Published Nov 05, 2019On November 1, DJ Premier (after teasing fans with the J. Cole featuring "Family and Loyalty" and "Bad Name") gave hip-hop the ultimate early Christmas gift: One of the Best Yet, a brand new album by Gang Starr.
Sitting at 16 tracks, which include interludes by longtime associates NYGz and Big Shug — as well as Guru's son — the album is a gem. Preemo lovingly wraps brand new Guru verses (new even to him) with his trademark production, earmarked with his iconic scratch choruses, without missing a beat.
Adding to the nostalgia, members of the Gang Starr Foundation, Group Home (Lil' Dap and Melachi the Nutcracker), M.O.P., Big Shug and the incomparable Freddie Foxxx not only hold their own, but feel renewed and evolved. As does Guru himself, who sounds acutely (almost eerily) aware of the current climate of the industry.
Shug and Foxxx give one last high-energy run at the Militia concept with "Take Flight (Militia, Pt. 4)." Though it's part four, this is a triptych for the trio, as part two was a remix that replaced them with Rakim and W.C.
Another one of the more brilliant tracks is "What's Real." It not only showcases how insanely well Lil Dap's unmistakable cadence has aged, but delivers one of the project's best verses courtesy of Preme's most consistent collaborator in recent years, Royce 5'9".
The craziest element is that it isn't until the guests reference him being dead that you snap back to the reality that Guru has been gone for just over nine years. This project isn't made to win new fans, and whatever reservations you've had that keeps Guru out of your GOAT conversations likely won't be repressed here.
However, with One of the Best Yet, DJ Premier, close friends — and a few newer faces — have come together to create a fluid, impeccably produced final goodbye to the god Keith Elam, and gracefully give a last curtain to a legacy group on its own terms.
As the album wraps with "Bless the Mic," which borrows the chorus from Moment of Truth's "What I'm Here 4," true fans get to hear the duo go out the way they came in, on the first song off their 1989 debut album No More Mr. Nice Guy: "Premier & the Guru." One of the genre's most distinct voices and one of its more revered producers. The perfect formula. (TTT / Gang Starr Enterprises)