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Gangstarr The Ownerz Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

The seventh album in the Gang Starr saga sees Guru and DJ Premier back on incredible...

Jack Smith 2003

"The mind is a terrible thing to waste. I show love cause it's a terrible thing to hate" spurts Guru on the funk-kissed "Peace Of Mine", a lyrical high from the eagerly anticipated seventh album, The Ownerz. It's a perfect marriage that pits Guru's consciousness-raising lyrics (on a par with KRS-One), against the gritty, smooth-jazz backing supplied by DJ Premier.

Influenced by jazz, doo-wop and '70s soul more than any other still-standing hip-hop act, Gangstarr understands better than any other the correlation between jazz and rap - two black art forms with similar cadences that thrive on spontaneous innovation. The group's songs typically feature jazzy basslines, horn riffs, and obscure jazz samples that form the perfect foundation for Guru's conversational, laconic vocals to weave their hypnotic spell, typified here, by the album's title-track.

Far from a two-single and dozen-plus filler selection, their latest opus, featuring a mighty 17-strong raps, improves as the grooves flow, with a more than a handful of edified offerings, and an impressive line-up of ghetto celebs that include Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe, Jadakiss and M.O.P.

The key to the duo's success has always been the correlation between Premier's raw, soulful constructions in juxtaposition to Guru's free-flowing wordology; where neither lyrics nor music has to fight for attention. Typified by the scratched uncut funk grooves of "Sabotage", and the head-nodding jazz-breaks on the confessional "Deadly Habits"; a stanza that reveals the pressures of coping with modern life in startlingly honest terms.

Guru's compelling autobiographical narratives continue unbounded on the stark "Peace Of Mine", while the incendiary "Riot Akt" also focuses on the volatile nature of urban existence under "martial law in the streets". Snoop Dogg adds his prowess to "In This Life", as Guru laments that the prison system seems to be getting more attention than public schools, to a groove that smoulders of early Curtis Mayfield soulfulness.

As Premier muses: "We utilize hip-hop like we own it and we don't misuse the art form", and its that simple philosophy that's maintained Gang Starr's longevity.Their appeal has grown with each successive release helping The Ownerz to rank alongside their earlier masterpieces. You need this in your life!

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