If you'll allow me a brief rant to start off: what the hell is it with records being too long these days? Have these people never heard of quality control? Hell, J5 even made a record called Quality Control, and even that was too damn long. What was wrong with the time-honoured tradition of saving the crap for b-sides, anyway? Always works for Radiohead.
Anyway. Gangstarr are a New York-based rap outfit comprising DJ Premier and rapper Guru. Coming out with a record called 'the Ownerz' could be seen as a touch complacent, but if anyone deserves to feel smug, its these guys. DJ Premier is one of the greatest hip-hop producers in the world, if not the greatest, and has been consistently so for well over a decade now. And Guru… well, he never was the most tonally dynamic or lyrically inventive rapper alive, and he's never going to be, but you just have to love the guy. This is the man who's "got more ho's on my dick than you could fit in a garden", for Gods sakes. Show some damn respect.
It seems redundant to slag off a Gangstarr record for being samey - back on 1998's seminal Moment of Truth, Guru pulled back the curtain and laid out their methods with admirable bluntness: "What we do is, we have certain formulas, but we update them. The style of beats is elevated, the style of rhymes is elevated, but it's still Guru and Premier". Well, yeah. In fact, The Ownerz follows the template of Moment of Truth so closely as to make one occasionally have to check it is in fact a different record; several tracks are direct 'sequels' including the inevitably-disappointing Capture (Militia Pt. 3). There's always been something cumulative about Gangstarr records, though; it's a trademark Premier trick to build tracks around samples of his earlier works, building one multi-layered self-referential meta-album. Yeah, that's right. A multi-layered self-referential meta-album. What?
Anyway, despite the excessive length and the excessive familiarity, it's still more than worth a listen for the couple of moments (on tracks such as PLAYTAWIN and Same Team, No Games) where it all clicks and you get that big shit-eating-grin, glad-to-be-here rush that ONLY comes from really great hip-hop.
Buy on Amazon: The Ownerz