June 24, 2022

Gang Starr "The Ownerz" (June 24, 2003)

Hip-hop music is a complex art form. Similar to the rose that grew from concrete, hip-hop's roots began and will always be grounded in the street. As the years have gone by, we've seen the music make some dramatic changes, some for the better, some for the worse. Decades ago, when the critics were saying hip-hop would never last, few would have imagined the style being so big that it has broken into different genres. You have East Coast rap, West Coast rap, Dirty South, Gangsta rap, Commercial rap and Conscious rap. Back in the day the genre was much more tangible. You had your conscious rappers like Public Enemy, KRS-One and X-Clan, and then you had your smoothed out types like LL, Big Daddy Kane and MC Shan. Somewhere in the mix there were street dwellers like Rakim and Kool G Rap. Those were the cats you could really relate with, and then you had Gang Starr. If you lived in New York you could see these giants walking on the same streets you did. Hanging on the same block you hung on. But like Biggie once said, "Man Things Done Changed." Gang Starr was in a world all their own. Gang Starr embodied the rawness of hip-hop, they introduced the k.i.s.s. method to hip-hop -- they kept it simple. Noncomplicated Premier productions accompanied by Guru's no nonsense rhyme style took the music to a place it'd never been. Cont'd...

They've been in the game for 14 years and other than LL nobody from their time can say they're still hot. At the ages of 36 (Guru) and 34 (Premier) Gang Starr are back with another unscathed notch in their belt. The Ownerz is a step back into hip-hop's simpler times with hopes of taking it back to where it began. The first single, "Right Where U Stand," allows Guru the master to shine in his true battle rap greatness. He goes toe-to-toe with one of the nicest MCs in the game. We've hard Jadakiss spit over a Premier track before, but never with Guru by his side. The rhymes Guru spits on The Ownerz are along way from Jazzmatazz tryouts. Although he tries to murder the mic throughout the album, one of the album's highlights comes from the jazz-influenced "Deadly Habits." On songs like this, Guru takes the new school on a field trip and teaches them how to build a song around a topic. Guru is one of the few rappers who can pick a topic and never sway from it. While all of the shine is directed toward Gang Starr, the cameos do nothing but add more depth. Jada rips it on the single, Fat Joe and M.O.P. make you want to grab your Tim boots when they murder the track on "Who Got Gunz." But one of the most impressive rhymes comes from the one and only Bumpy Knuckles aka Freddie Foxxx on "Capture (Militia Pt.3)." Freddie should be a candidate for The Source's hip-hop quotable with this one. The verse is truly sick. Other highlights include "Riot Akt," "Same Team, No Games" and "In This Life" featuring Snoop. The Ownerz is a beautiful ode to hip-hop. Gang Starr remains undefeated in this game of one-hit wonders and drive-by artists.  - Asheville Citizen (August 1, 2003). You know the deal, my favorite group of ALL TIME! Rest In Peace, Guru!