and Guru lyricism!
Your fame has gotten larger than your life
You’ve got a harem of bitches and killer niggas that’s hype
They got your back, but you so fly you don’t need em
You shit where you’re eatin so you don’t peep the proceedings
They start scheming, feeling that you’re too swollen
And that’s the reason why your cash and stash gets stolen
You start perspiring, because you’re paranoid
Still another confrontation that you couldn’t avoid
Prepare for drama, as if you were a stunt man
Back in the days you was a forty and a blunt man
Today you’re a Willie, now the weather’s too chilly
New York City ain’t the place to be frontin
Over your shoulders day and night’s where you look
Your so-called fam ran a scam, and you got shook
Go back to square one, better go talk to your son
See reps grow bigga in the life of a crook
Tracks like “Work“, “Betrayal” feat Scarface, “B.I. vs Friendship” feat MOP and the incredible “Next Time” complete this great and certified classic album. The last track “In Memory Of…” is dedicated to all the people Preem and Guru have lost along the way. Unfortunately on April 19, 2010, we lost Guru to cancer but one thing is certain, he left us some great music and this album is top notch. Gang Starr never gave us sub par material and this is their crown jewel. I love this album so much, I can easily put it among some of the greatest Hip Hop albums of all time next to It Takes A Nation, Illmatic, Cuban Linx, Straight Outta Compton, Criminal Minded, Ready to Die, Midnight Marauders and others. I can tell that these guys had put everything they had to make this the greatest effort they had. We had waited four long years between albums, and it was worth the wait!