Step in the Arena

Step in the Arena

5.0 1
by Gang Starr
     
 

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On Gang Starr's second disc, 1990's STEP INTO THE ARENA, Guru and DJ Premier solidified their highly influential mix of fluid jazz-hop and cerebral lyricism. Premier's urbane soundscapes blend infectious bass lines with the incidental din of the city streets, while Guru delivers his wise rhymes with a smooth nonchalance. The album is like a guidebook for the hip-hop

Overview

On Gang Starr's second disc, 1990's STEP INTO THE ARENA, Guru and DJ Premier solidified their highly influential mix of fluid jazz-hop and cerebral lyricism. Premier's urbane soundscapes blend infectious bass lines with the incidental din of the city streets, while Guru delivers his wise rhymes with a smooth nonchalance. The album is like a guidebook for the hip-hop innovations of the '90s: The title track's percolating bass lines foreshadow the bop-inscribed sound that surfaced early in the decade; "Execution of a Chump" features the piano breaks that became a signature of the Wu-Tang's RZA; and the high-pitched horn braying through "Who Gonna Take the Weight" prefigures the squeal of Cypress Hill (while paying homage to Public Enemy). Amid colleagues who constantly played up their toughness, Gang Starr's might was implicit, their intelligence explicit. Together they established a style that would be a template for a generation of street-savvy, straight-ahead hip-hop.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stanton Swihart
The album on which DJ Premier and Guru perfected the template that would launch them into underground stardom and a modicum of mainstream success. Guru's deadpan monotone delivery was shockingly different from other early-'90s MCs, many of who were either substituting charisma for substance or engaging in hardcore "realism" without really commenting on black inner-city life or offering ways to alter the situation for the better. But it is Guru who sounded like the real clarion call of and to the street on Step in the Arena ("Why bring ignorance/where we're inviting you to get advancement," he intones on "Form of Intellect"). Step in the Arena was the first real mature flowering of his street-wise sagacity. His voice would grow more assured by the next album, but here Guru imparts urban wisdom of a strikingly visible variety. It's easy to allow yourself to get caught up in the fantasy of hardcore rap, but it is somewhat more involving and disorienting to hear truth that avoids exaggeration or glorification. Guru is not easy on any aspect of the inner city, from the "snakes" that exploit the community ("Execution of a Chump") to those that are a product of it ("Just to Get a Rep"), and the result is a surprising but hard-fought compassion ("Who's Gonna Take the Weight?" pleads for the acceptance of responsibility, for not taking the easy path). He seems to have somehow developed a hopefulness out of the bleak surroundings. DJ Premier was already near the top of his game at this early point. His production seems less jazz-fueled on Step in the Arena, opting more for spare guitar lines and tight beats, as well as his unmistakable vocal cut-up style of scratching for a slightly warped and out-of-phase soundscape.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/15/1991
Label:
Virgin Records Us
UPC:
0094632179821
catalogNumber:
21798
Rank:
35269

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Step in the Arena 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago