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Article May 12 2017 Written by

Honoring The Best Hip Hop LP’s: Gang Starr – Daily Operation

gang starr daily operation 1992

Daily Operation is the sound of two performers (vocalist Guru and DJ Premier) merging their unique perspective with the influences of their predecessors and the history of their surroundings. Taking the melody and impact of jazz music, the “cultural awareness” of their Brooklyn homestead and a distinctly non-commercial sensibility, they fashioned an LP that expounds on the jazz platform and expands Hip Hop’s breadth of topic, digging deeper into what makes New York’s music culture great and castigating the violent aspects that seek to corrupt it.

Taking a conversational tone and rarely fluctuating pitch or sounding aggravated, Guru takes these corrupting elements head on, giving a singular and often controversial perspective on religion, government and record industry politics. His deliberately paced articulations act as the perfect vehicle for conveying complex ideas, particularly accusations of an anti-black sentiment in the media and governmental connection to crack cocaine distribution. His less serious diatribes even pack compelling dialogue, lending an air of gravitas to joint smoking etiquette and clingy ex-girlfriends.

Premier’s best asset is an uncanny knack for picking the perfect snapshot, whether it be a staccato drumroll, pinch of organ or bent guitar string. Not only finding a funky beat, but one capable of matching Guru’s unique flow, Premier doles out flirty bass lines, clunky woodblock and jaunty bursts of horn, highlighting the plain-spoken vocals without overshadowing. The dustiest jazz nuggets stick to Guru’s words like glue and Premier keeps things low-tech and nocturnal, as to not take away from the stoned monotone.

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Nevertheless, jams like “The Illest Brother” demand full attention, building a loop from a messy coupling of cymbal clash, vague wind instrument and barroom piano, all bleeding together like paint spilt on a canvas. Guru takes a chance by going at hyper speed on the mic, but keeps the conversation discernible, especially when elaborating on his talents as a wordsmith and man of the people. Premier also tests his agility, cycling through a handful of choice loops, the best of which pits a jazz fusion passage against playfully chopped up breakbeats.

“Soliloquy of Chaos” has the drama and tension of a prize fight, reflecting Guru’s range of emotions through stirring strings and vocal swoon, mated with a soft xylophone stroke and faint bongo as percussion. Ever the storyteller, Guru sets an exciting nocturnal scene, abuzz with anticipation for a packed live performance. His characterization is rich, expounding on the five-car procession, extra rolls of film, “beige Tims” on his feet and adoring fans at the club. You can almost hear his heart break as gunfire rings out and police cruisers approach the venue.

Never missing the big picture in the smallest of details, Guru exposes the corruption of violence as a domino effect, not only ruining a Friday night, but damaging the art form, its supporters and the urban community as a whole. It’s rare to find a lyricist so perceptive and universal, but Guru manages to boast without being solipsistic and perceive without being subjective, bringing a wisdom to Daily Operation scarcely found in the 21 years since its first pressing.

Gang Starr – Daily Operation was ranked #25 on Matt Deapo‘s Hip Hop Top 50, a ranking of 50 of the best Hip Hop albums recorded between 1978 and 2006, based on this consideration and these rules

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Matthew Deapo is a Philadelphia-based arts critic and founding writer for Hip Hop Top 50 (hiphoptop50.blogspot.com) and Kinetoscope Film Journal (www.kinetoscope.org). His essay on Awesome Dré was recently included…

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