The 50 Greatest Gang Starr Songs

#15. Gang Starr "Jazz Thing (Video Mix)" (1990)

Album: Mo' Better Blues OST
Label: Sony Music

There's actually a really good reason Gang Starr got saddled with the whole jazz-rap label early in its career: The songs Guru and Premier made that referenced jazz and utilized jazz samples were uniformly strong—even the more obscure titles like "Jazz Music" from No More Mr. Nice Guy and "The Meaning of the Name" from Step in the Arena. In fact, "Jazz Music" was the obvious compositional model when the group was tapped to contribute a song to the soundtrack to Spike Lee's Mo Better Blues. But where the aforementioned roll call of jazz greats is cerebrally meditative, "Jazz Thing" is straight celebratory, fueled by an unbeatable Kool & the Gang–sampled groove, punchy brass blasts, and even intermittent sampled Charlie Parker sax riffs. Never one to miss an opportunity to selectively drop science, Guru makes sure no one gets the origins of this African-American invention twisted: "The real mystery/Is how music history/Created Paul Whiteman/Or any other white man/And pretended he originated/And contended that he innovated/A jazz thing."

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