Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Gang Starr 

The Ownerz (Virgin)

It shouldn't be a surprise that these are hard times for survivors of hip-hop's golden age. The genre, with its gaze turned ever forward and a built-in impatience for the past, gives no quarter to legends like Public Enemy, KRS-One, and Prince Paul. Besides LL Cool J, the only other act from that era still linked to the mainstream is Gang Starr. But can the most sophisticated hardcore duo ever survive, at a time when great rhymes are optional, but pop hooks essential?

Of course they can. In fact, The Ownerz sounds like the most potent challenge yet to hip-hop's perpetual youth cult: We invented this shit, we're doing it the old way, and you're gonna like it. Primo's rich, detailed beats, still oozing soul warmth, have hardly changed. Nor have Guru's articulate declarations of discipline ("Deadly Habitz") and thug humanity ("Nice Girl, Wrong Place"). The only track that could be judged a calculated appeal to the kids -- the Jadakiss duet "Rite Where U Stand" -- is also a rugged throwdown that brings out the best in each MC.

By its very nature, hip-hop still rebels against the notion of classic rock -- performers who latch onto a signature sound and dole it out periodically to grateful fans. This album will go a long way toward weakening that resistance.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 1, 2021

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


Staff Pick Events

  • Ryan Sickler @ Hilarities Comedy Club

    • Thu., Dec. 9
  • Sebastian Maniscalco @ Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse

    • Thu., Dec. 9
  • Lil Rel @ Improv Comedy Club & Restaurant

    • Thu., Dec. 9

© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation