23. Gang Starr, Step in the Arena (1991)
Label: Chrysalis, EMI
Looking back at No More Mr. Nice Guy now, it compensated what it lacked in its sometimes awkward execution with youthful enthusiasm and potential of things to come. For the follow-up, DJ Premier and Guru returned with a new label, threw away the leather pants and stupid hats, and refined their craft. The duo ensured that none of the tracks outstay their welcome, cramming 18 cuts into its 50 minute running time.
Covering future Gang Starr mainstays such as relationships ("Lovesick," which became a top 10 hit in Europe thanks to an upbeat remix), politics ("Who's Gonna Take the Weight?"), cautionary tales ("Just to Get a Rep"), and skills ("Check The Technique"), Daily Operation laid the foundation for one of hip-hop's most reliable MC and DJ combinations, while Premier would go on to contribute some of the most powerful beats of the 90s for everyone from Biggie and Nas to Jay-Z.