Gang Starr - The Ownerz      
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written by Philip Oliver    
Welcome to hip hop Chemistry, you know when you mix all those elements together to come up with a reaction? In todays lesson we’ll be taking Guru and DJ Premier from the periodic table to see what happens when we mix them together. Spanning a career of 14 years they are the last of this artform's living legacies. Whilst being able to work apart (Guru With Baldhead Slick and Jazzmattazz Projects and Premier with his producing) they can reform and sound fresher and wiser with each return to vinyl. 4 years ago a greatest hits album was released usually signalling the demise or past glory of a group or artist, most even thought this was the end. Premier returned to his production duties with Works of Mart and Guru went on to do his solo projects. Then the soundtrack appearances began with the Flawless 'Battle' for 8 Mile and 'The Squeeze' for Training Day, its been a long time coming but their 6th Studio set 'The Ownerz' is finally upon us.

'Skills' was the first single whetting the appetite and from this you could hear that it was different, the pure hip hop was still there but it had been changed up a notch. The triumphant title track is another example of how good they are together, the formula is followed to a tee with Premiers Distinctive chopping and Guru sounds even hungrier than ever. This is classic hip hop 2003 style, it personifies what Gangstarr are, two turntables and a mic, the elements of hip hop that are missing. Today the artform is too reliant on a gimmick, a collection of mismatched superproducers and dominant marketing departments.

Musically the album seems to switch between a very dark moody sound (‘Capture’)or a 70’s funk jacking (‘Nice Girl, Wrong Place & ‘Deadly Habits’), long gone are the uplifting Jazz samples, but while you have to move on there is no in between. Like ‘Moment of Truth’ Gangstarr have tried to diversify using emcees you would expect them to work with, it was Scarface last time this time its Snoop Dogg. You can’t help thinking if this is just an attempt to boost sales cos as much respect I have for Snoop his verse on ‘In this life’ is very weak, off beat at times and nothing new. The track overall is very average and could have been released about 5 years ago. Jadakiss steps up on ‘Rite where you stand’ and while what he comes thru with is decent, his verse and the track overall are unnecessary.

Fat Joe and MOP bump heads with Guru on ‘Who got Gunz’ a great nasty track that should remind you and I how Joey Crack works best. This has already met mixed opinions but I like this a lot, the beat hammers away and the emcees push through with so much energy and anger Guru really can’t deny that it really does have a violent negative aspect, but it works. This is immediately complimented by the eerie ‘Capture (Militia 3)’ where the MIA Big Shug and Bumpy Knuckles reunite and exemplify the Rapport that was present on the original, definitely one of the many highlights present on the CD.

The album itself plays like a great piece of hip hop, the elements still work together, the rhymes are consistent keeping the guest appearances limited to the Foundation and extended family and the production playing equal parts in the appeal. However it seems that whilst Guru has kept himself in shape, Premier is a victim of his past glory. The production is far from crappy standing head and shoulders above the producers churning out this beep boop spoonfed rubbish, but its Premier, the same producer who did 'Boom', 'The Best Part' and 'You Know my Steez'. Musically this could have been 'Moment of Truth 2', whilst Guru broadens his subject material (‘Riot Akt’) Primo has been stunted at some point and refused to push the envelope using very familiar sounds in his formulaic beat making. This is my only problem with the album, and while its not a major one it doesn’t hold Guru back Without a doubt this album will have longevity but in such a fickle world of todays hip hop this is a no brainer, it isn’t their best work but there’s still a lot of steam left in the duo . Lesson finished.

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