Gang Starr – Every Song Ranked | The Loud Process
Gang Starr is one of the most prolific and legendary hip hop duos of all time. The Houston and Boston connection via New York City brought us hip hop masterpieces for over three decades. The consistent delivery and lyrics of Guru is the perfect combination with banging DJ Premier produced beats.
Everyone has their favorite lists of Gang Starr songs. In fact, we are always making lists about the best things to watch or listen to. To this point most of our lists have been writer preference and highly subjective. But not today.
In order to properly do justice to the Gang Starr canon, I need to go above just listing off my favorites. If that was the case, JFK2LAX is the greatest Gang Starr song of all-time. Period.
So I’ve developed a scientific methodology to rank all 139 Gang Starr songs from worst to best. It was painful. It took time. And there was peer review.
What songs are in scope?
We tried to capture all widely released Gang Starr songs. This includes:
- No More Mr. Nice Guy (1989), including three 2001 reissue bonus tracks: “Dedication”, “The Lesson”, and “Here’s the Proof”
- Step in the Arena (1990)
- Daily Operation (1992)
- Hard to Earn (1994)
- Moment of Truth (1998)
- Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr (1999), songs previously unreleased “Full Clip”, “Discipline”, and “All 4 the Ca$h” and songs previously released on Soundtracks and Singles-only-releases that appear on the compilation are included in the scorecard. Songs that appear on the compilation from previous studio albums are not ranked twice
- The Ownerz (2003)
- One of the Best Yet (2020)
- Based on our review there are a total of 139 tracks eligible for inclusion, including intros and interludes
- If you want to let us know what we missed, please go start your own website and do this shit!
The Mean’s Methodology
There was a lot of thought about how to rank the Gang Starr catalogue. My decision was to develop a methodology that looked at the input from both Guru and Premier in the song’s success. I also ranked for songs with cuts, which are a hallmark of the group’s classic songs. I also want to rank the songs within the context of their release date and the album they were released on. It was sort of a mess but the results make sense.
Songs were categorized by album. Each song was listened to during the scoring process. Here’s an overview of the ranking factors and methodology used to score each song.
- DJ Premier (1-10). This ranked DJ Premier’s contribution to the songs. This includes the beat, speaking parts, and cuts, etc.
- Guru (1-10). Naturally, Gang Starr is Guru and Primo. So both members get a 1-10 category. Flow, delivery, lyrics, and content were my main sub-factors for rating Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal’s category
- Features (-5). Every song that had a guest feature received a 5 point deduction. The goal was to normalize the tracks and penalize those that aren’t the pure blueprint of Gang Starr classics
- Feature Value (0-5). After discounting songs with features, I wanted to provide an opportunity for songs where the feature made the song better or more of a classic. This isn’t the same as a feature being a “dope verse”. There are a lot of those in the anthology of Gang Starr. For example, “Above the Clouds”, featuring Inspectah Deck, is an example of a feature that helped create a classic. Other features, notably those on their latest album, the Guru posthumous “One of the Best Yet”, were more of the filler variety, than an organic collab. And therefore, not receive the full +5 in this category
- Cuts (0-3). A staple of Primo. Cut selection and execution were taken into place in this factor. No cuts in a song equal a rating of zero.
- Rating in the Context of Release Date (0-5). This ranking factor is designed to balance out the element of time across releases. It’s hard for an older song to be compared a more recent track for a variety of factors. Not only in terms of the artist’s development but also in the context of what was going on in hip hop music at the time.
- Recognizability (0-3). This factor gives extra credit for songs with commercial success and staying power over the years. Like, yooo I remember this track!
- Length of the Song (0-1). A minor adjustment to deduct points for very short tracks. Most likey to affect intros and interludes
- Qualitative Overlay. On some tracks, I applied a subject matter expert (SME) qualitative overlay. That SME is me. Don’t like it, get your own website. Plus, it didn’t have a material impact on the rankings (~10% of songs received an overlay that ranged between -1 and +2).
- Overall Scorecard Rating. The totals for the first 9 factors are summed as the overall scorecard rating. The maximum allowable scorecard rating was 32 regardless of the qualitative overlay category
- Top 5 Song on Album (5-1). The Top 5 songs of each album when rated by Overall Scorecard Ranking received additional points. Up to five points were allocated to the Top 5 songs on each album in descending order. This factor was included to balance the disparity between stronger albums (e.g. Moment of Truth) and older more dated works (e.g. No More Mr. Nice Guy). Otherwise, the stronger album could dominate the top of the ratings. In the case of the Full Clip compilation, only the 3 original tracks were eligible for this category.
- Final Rating % (Total Points / Possible Points). To normalize the results on a scale of 0% to 100%, points were aggregated and converted to a percentage by dividing by the total possible points of 37.
- Only one song achieved a perfect 100% rating
- Daily Operation and Moment of Truth dominated the Top 10 with 3 entries a piece
- I tried to be objective as possible when ranking the songs and tried my best not to overrate my personal favorites
- There are so many elite songs by Gang Starr. Anything in the Top 50 is a strong rating. Any song above a 50% score is generally a classic by any hip hop metric
- I was harsh on some songs. Critical ratings don’t mean the songs suck, it’s just rated in the context of the collection