The 20th anniversary of Gang Starr’s Hard To Earn

Hard To Earn tape cover

Below this are my words, but you’ve got to check the extensive and incredible feature article from Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus). Yeoman’s work!

1994 — Back in NYC I was riding the train to JFK to meet up with a girl flying in from Houston. I had just picked up the Hard To Earn CD, and it was on repeat in my Sony Car Discman. And it was early in the morning. I’m talking 4am-ish on a Saturday. But walking the streets of Manhattan, sitting alone on multiple trains, ascending to the streets of Queens at sunrise, Hard To Earn was the perfect soundtrack.

Guru’s lyrics resonated in my mind, especially “The Planet” because his story about leaving Boston for Brooklyn mirrored my trek from Houston to Manhattan. It still affects me. I may not have accomplished what I truly wanted to do in New York, but the dream persists. I still move forward towards that goal. If there is a difference between rap then and now, rappers were willing to detail the struggle in a non-glamorous way. I’m not discounting MCs like J Cole, Big Sean, or the like who tell great stories of coming up in the world. I just know for me, Guru represented the kid who made good.

And for the record, Step In The Arena is still my Gang Starr album of choice. It was their album I bought. I played it constantly for months and months. I know the tracks in and out. It was the album I played when I was a high school kid. Hard To Earn was the growth and the culmination. I was really mad back in the day about how Gang Starr wasn’t a bigger group in popularity. Now I am just happy these records were in my life.

Props to Ego Trip for linking the Hard To Earn instrumentals mix from The Vinylcologists.

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