July 13, 2016

Gang Starr "Full Clip" (Spin Magazine, 10/99)

"If the history of American pop boils down to the beat, and if good beats do indeed last forever, Gang Starr's extraordinary longevity was inevitable. If PE's Bomb Squad was hip-hop's Mingus, extending and inventing form and sonics, and the Native Tongues the Art Ensemble of Chicago, breaking down genres with an Afrocentric playfulness, then Gang Starr was like Basie, who believed that the "essential thing was the time, the rhythm." That is the common thread running through Full Clip's 32 cuts: Swing. Head-nod. Repeat. Even though Gang Starr's influence far outstripped their sales figures (only their most recent album, last year's Moment of Truth, went gold), they proved the centrality of the beat better than nearly anyone in hip-hop. Most of that was due to the production wizardry of Texas-born DJ Premier, who consistently carved sonic masterpieces out of little more than snare and high-hat snaps. His tracks perfectly complemented laconic frontman Guru's sidewinder flow and pointed lyrical observations. The breakthrough "Jazz Thing" (from the Mo' Better Blues soundtrack) and Guru's Jazzmatazz projects briefly earned him and Premier a rep as hip-hop abstractionists. But tracks such as "Credit Is Due," "I'm The Man," "DWYCK," exposed much of the talk about "progressive rap" as mere doubletalk. For Gang Starr, rap progress was mainly achieved by refining, reworking, and reinforcing those nonstop block-rocking beats." - Spin (10/99)