There are few rap acts that stuck to their guns quite like Gang Starr. Comprised of DJ Premier the late, great Guru, the duo's sound came to define the purist hip-hop standard of the '90s. They crafted a style that was true to New York despite the fact that neither of them actually hailed from New York. The duo never sold millions and millions of records, but they never made a bad album either. While they made plenty of great songs, in 1994 they released "Mass Appeal"—the quintessential Gang Starr record and a song truly worthy of a Magnum Opus treatment.
We got with DJ Premier, Guru's close friend Big Shug of Gang Starr Foundation, and the group's managers Patrick Moxey and Phat Gary to talk about the making of the song. What we found out is that despite the fact that the song made fun of rappers who aspired for mass appeal, Guru's actually aspired for commercial relevance himself. But, of course, the group never abandoned their aesthetic. Ironically, "Mass Appeal" became the group's biggest hit thanks in part to Premier's hypnotic beat.
We also talked to Fat Joe, Jadakiss, and Stretch Armstrong about the group's lasting impact and legacy. And to round things out, veteran hip-hop journalist Chairman Mao and Complex's own Editor-In-Chief Noah Callahan-Bever explained how Gang Starr took the road less taken to achieve their legendary status.
RIP Keith "Guru" Elam.