Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Gang Starr - The Ownerz 3xLP


Virgin (2015, Reissue) 

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

The Ownerz was the final Gang Starr album of the group's original run.  It came out while I was working my radio promotion job and a buddy that was working at Virgin at the time hooked me up with a CD copy back then.  So unlike a lot of hip hop from 1995 until recently, I did actually hear this right when it was released.  It got to a point where this album was the only one of theirs that I didn't have on vinyl, so I finally picked it up to complete the full length collection.

Gang Starr has pretty much always been amazing.  Even in 2003, when the bulk of hip hop was absolutely not my cup of tea, Guru and Premier put out an album that still felt like the sort of thing I would have listened to at the height of my hip hop fandom.  The beats still feel like classic Premier and Guru's lyrics are as sharp as ever.  If it was primarily the two of them over the album, it would be another classic.  But to me, that's the album's biggest problem.

There are way too many guest appearances for me.  I know that's what hip hop turned into, everyone on everyone else's albums, but if I buy an album, it's because I want to hear the person or group putting out that album.  Of The Ownerz' nineteen tracks, eight of them have guest verses on them.  It makes everything feel watered down to me and I think the album would be significantly stronger if those verses were replaced by more from Guru.  That aside, it's still a solid album and considering when it came out, it's certainly one of the better post-golden era releases out there.

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