A Foolhardy Endeavour

Gang Starr - Take It Personal front cover

Let’s see how far we get with this then…

Prompted by Matt Poacher, I recently returned to Woebot’s “100 Greatest Records Ever”, a fantastically wide-ranging but supremely subjective and personal list consisting completely of records the author owned. The original blog post is long gone, but the full list with commentary is still available in all its glory.

So, I foolishly started thinking about what might happen if I tried to compose a similar list. With the emphasis on the physical/owned artefact, it seems fitting to begin on International Record Store Day. I don’t think these will be in any order, but let’s see how far we get…

100. Gang Starr – Take It Personal / DWYCK (1992)

Gang Starr - Take It Personal back cover

I know this record from the time, but somehow, despite having spent an awful lot of time in record shops since my teenage years, I never owned it until today. I went into Soho for the always painful Record Store Day and managed to get absolutely nothing from the RSD exclusive list, but Sounds Of The Universe had a bit of a sale in their secondhand basement where I found this for a reasonable (if not cheap) price, twenty years after it was released. Twenty! Christ.

This is what used to be called the “lead single” – from Gang Starr’s third album Daily Operation.  I have the LP, but the 12″ is pressed better and has the brilliant DJ Premier instrumentals. It’s nice to own it as in the years since it came out, this has always been down in my mind as the best Gang Starr record and one of the best hip-hop singles of all time. Its 1992 release marks it as coming from the tail-end of what is commonly accepted to be the genre’s “golden age” and it represents the pinnacle of the duo’s powers.

Premo’s technique of taking the best drum breaks, reconfiguring them, compressing them and adding only the most minor (almost) melodic embellishments alongside that scratching eventually became a bit of straitjacket, but this was the birth of his zen-like methodology.

The late Guru is at his best too, just before he overestimated the power of his (admittedly great) voice and adopted a slightly more awkward flow on much of 1994’s Hard To Earn. The b-side, ‘DWYCK’, which eventually appeared on that next LP, is probably more famous than ‘Take It Personal’ and is the source of the ridiculous but memorable “Lemonade was a popular drink and it still is” line .

You can YouTube/Spotify them yourself.


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