Critic's Choice

Scene & Heard

Gang Starr, Wednesday, November 24, at the Denver Coliseum with Rage Against the Machine, has masterfully honed its jazz-leaning hip-hop during the ten years of its career. Led by Guru (for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal) and DJ Premier, the formidable duo proves that rap and jazz can be fused into a blunted science. Guru recognized that the early jazz was made by hardened, anti-mainstream commentators similar to MCs in modern hip-hop; it's a concept he later took to new extremes with his Jazzmatazz series. The project united such jazz legends as Donald Byrd, Branford Marsalis and Freddie Hubbard with hardcore hip-hop beats and silky rhymes -- among the first collaborations of its kind. In both Jazzmatazz and Gang Starr, what Guru packs into a hip-hop casing is a choice blend of intellect, musicality, spirituality and -- you guessed it -- street knowledge. Yet while some similarly streetwise hip-hop acts fall to the wayside after experiencing one or two hits -- whether of the musical or bullet variety -- Guru and Premier just unloaded Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr, 33 rounds of some of the brightest rhymes released in the past decade. Gang Starr's style is evidence that bonding two musical idioms may be the best way to survive the process of natural selection in hip-hop. -- Mike Engstrom

 
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