Album: Hard to Earn
Label: Chrysalis/EMI Records

The Gang Starr musical manifesto, right here. In interviews Premier often describes his thought process behind making the "Mass Appeal" beat—that it was his attempt to use a bouncy elevator-music type melody to satirize commercial rap styles of the day. If that was Preem's goal then you could reasonably contend that he failed—though in the best of all possible ways. "Mass Appeal" is catchy (thanks to said insistent, descending electric piano hook). But it's the endlessly repeated exhale of white noise that surrounds that hook that gives the track an unmistakable air of spacey menace, droning on sans variation (save for Preem's wrist flex on a Youngstas vocal), reveling in its own musical tension, ultimately coming off like one big raised middle finger at pop-song accessibility. An underlying rhythmic rework of EPMD's emotionally icy "You're a Customer"—a reputed one-time stick-up kid anthem—only adds to the ill vibe. Acknowledging his "monotone style" for the first time on record, Guru purposefully keeps his verses simple and on message (e.g. "I don't need gimmicks/Give me a fly beat and I'm all in it"). "Mass Appeal" is a masterpiece.