Every so often, an album comes around that changes the way you listen to Hip-Hop; for me, that album is Gang Starr’s Daily Operation. I know it isn’t the best Hip-Hip album ever recorded (that honor belongs to It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back), and it isn’t even the best Gang Starr album ever recorded (Moment of Truth), but whenever I’m in the mood to hear some classic 90s Hip-Hop, there’s a 95% chance that this is going to be my go-to album.
Allow me to explain: Around 1992, years after the release of such classics like Paid In Full, King of Rock, and the aforementioned Nation of Millions, I noticed a change in the music that was being played on the New Orleans radio stations (especially after WYLD AM94 switched their format from Hip-Hop to Gospel). They began to focus more and more on playing gangsta-rap. Not that I didn’t like it, but the monotony of it all became unbearable. And since I don’t want to upset my friends from back home, I won’t even go into my disdain for Bounce. (Based solely on my musical tastes, I sometimes think I was born in the wrong region.) And while BET was still playing a better variety of Hip-Hop at that time, I didn’t have cable - so I had to rely on the radio to find out what was “hot”.
Then one day, my sister (who I was living with at the time) came home with a tape she had borrowed from her boyfriend - Gang Starr’s Daily Operation. One of the things that struck me the first time she played it was DJ Premier’s simple yet elegant style of production. No crazy high-pitched synthesizers, no handclap-laden 808s, just a pure, underground sound that I had been missing. Oh, and he was one of the few producers at the time who still put scratches in his music. I hadn’t realized how much I missed that until I heard this album.
And I can’t go without mentioning Guru’s rhyming. I had been a moderate fan of his because of classics like “Words I Manifest”, “Jazz Thing”, and “Just to Get a Rep” (my favorite Gang Starr song). But this was the first Gang Starr album I’d ever heard in its entirety, so it was easy to get blown away by his story-telling (“Ex-Girl to Next Girl”, “Soliloquy of Chaos”), battle rhymes (“Flip the Script”, “B.Y.S.”), social commentary (“Conspiracy”) and, well, his shit-talking ability (“I’m the Man”, “The Illest Brother“).
Daily Operation is, by far, my favorite Hip-Hop album of all time. Not only is this album the reason why I’m such a huge Gang Starr fan (the only thing more heartbreaking than their split was Guru’s death in 2010), it’s also responsible for turning me against commercial (and even some “middle-ground”) Hip-Hop. It frightens me to think about what I might be listening to had my sister never brought that tape home. I’d probably have every Nikki Minaj song ever recorded in my phone’s MP3 player.
Nah, scratch that. I’d deliberately puncture my eardrums with a hot butter knife before I ever listen to that shit.
OK, I just heard that “Breaking News” song by “Michael Jackson” today, and I only have two things to say about it. First: As those strategically-placed quotation marks would suggest, I don’t think that’s really him singing. And second: Even if it is his voice, there’s a reason he would choose not to release it - because the song sucks. But that’s just my opinion. Have a listen and judge for yourself.