June 7, 2023

What Happened To Gang Starr?


Gang Starr, consisting of members Guru and DJ Premier, was one of the most legendary hip hop duos of the ’90s. Initially, as a part of a larger group at Morehouse College, Guru and DJ Premier officially formed Gang Starr as a duo in 1989. They released their debut album No More Mr. Nice Guy that same year. After relocating to New York, Gang Starr released albums throughout the ’90s. This included 1991’s Step in the Arena, 1992’s Daily Operation, 1994’s Hard to Earn, and 1998’s Moment of Truth, which are widely regarded as some of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. Gang Starr is among the best rap duos ever and the most influential in the sub-genres of jazz-rap and boom-bap. They helped establish the “east coast” sound, considered one of the most authentic styles of hip hop.

Solo Endeavors

Over their 21-year-long run as Gang Starr, Guru and DJ Premier released classic songs like “Mass Appeal,” “DWYCK,” “You Know My Steez,” and “Full Clip,” but also released prolific solo work. During his lifetime, Guru delivered seven studio albums. This also includes four installments of his Jazzmatazz series, where he would collaborate with an array of musicians who provided instrumentation. His debut solo album, Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 (1993), is considered his most iconic solo effort. Guru’s final solo album, Guru 8.0: Lost and Found, was released in 2009. 

DJ Premier, on the other hand, continued to produce on some of hip hop’s most monumental albums. Notable works include also KRS-One’s Return of the Boom Bap (1993), Nas’s Illmatic (1994), The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die (1994), Group Home’s Livin’ Proof (1995), JAY-Z’s Reasonable Doubt (1996), Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides (1999), D’Angelo’s Voodoo (2000), among numerous other classics.

DJ Premier’s consistent output helped establish him as one of the greatest producers. He has also worked outside of hip hop, collaborating with Christina Aguilera, Disclosure, Craig David, and more.


Gang Starr, Guru and DJ Premier, San Fransisco, United States, 1991. (Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images)

Before Guru sadly passed away from myeloma on April 19, 2010, The Ownerz was released in 2003. It was the final Gang Starr album to be released during his lifetime. He is widely regarded as one of hip hop’s best lyricists and was survived by his family. Although Guru’s death ultimately led to the dissolution of Gang Starr, the group’s legacy has been highly celebrated. Premier and the Gang Starr Foundation, consisting of original Gang Starr members Big Shug, Afu-Ra, Jeru the Damaja, Krumbsnatcha, Bumpy Knuckles, and Group Home also continue to champion Guru’s legacy.

Following Guru’s death, DJ Premier continued to pay tribute to his late friend. Much of this is on almost every project he has been involved with since. This includes his PRhyme collaboration with Royce Da 5’9”, the only group that DJ Premier has been a part of since working with Guru. On 2014’s “U Looz,” Royce also raps that the song is dedicated to the “real hip-hop n****s who never ever ask me, am I here to replace Guru?

The Final Album

In 2016, DJ Premier acquired ownership of Guru’s unreleased music. This led to the making of the final Gang Starr album, One of the Best Yet. It was released in 2019 and was spearheaded by Premier’s artistic vision as he produced the entire album and compiled the verses to make cohesive songs. One of the Best Yet contained unreleased verses from Guru throughout the years. Production for the songs was created around the acapella vocals that Guru recorded during his lifetime. Features on the album included M.O.P., Q-Tip, Group Home, Royce Da 5’9”, Jeru the Damaja, J. Cole, Talib Kweli, Ne-Yo, Nitty Scott, Big Shug, and Freddie Foxxx. 

Gang Starr Today

Overall, what ultimately happened to Gang Starr is that their run was cut short by Guru’s untimely passing. For more information about the prolific history of Gang Starr, fans can watch DJ Premier’s web series So Wassup? on YouTube. He discusses the making of some of his biggest hits. This includes reflecting on the era of the floppy disc and analog recording. He also recently released his Hip Hop 50, Vol. 1 EP, which celebrates this year being the 50th anniversary of hip hop. The EP features Joey Bada$$, Remy Ma, Rapsody, Nas, Run The Jewels, Lil Wayne, and Slick Rick.

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