Gang Starr – Hard to Earn

-Classic Head Nod-

Thanks for checking out the Soundtekk Head Nod column. Featuring reviews on new Hip Hop to inform you on all that is nod-worthy! We’ll also be including dope music from the past for that nostalgic head nod, in case you need a reminder. It’s only right I start off the Head Nod column with a record that helped set a standard for my taste in Hip Hop! Released in 1994, Gang Starr’s Hard to Earn is a certified classic guaranteed to make your head nod. Since the 90’s, this album has stayed in my rotation. I’m certain at least a few of these tracks are included on your boom bap playlist. More recently, this influential album even inspired the episode title’s for the first season of Netflix series, Luke Cage.

DJ Premier shaped the sound of the 90’s with his grimy drums, sample-heavy production, and his signature turntable scratches. DJ Premier’s sound was undeniably boom bap, orchestrating some of the biggest hits of the era. Be honest, that high pitch tone scratched over the hook for Code of the Streets still makes you showcase your turntable-less, would be “air DJ” skills.

Likewise, Guru, with his slick delivery and monotone style proved it was ‘Mostly tha Voice‘. Having recited some of the more memorable lines of the time, he isn’t often regarded as a top emcee dead or alive. However, he deserves to be in the conversation. His lyricism was definitely on par with some of the top rhyme sayers of all time.

No disrespect to Gang Starr’s other albums No More Mr. Nice GuyStep in the Arena, Daily Operation, Moment of Truth, and The Ownerz. We’ll circle back around to those albums in the future, but Hard to Earn holds a special place in Hip Hop for me. When I think back on the era two of the first songs that immediately come to mind are Mass Appeal and DWYCK. I remember watching Rap City on BET waiting for DWYCK to play. Almost 25 years later, and I still can’t have a glass of lemonade without first reciting Guru’s verse.

This album has had serious influence over my taste in Hip Hop music. I’ll forever be a fan of Gang Starr. When Premier and Guru split up it was serious! Then we lost Guru and it hurt knowing there would never be another Gang Starr record. We’re lucky to have Gang Starr classics like Hard to Earn to look back on and appreciate.

Some of the most nod worthy tracks include: Code of the Streets, DWYCK, Mass Appeal, and Suckas Need Bodyguards.


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