May 05, 2021

Gang Starr "Daily Operation" (May 5, 1992)

Guru, aka Keith Elam, was one of those rare artists who wants to find a kinship with the photographer before working with him. He had a lot of ideas about certain visual elements that would define Gang Starr as a group. He was very political and knew a lot about history and leaders of the civil rights movement. For the album, Guru wanted to include some of this political thought into the imagery to convey rappers being simultaneously 'paid' and taking a role of leadership--he wanted to make a statement. We shot at a historic brownstone on the corner of 79th and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I shot with my Hasselbad medium-format camera, which was perfect for an album cover because of the shape of the prints it produced. I brought the Malcom X image to the shoot as Guru told me that he wanted that in the shot, staying true to the brotherhood. The cover also featured the book Message to the Blackman in America by Elijah Muhammad, which belonged to DJ Premier. He just happened to bring it to the shoot, and we decided to put it in. We took some alternate shots with the Gang Starr logo replacing the Malcolm image. I love that contact sheet and am sad to say that the version with the original Malcolm X sequence is lost. In addition to the Malcolm X print and the Message to the Blackman in America book, we also had a briefcase with money spilling out in the foreground as well as a globe and the wolf's head. There was also a Remington Rand typewriter, a closed turntable case, and Guru and Premier were both wearing bomber jackets. I suppose there's a lot of symbolism on this cover. Then we took some shots with their crew Lil' Dap, Jeru The Damaja, Phat Gary, Gordon, Big Shug, and others to end the day. Getting a shot of everyone was really important to them. - Matt Gunther (via Contact High, 2018).

Below is the excerpt from Contact High + Daily Operation's press kit from '92...