Words by DJ Sorce-1
Although Moment of Truth was released nearly a decade ago on Noo Trybe records, I remember the time surrounding its release clearly. It was a weird year for rap. People were still reeling from the deaths of Biggie and Pac, shiny suits were all the rage, and something about music felt slightly off. But it wasn’t all bad. There was still a hell of a lot of good music coming out, and best of all, Gang Starr was dropping for the first time in what seemed like forever. People were nervously buzzing, and not all of the buzz was positive. I was in 8th grade at the time, and my A period study hall was a place for discussing music and girls, not reading textbooks. Although my study hall crew was confident in the release, some people had their doubts. “Nah, it’s been over four years since Hard to Earnâ€¦It’s not gonna be worth buyingâ€¦Premier should just focus on producing for other people.”
From the moment “You Know My Steez” dropped, you knew the album was serious. You also knew that the people doubting Gang Starr’s return would quickly shut their yaps. Premier reached another plateau on this album, with production that flows effortlessly from the first song to the last. The sound varies from ominous on songs like “Itz a Set Up” to upbeat and catchy on “Work”. Although most of Premier’s scratching techniques would be considered “simple” or “basic” by today’s turntablist crowd, all star scratchers and battle DJ’s can’t fuck with Premier on scratched choruses. I have yet to hear any producer rival his ability to cut and paste disparate words and sentence fragments into something beautiful. Primo also has the impeccable ability to make his scratching fit the feeling of a particular song. Check the end of “Next Time” as he cuts up LL Cool J’s line “Not this time, but next time” from “I Shot Ya”. Simply put, his cuts make the song a one of the best on the album.
Not only did Gang Starr’s production sound better than ever on Moment of Truth, Guru also sounded like a new man. His lyrics had a newfound element of maturity, wisdom, and social commentary. They are also some of the most revealing and introspective words he has ever penned. On songs like “Moment of Truth” the listener can literally feel Gurus desperate emotional state as he spits…
“Why do bad things happen, to good people?
Seems that life is just a constant war between good and evil
The situation that I’m facin’, is mad amazin’
To think such problems can arise from minor confrontations
Now I’m contemplatin’ in my bedroom pacin’
Dark clouds over my head, my hearts racin’
Suicide? nah, I’m not a foolish guy
Don’t even feel like drinking, or even getting’ high
Cause all that’s gonna do really, is accelerate
The anxieties that I wish I could alleviate
But wait, I’ve been through a whole lot of other shit, before
So I oughta be able, to withstand some more
But I’m sweatin’ though, my eyes are turnin’ red and yo
I’m ready to lose my mind but instead I use my mind
I put down the knife, and take the bullets out my nine”
While Guru and Premier made sure that Moment of Truth is a Gang Starr album and not a compilation, the guest appearances helped make the album the masterpiece that it is. “The Militia” solidified Freddie Foxxx as one of the baddest rappers out and introduced him to a new generation of rap fans. Before Moment of Truth, many knew Foxxx for his verse on “Hot Potato” with Naughty by Nature and his work on O.C.’s Jewelz. Alongside Big Shug and Guru, Freddie rhymes like a man possessed, spitting one unforgettable line after another. Rhymes like “I turn you fake niggas on and off, like I’m the Clapper, I rob so many niggas they should call me Jack the Rapper” and “Beef with me hangs around like an unpaid bill” helped make Freddie the number one rapper not to fuck with.
Another show stealing guest appearance on Moment of Truth is Scarface’s verse on “Betrayal”. Scarface and Guru sound so good together that it makes you wonder what it would be like if these two had gotten down together more than once. While an album between the two might be wishful thinking, it’s surprising that this is the only time the two MC’s got on the same record. Their serious vocal tone and rhyme styles works well over Premier’s slow, somber utilization of War’s “Deliver the World”.
Much has changed since I bought Moment of Truth nearly ten years ago. Nobody knows if Gang Starr will ever make another album. Yet despite the changes, this album is as essential today as it was the day it came out. Whether you are a hip hop purist, a casual listener, or a young buck trying to educate yourself on albums of the past, this album is for you. Premier’s top notch production and Guru’s improved lyricism make Moment of Truth one of the truly great albums of the 90’s. Do yourself a favor and get familiar with this album if you haven’t already.
J.R. Writer – Writer’s Block 4
Hi-Tek & Clinton Sparks – Teknologically Advanced
Z-Ro-The Life Of Joseph W. McVey
Fatal- In the Line of Fire
E-40 – Mr. Flamboyant EP
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