Producer: DJ Premier, The Guru
Album: Step In the Arena
Label: Chrysalis

"Step in the Arena" is composed of a delightful dance routine between a springy bass, some delectable drums, a high-strung trumpet and a man named Guru who has a chocolate cream voice and a thing about being number one. The first track on Gang Starr's second is one of those rap songs that will locate the most ardent opponent of head bobbing and unapologetically enter his spine and force that head to do the rap nerd head bob. That's not to say Gang Starr was without its peccadilloes. With its visions of oiled-up men grappling in the sun, the video for "Step In the Arena" might have taken the "mic gladiator" metaphor a step too far and the line about "yellow fluid, check out how I mellowed into" should make you uneasy. Still, Guru performs with such a rarified air of confidence that listeners were, and are, more than willing to follow the leader. —Sam Sweet