Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Gangstarr's You Know My Steez Break Down

The year was 1997 and the Hip-Hop community had not heard from Gangstarr since their 1994 album "Hard to Earn".  An underground classic that had given us "Code of the Streets", "Mass appeal", "Suckas Need Bodyguards" and "Now You're Mine" amongst other underground classics.  The Hip-Hop landscape had changed considerably between 1994 and 1997; the independent scene had grown, there was a new breed of conscious Hip-Hop emcees, bankable acts were losing their direction and producers were now more important than ever.  It was rare to see one producer craft an entire album for one act instead acts were cherry picking beats from the best producer's beat tapes in the hope of recreating another "Illmatic".  However more often than not it lead to disjointed albums that did not flow.  Jumping from one producer to another.  So many albums at that time featured a Premier joint, a Pete Rock joint, a West Coast joint, a Mobb Deep joint, maybe a Large Pro joint, something from an indie producer and a joint with a sung hook for that all important radio play.
Into this Arena (no pun intended) steps G.U.R.U. and DJ Premier with a masterfully complete album produced and arranged by the duo.  Twenty tracks with no interludes and little filler.  Yes there were guests but they were impressive and never took the spotlight away from the duo but added to the album; Inspekta Deck, Scarface, M.O.P., Freddie Foxxx, K-Ci and JoJo amongst others.  The first track from this album was an instant banger "You Know My Steez".  A bass heavy track with a Method Man vocal sample alongside a nice guitar loop.  G.U.R.U. came hard with the lyrics, dropping gems in every line proving he was still hungry and a force to be reckoned with.  For example the whole first verse is lesson in how to make braggadocio rap sound fresh and intelligent
"Who's the suspicious character strapped with the sounds profound
Similar to rounds spit by Derringers
You're in the Terrordome like my man Chuck D said
It's time to dethrone you clones, and all you knuckleheads
Cause MC's have used up extended warranties
While real MC's and DJ's are a minority
But right about now, I use my authority
Cause I'm like the Wizard and you look lost like Dorothy
The horror be when I return for my real people
Words that split wigs hittin like some double Desert Eagles
Sportin caps pulled low, and baggy slacks
Subtractin all the rappers who lack, over Premier's tracks
Severe facts have brought this rap game to near collapse
So as I have in the past, I whup ass
Droppin lyrics that be hotter than sex and candlewax
And one-dimensional MC's can't handle that
While the world's revolvin, on it's axis
I come with mad love and plus the illest warlike tactics
The wilderness is filled with this; so many people
searching for false lift, I'm here with the skills you've missed
The rejected stone is now the cornerstone
Sort of like the master builder when I make my way home
You know my steez..."
Some people think that he was taking shots Jeru with the line "Subtractin all the rappers who lack, over Premier's tracks" and that this was the spark that started off the beef that lead to Jeru dropping out of the Gangstarr Foundation.  Although some people say the Gangstarr Jeru beef grew out of Premier giving the "Ten Crack Commandments" beat to Biggie as Jeru had originally had that beat for a Hot97 promo.  Whatever the reason for the split the bottom line is that Jeru made his best music with Premier and I know if they did hook up again I would buy that joint.

The track itself was an interesting combination of samples and a dope hook.  The bass line and drum break of course taken from the classic Ol' Skool joint "Flash It To the Beat" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five which was originally released in 1979 on the Bozo Meko label.  This was a recording of a live performance hence the distorted sound of the bass.  An Ol' Skool classic no doubt which even featured Afrika Bambaataa, Afrika Islam, Jazzy Jay - Fusion Beats Vol. 2 on the B Side.   Premier loops the bass and adds a high hat and a slightly crisper snare to give us the foundation for "You Know my Steez".
The guitar loop that we hear across the whole track is taken from a song by R&B musician Joe Simon.  The name of the song is "Drowning in the Sea of Love" which sold 1.5 million copies in 1972 and for which he received his second gold disk.  The single made it to number 11 in the US pop charts and number 3 in the R&B charts.  It was released on Spring records which was distributed by Polydor.  The track itself was written and produced by the legendary (some people throw that phrase around but these guys really are legends) Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.  The track was a dark ode to one man's love of a woman.  The guitar sample is at the start of the song and carries on throughout even though at times it is over shadowed by the orchestral strings and horns. The track itself is a beautifully dark song with a number of points within that are sample worthy.  Premier loops the guitar sample perfectly alongside the bass line chopping it up slightly to create the overall sounds.
The Method Man sample comes from "4th Chamber" taken from the Gza album "Liquid Swords" which anyone reading this blog should know all about.  If not go and get a copy and listen to it for the next week.

There was of course a remix for "You Know my Steez" like most big Hip-Hop tracks at the time.  This remix featured a slightly chopped up version of the original's beat and some additional lyricist from the Left Coast' The Lady of Rage and Kurupt.  Again the guests add to the song and G.U.R.U. once again drops and incredible verse that certainly challenges the guests to come correct and they do.  Rage sounds good and at this point we had not heard anything serious from her since the classic "Afro Puffs" years before.  Kurupt had always been one of my favourites from the Death Throw G Funk team and on this joint he shows us why he is held in such high regard.

Check the Link below for the breaks, instrumentals and tracks.

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