SPLAM: Gang Starr – Moment Of Truth (S1E5)

After I (Lee) exposed my favourite albums, and they were all projects that came in 2000’s or 10’s – I asked Suood, Phil, Akash and Matt to recommend albums from the apparent golden era’s of Hip Hop. The twitter conversation soon led to Phil proposing a Hip Hop book club – and here is SPLAM (we struggled for a name, but using our initials stuck). Using Onyx’s S(p)lam as an unofficial theme song, we are going to take turns to recommend one another an album to listen to, and then post our opinions in a blog post. We are then to debate our opinions on Twitter, and invite other Hip Hop enthusiasts to join in the conversation using the #SPLAM.

This week, we have Akash’s recommendation of Gangstarr’s Moment Of Truth. Here are the initial thoughts of the team:

Akash:
“The rhyme style is elevated, the style of beats is elevated but it’s still Guru and Premier”
Though Moment of Truth is the only Gangstarr album I’ve heard, it’s impact on hip hop was made clear to me due to the fact that almost every hip hop head I spoke to hailed this album as one of the greatest and I’ll be damned if it isn’t.
Before I talk about the lyrics, I’d like to address the production on this album and say that it’s quite simply the smoothest sound one could hope for. DJ Premier keeps the listeners hooked in with this trademark inventive and intense scratching all while sampling mellow jazz sounds with gritty percusiion. It’s everything you could hope for, from Preemo and man does he deliver. This album sealed Premier as my favourite producer.
As for Guru.. He truly lives up to the name Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal. Guru was on top form throughout this album, addressing important issues for the youth, while adressing his own position in Hip Hop in his typical monotone voice and smooth delivery. 
Guru’s level of self and political awareness is extraordinary as he touches topic after topic fearlessly and shows us why the world hails him as one of the greatest. He makes it clear from the intro track itself (You Know My Steez) that he’s not content being “just one of the rappers” and doesn’t care if he doesn’t fit in because his skills speak for themselves – “I’ll be bringing salvation from the way that I rap / and you know and I know – I’m nice like that”
Guru continues to bombard listeners with unapologetically preachy and political rhymes with songs like Work and Itz A Set Up – but the best aspect of listening to him is that Guru makes you WANT to learn from him. One of my favourite tracks on the album was JFK to LAX’ where Guru and Premier truly SHINE and Guru addresses his own impact on Hip Hop and how the genre and music industry treats him in a very sarcastic and monotone manner which makes this song a delight to listen to – Of course, I know that I’m a role model” – Not to mention Premmeo’s flawless production.
In conclusion, Moment Of Truth is one of the most consistent albums I’ve ever had the fortune to come across and Gangstarr were truly a force to be reckoned with. There’s a reason why this album is hailed as one of hip hop’s greatest. Its a shame that great artists leave us time and again. Listening to Moment Of Truth, I couldn’t help but with that Guru was still alive. RIP.
Favourite track: JFK 2 LAX and Work
Least favourite track: Robbin Hood Theory”

Matt: 

Boston born and bred, it’s no surprise that this week’s SPLAM selection is one of my personal top 5 albums of all-time – across all genres. Gang Starr’s classic “Moment of Truth” speaks to all levels of music enthusiasts, transitioning outside of just Hip Hop by infusing itself with HEAVY jazz – something that was very outside of the box of the time, with most rappers going the “hood” route. This was a beautiful follow-up to the duo’s first project, “Hard To Earn”, and easily raised the bar, yet again. How many albums have you bought in your life that didn’t contain one skippable track? Bet you thought such compilations were a myth, huh? Nah, b – you just ain’t listening to the right music. From “You Know My Steez” to “Above The Clouds” to “Work” AND THEN “The Militia and “Moment of Truth”?! Guru’s capability to convey a scene was like none other. The man painted vivid pictures with words alone, giving listeners an exact image of each bar’s scene, as if it were a movie reel. With Preemo on the wheels feeding his brother the Body of Christ, these two were unstoppable. Like, WHAT? It’s hard for me to even describe the perfection of this album using words. If I had an emoji keyboard right now, you’d all be like “OHHH, that does sound dope.” But, instead of catering to you yongin’s like that I’ll just let you check it out for yourselves. I was lucky enough to see Gang Starr rock in Boston before Guru’s untimely passing and it was one of the greatest memories I have. There is NO reason anyone calling themselves a “Hip Hop head” should not have heard this. Pay homage.”

“Once again, we have another artist whose music I’ve never heard before. Well, besides that one track on the 8 Mile soundtrack. I’ve been quite familiar with Premier’s work over the years but Guru? Not so much. First of all, I need to give thanks to Zero for bringing through an album I could throroughly enjoy to SPLAM. One (Phil) might say he played it safe but it’s all good.
There are a lot of rappers that tend to sacrifice their lyrical abilities to deliver a message in the best way possible but somehow, Guru doesn’t face that problem at all. Verse after verse, he continues to drop braggadocious, sophisticated yet clear bars over Primo’s crispy production. But as much as I enjoyed that, the album does begin to drag on after the first half. It’s too fucking long. Maybe I’d feel differently if it wasn’t entirely produced by Premier but I found it difficult to sit through the whole album more than once. However if you take in every track individually, its hard to call out many negatives about “Moment of Truth.” A standout for me was “Betrayal” and the brilliant story telling Guru and Scarface showcased on it while “Make ‘Em Pay” is one where both Guru and Premier shined.
Favorite tracks: JFK 2 LAX and Work.
Least favourite tracks: She Knowz What She Wantz and In Memory Of”

“Quick Preface to my review – DJ Premier is one of the GOAT producers and this features some of his most diverse and best work – some of the beats absolutely SLAP (The Militia), while other likes Moment of Truth, Royalty and What I’m Here 4 set an altogether different tone. The guest features on this album for the most part totally bring it it as well (The Militia) but believe this, I will go to war with any motherfucker that suggests Guru is somewhat the weak link in Gang Starr.
Moment of Truth was my first introduction to Gang Starr back in 2001, a blind purchase after hearing Above The Clouds on Wu-Chronicles. Strangely though, it’s probably my least played album from Guru and Premier nowadays. That’s not to say it isn’t a great album, but there are a few things that stop me from revisiting it that much.
It doesn’t have a cohesive feel to it as their other albums. It just feels more like a collection of songs than an album and if I want that I’d much rather listen to Full Clip, their greatest hits which has the best tracks off MOT and loads of previously unreleased stuff that outweighs the filler here. Speaking of filler, I find the album has more of it than their other albums.
Really I’m playing Devil’s Advocate here, because MoT is a great album and has an overwhelming abundance of classic tracks (11 by my count) and when I do listen to it I love it, it just wouldn’t be the first Gang Starr album I jump to. Also, The Mall should never have made the cut.

Lee:
“I have a weird outlook on most albums which are considered classics, or artists heralded as legends. For the most part, I fail to comprehend why people get so buzzed over things which to me, are average at best. For Moment Of Truth, I kind of have a similar perspective. It exceeds the average quality, and I’m sure that around the time of its release, this album was one of the best of its time – but I don’t think its aged well. It’s an album I can respect, but my chances of listening again in the future, isn’t very likely. 
Premo’s production is phenomenal, and the one thing that got me through the entirety of Moment Of Truth. I usually focus on the message in the lyricism not the beat work, but if I was to listen to one full project of instrumentals, I’d like it to be courtesy of DJ Premier – the truth is, Guru’s presence on this album is nothing much more than a bonus for me. 
Guru has a capable technical skill of rapping and potent purpose in his words but his style is too laid back for me. I prefer someone who commands my attention, and the rapping half of Gang Starr fails to do so. He’s more listenable than Masta Killa, but compared to last weeks pick, Dizzee Rascal? Guru’s mic presence is dwarfed in comparison.
This album is by absolute no means poor. There wasn’t a single track I didn’t enjoy to some extent, I just don’t think there’s anything particularly special or memorable here either. 



So we again found an album that we can have a fight over. I’m sure I’ll be getting a load of hate-tweets and it’ll be interesting to witness the aftermath of Suood’s namedropping of Phil in his post. As for Matt’s pick, we’ll be looking at MF Doom’s MM..Food. Join in the conversation on Twitter using #SPLAM.  

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