Step in the Arena is the second studio album by hip hop duo Gang Starr, printed as a 1990 release, and commercially released on January 15, 1991. In 2007, it was named the greatest hip hop album of all time by IGN.com. HipHopDX called it "the album that cemented Gang Starr as a timeless tag team."Wikipedia
This is one of the most important hiphop albums ever produced even though a lot of folks outside of the scene haven't heard of it. In a time when hiphop was fracturing and trying desperately to find out what it was and what it could be, Gang Starr brought heavy, intellectual, clever lyrics over deeply funky boom-bap beats. The influence of this album can be felt in modern artists like The Roots, Sho Baraka, Nappy Roots, and Blackalicious. Musical significance aside, it's just real damn good. Just DAMN good. An absolute pleasure to listen to.
Some of the smoothest rhymes and rhythms I've ever heard. This album has aged like a fine wine. I imagine it was considered rather intense when it came out, but in the rearview, it is so mellow and enjoyable. I never wanted it to end.
“Step in the Arena” by Gang Starr (1991) Never heard the album or this duo, and my familiarity with the hip hop genre is quite limited. Musically, the producer in the duo, DJ Premier, puts together a fine background, providing solid rhythms and scratching, with some tentative forays into sampling. I’m sure this was innovative in 1991, and likely very influential, but it doesn’t seem to stand the ‘test of time’. Guru’s voice lacks expressive range, and in rapid phrases he frequently mumbles to retain the tempo. His tone is subdued, letting the startling nature of the words carry the artistic freight. That’s appealing. In terms of meaning, his lyrics are marked by self absorbed boastfulness, with an expansive range of metaphors from gladiators to those who covet luxury vehicles. It’s illustrated in the title track, “Step in the Arena”, which compares rap competition to lethal one-on-one combat. But the lethality serves no goal other than entertainment. There’s no consideration of the moral standing of the purveyors and consumers of these nihilistic spectacles. The meaning is “I’m the best” and that is to your detriment. He seems to want his listeners to want to adopt the same attitude. Here’s a significant line indicating that he is aware, even in 1990, that the rap/hip hop world was overpopulated with junk: “Abreast of the best in this rap mess Oversaturated market full of wackness” There is a form of intellect on display here. Skillful use of internal rhyme and other poetic devices without being mechanical. This is not doggerel. Plus, Guru is a keen observer of his culture. In “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?”, Guru advances key themes of the message of the Nation of Islam. After an opening sample of a couple of lines from Malcolm X, Guru declaims, “I was raised like a Muslim”, which is highly unlikely, given his solid middle class background, but the selective appropriation of NOI themes continues. Ultimately the lyric lacks persuasiveness, chiefly because it is so self focused. Guru needs to enter the heart of the listener. These lyrics generally lack drama. There’s plenty of violence, and elaborate imagery, but little storytelling, redemption, conflict resolution, or artistic closure. It’s simply a catalogue of unanswered questions and unsolved problems (unless the answers and solutions boil down to “give everything to me”). The poetry usually evokes little emotion other than pity and perhaps fear. The one grand exception to this bleak assessment is the track “Just to Get a Rep”. It tells a powerful tale of a man who unnecessarily uses lethal force on a victim merely to enhance his own reputation. The victim recovers and returns to kill him, also motivated by the desire “just to get a rep” (reputation). The poetic composition powerfully invites the listener to consider whether it’s worth it. Of course it’s not. But one wonders how many listeners were persuaded in that direction. Not the greatest hip hop, in my admittedly limited experience. 2/5
This is the finest example of old-school hip-hop I've heard yet. The sound is clearly indebted to the East Coast, and while there's not as much Southern innovation as say, Outkast, touches exist. The production and turntablism is insanely good. The flows are all relatively familiar ones from the era, but they're convincing and use enough tempo and theme variation to remain fresh.
Loving the cool flavour and rhythm of this album! I have heard some tunes by Gang Starr before, but totally forgot about these guys. The first full Step In The Arena listen was a lot of fun chillin' in the crib, and then kickin' it a 2nd time in the car on an hour drive to hike in the woods was smooth as well. Banjo was salivating on that drive, so I assume he was diggin' too. The song Take A Rest represents most what I am enjoying from this record. Thanks dudes, it was refreshment after the desert of yesterday's album!
Hip hop with a purpose. Lyrically sound - good beats. Fun to listen to. Can definitely hear their influence in a lot of later hip hop. Only a few songs didn’t age as well because of that early 90’s “starter jacket” type feel. (Not that it’s a bad thing - just sounds dated today) Fave tracks: “Check The Technique” “Step In The Arena”
This is not the album to convince me that hiphop is worth my listening time.
I simply don't like rap. These two definitely don't have the most annoying voices in rap, so this is at least 1.5 stars instead of 1, but I'll still round it down for being super boring. I didn't make it past the fifth track. The pseudo-intelligent-sounding lyrics don't help either.
Probably prefer Moment Of Truth but man, this is some great stuff. Just To Get A Rep is up there with the best they've done.
Perfect! Brings me back to my love of hip hop. The rhymes and rhythms created by the rappers’ deliveries is east coast at its finest!
I don't think anything Guru touches could be less than a 5. Absolutely love GangStarr and Guru is one of the best MCs of all time. 5/5
A fantastic rapper and one of the best producers create an album full of brilliant, classic hip-hop tracks.
You Gotta be kidding me, this is a top 10 hip-hop classic for me. Right up there with Illmatic, 36 Chambers and Low End Theory. Banger after banger on this Jawn. Straight fire!
Never took the time to check out Gang Starr, but this was a pleasant surprise. It's hit and miss for me with hiphop and rap, but this hit me for sure. Smooth and groovy, just the way I like it.
90s hip hop will always have a special place in my heart. It may not be for everyone, but this album demonstrates both great 90s hip hop production from DJ Premier, and great lyricism from Guru, in a collaboration that has gone on to be considered among the best for it's time, and onwards too, considering the latest releases from Gang Starr (posthumously from Guru). I have never heard this debut album, but I see why Gang Starr became so popular. This has everything you want out of that era, the jazzy samples, the social commentary topics, the little humorous skits, and the real chemistry that both artists demonstrate working together. The only reason I wouldn't give this a 5/5 is because I prefer other albums from that time (Tribe Called Quest do this all better IMO) but it's still fantastic.
It may be that rap albums hit some kind of pinnacle in the early 90s where the clean lyrics and fun rhymes grew into something more complex but also more raw in its content. Maybe that was an East vs. West type of thing. Notably, the album's sound includes a lot of jazz elements, simple beats, and a very modest yet effective DJ. Lyrically, it comes off as an inviting narrative to 'come and sit while I tell this story' and the listener is indeed compelled to do just that. Where rap music eventually turned into various outlets of strong expression, this album is way more conversational in its delivery and less confrontational. "Just To Get A Rep" or "Execution Of A Chump" stand out as the implications of violence that this portion of the hip-hop culture draws much of its emotion and content. Thing is, previously mentioned, the listener is compelled to hear this out. Over time, this subject matter has lost its importance because of its marketability and most people see it for that thirty years later as though Gang Starr knew that "Just To Get A Rep" is a reality moving forward. The album may have more musical reasons for being on this list, but for this listener and perhaps because of an old soul, this album creates a nostalgic desire for 21st century rap/hip-hop to come back with that authenticity. An authenticity that perhaps Gang Starr prophetically touched on in "Form of Intellect" with "...oversaturated market, full of wackness" and "get real, get deep, so you can keep involved, resolve and solve, so you can make the calls". If one pays attention to the current entertainment industry, the power figures in rap/hip-hop seemed to have heeded this advice. They may have come up from the streets per se, but they did not stay there. These men and women are now moguls in their own right, kings and queen makers of that world. "Step In The Arena" is a challenging album, maybe even a bit preachy but that's the value here and perhaps a more philosophical reason this album is on the list.
Gang Starr - one of best yet. But maybe not yet fully developed at this stage. Similar vein to Eric B & Rakim and Boogie Down Productions, a quality duo with classic samples and awareness in the lyrics. The album just got a bit macaroni cheese for me: I like Macaroni, I like cheese but after 50mins of nothing but macaroni and cheese I need something else in the mix to spice things up.
Good album. I liked all the songs except 'Love Sick' (and even that one was ok). I can see myself listening to this again, now just to decide between 3 and 4 stars...
Nothing other than production stood out to me
It's rap and nothing special
Not a fan of Gangster rap. Lyrics were clean which is interesting.
I'll give credit due when its due. Gang Starr have good rapping vocals and their sound isn't cheesy like a fair chunk of rap/ hip hop music around that time. There are a couple of decent songs here too. But as a whole this was as interesting as a ham sandwich, has the essential elements but nothing enticing for me.
Oh the longing for Mozart this album causes .....
If this is the greatest hip hop album of all time, then I should probably stop giving hip hop a chance.
Hip Hop - 0.5/5
Old skool rap
Some of the most solid roots of all good hip hop
Really enjoyed this album. Need to revisit it again!
For lange sanger
Incredible. End to end amazing vocals lyrics and production. Love it.
AWESOME. consistent and complete hip hop album
A revelation - really enjoyable
Never listened to it all the way through, very good
Old school hip hop at its finest
Wow, the lyricism and flow are amazing. I think Check the Technique or Lovesick was my favorite, but honestly I enjoyed every track. I will be purchasing this and adding it to my collection :)
DJ Premier!!! Super smooth old skool hip hop, very very good
Ohhhh Shit, Gang Starr 4 Life!!!!
5/5 - Forever Dope
The prototype for 90s group gangster rap. Smoother than NWA but harder than west coast G funk, it's super awesome.
Okay więc jest bardzo dobrze. Mam wrażenie, że jeden z moich nowych ulubionych albumów hip hopowych. Nawet nie wiem co mówić bo wszystko mi się podobało. Ulubione kawałki: check this technique take rest say ur prayers just to get a rap step in the arena.
Very cool album! I’m really trying to discover more rap so this really helped.
18th January 2022 Listened on the way to book club at the standard. 90s hip hop. Love it.
Wow c'est très bon. Je vais certainement réécouter l'album. 5
Classic hip-hop that I had never heard before. I loved it though, and will definitely hunt out more of their stuff. Execution of a chump, and the meaning of the name were my favourites first time through, but I will revisit it to pick up the lyrics and flow of some of the denser tracks too
Immaculate flow with a classic sound and classic beats. A genuine time capsule.
Incredibly important hip hop record smooth beats and dangerous rhymes a truly enjoyable listen, influenced many artists like the roots etc
So many samples!
I liked it. Reminds me of ATCQ
90s Hip-hop are one of my favourite genres. So safe to say this went down very well.
East Coast Hiphop,old school,smooth and tense,real Classic!
Never heard Gang Starr before but this is amazing. Great flow. Old school hip hop Reminds me of J5 or Abdominal...
This is why I downloaded the app
This is a band at the top of their game. Guru is greatly missed
Listens: 2 Enjoyed: fuck yeah Never really delved into Gang Starr but fuck this is a great album. I don't think there is a single skipable track
Always had a soft spot for these guys was shocked to hear Guru passed had no idea. At a time when hip was going going gangsta these guys did something different something jazzy. Hi class
One of the best Hip Hop albums ever released. Breaks, samples, lyrics all working together.
5 I absolutely did not expect this to be hip hop nor did I expect it to grab my attention right off the bat. The subject matter throughout reminds me of NWA and Eminem and subverts my expectations at seemingly every chance it gets. The beats and samples are so cool and distinct enough that I can easily tell the difference between songs but never so distinct as to betray the style of the album. Low-key and smooth, this has that pure 90s sound that would fit in perfectly on a Tony Hawk soundtrack (may have been on one, honestly). Front to back I loved this. This is exactly the type of album that made me want to do this challenge in the first place. My appreciation of hip hop is now a bit deeper.
90s rap is just always pretty good
This is right in my lane. Great record.
The album sounds like a product of its time but the beats and rhymes are 5/5.
Don't normally listen to hip hop but this was enjoyable.
Great early rap album.
Another great album that is outside of my normal wheelhouse. I'm not sure which school of hip hop this one falls in, but I like it. Would definitely listen again. 4 stars.
Really great album that flies under the radar! This is up there with Eric B and Rakim, but might actually be better! Great flow, and hits hard.
Fav Song: Check the Technique
I think I like early rap better than late 90s and 2000s rap. I think it had a different sound and purpose. And I think my own feelings of “I don’t like rap” from that time period were probably colored by my influences.
and, for whatever reason, i liked this one way more than Ready To Die, which was yesterday's pick. just felt right
I think I have learned from this challenge that I like hip hop! I guess I also associated rap with like Snoop Dog and 50 Cent and PDiddy and whatever was in the 90s/00s charts which was really shite. This though- there's great beats in this, love the 90s sound, dunno the right terms but like the sampling and scratching. The rapping is pretty chill and smoothly rhythmic, lulling and poetic.
A little too long for this early 90s style, but I really enjoyed this album. Jazz beats and great wordplay make this a great departure from the previous hip hop we’ve listened to.
I really enjoy this era of hip hop. Arrested Development, Public Enemy, De La then prearranging taste of music to come in the following years.
Was für einen Unterschied Kopfhörer machen können! Zuerst dieses Juwel über Boxen und nicht besonders laut gehört - ganz nice, aber nun wirklich nicht aufregend. Hörte man bisschen so weg. Dann am späteren Abend noch mal mit - basstarken - Headphones, und oh my God: Primo, das biste ja! Dichte Samples, aber knochentrocken und locker gestreut, luftig, reduziert und (rate mal ...) jazzy. Schon fast jeepig, aber andererseits wahnsinnig kultiviert. Gurus Rapstyle - ja, das machte man damals so, mit dem Preaching und der Berichterstattung und der Consciousness. Vielleicht heute bisschen dated (im Gegensatz zu Premiers wirklich immer freshen Beats), aber trotzdem I like it. Wirklich schöne (wieder-)Entdeckung!
„But yo I don`t look for hassles, my rhymes are like castles“ Gang Starr‘s soft power ist so heilsam genrefern, dabei stark und mit ordentlich Rückgrat gegenüber „the weak stuff you heard from those creampuffs“. Und wie ausgeglichen, gar aus männlicher Sicht feministisch „Lovesick“ mit toxischer Eifersucht umgeht, hab ich im US Rap auch noch nie gehört. Die Beats wirken anfangs altbacken, nehmen mit der Dauer an Schärfe zu, bleiben aber lässig und manche bass line könnten die Beastie Boys eingeschnürt haben, wie im ohnehin handwerklich großartigen „Take A Rest“. Sanftmütige 4.1
My favorite type of hip hop
Nearly a five after a couple of listens, laid back rap, like Erik b and rakim
90's East Coast Hip Hop, yes please
Really nice hip hop album, very chill
DJ Premiere is the be of the greatest producers of all time and Guru is a great MC but there are better Gangstarr albums.
Again, one song, but it's a bloody good one! Must have been hugely different from other rap when it was released.
Very consistent album filled with some nice beats and some good lyrical flow
Great album. I enjoyed it and will listen again.
Solid hip-hop. Lyrics along the lines of "Watch me rap better than you" which I prefer to the "I'm going to kill you" vibe. Samples were catchy but repetitive within a track.
Niet mijn kopje thee, maar door de pure eenvoud van de muziek pakt het me stiekem toch. Ik zal het niet gauw zelf opzetten, maar waardeer het toch met 4 sterren omdat ik wel kan horen hoe goed het is
Super album! Echt een aanrader wat mij betreft. Lekker oldschool met goede beats.
Hugely influential. Some of the rhymes didn't age super well, but the influence on subsequent hip hop duos is clear. Best track: Just to Get a Rep
Riiktigt bra. Dock för långt
clean and unique sound. coulda done without a few filler songs. excellently produced. enjoyable good 90s hip hop 😈
ЧТО: Второй студийный альбом хип-хоп дуэта из Бруклина. Признанная классика хип-хопа. Группа, каждый альбом которой продавался многомиллионными тиражами. КАКОЙ: Классический хип-хоп из 90-х. Много джаза, ритм-н-блюза, фанка и соула в сэмплах. Мелодичный ярко выраженный бас. Развитая техника сэмплирования. Я уловил только очевидное (например, сэмпл из Rapper’s Delight), уверен, там очень много всего. Чувствуется, что Gang Starr с Восточного берега. Они сочетают африканскую музыку с танцевальной, подхватывая свой уникальный стиль. Получился мягкий джаз-рэп времён расцвета американского хип-хоп олдскула, который заметно контрастирует с жёсткими остросоциальными мотивами в творчестве их, если так можно сказать, коллег: Public Enemy и Run-D.M.C. Довольно революционно звучит интерлюдия посреди альбома. Это сейчас их стали пихать когда можно и когда нельзя. В то время это было редкостью. О ЧЕМ: Лирика альбома, естественно, не обходится без сторителлинга. Альбом полон рассказов о женщинах, трудностях жизни чёрного человека в Америке, о религии. Важная тема - мастерство исполнителей. Они доказывают, что лучше всех управляются на битах. Об этом свидетельствует и название. DJ Premier и Guru предлагают всем, кто их критикует, выйти с ними на арену и разобраться. На Check the technique они советуют их соперникам в игре (как бы это не звучало) поработать над своей техникой, чтобы быть с участниками Gang Starr на одном ринге. Это те основы, без которых не обходится хип-хоп. Это базис хип-хоп культуры как образа жизни и принципа творчества. Это не мои выдумки; а то, что говорят об этом классические исполнители и преданные слушатели этой музыки. ИТОГ: Замечательный хип-хоп альбом. Повлиял на звук многих современных рэперов. Обильное использование джаза и интерлюдии - то, что стало можно значительно позже. Это альбом-заявление, который начинается с того, что участники дуэта представляются. Они не собираются прятаться и готовы доказать, что лучшие в игре (ещё раз извиняюсь за слово «игра» в этом контексте). Альбом не зря назван классикой хип-хопа.
(Old S)Cool & the Gang
good shit, really nice production and fun lyrics. i’ll give it a 7/10, overall just really cool.
good shit 4