Poetic Justice

After a decade on hip-hop's front lines, Gang Starr is finally reaping the rewards

There's two sides to it: One side is, yeah, we've gotta be conscious of how we conduct ourselves in public and realize we're role models, but the other side is that this is still survival--this is not an easy game to play. I mean, they're not robbing basketball players, and they have more money. It's because rap is connected to the street.

NT: Do you think that a large part of society doesn't realize that it would be worse if there were no hip-hop?

G: Yeah, I think that the music is a healing force and without it the world would be in chaos, and especially in these large cities because this is our voice and if we don't have a voice in these urban environments about what goes on, there's gonna be mad chaos. The educational systems have failed. When somebody that sits on the bench of a sports team makes four or five times more than someone that teaches a kid in an urban school, you know something's wrong. The people that are creative enough to reach these kids aren't teaching. You can't make a living in New York off that teaching salary. That's why the kids don't wanna stay in school--there's nothing there for them, and then they fall into that vicious cycle. We didn't ask for crack and guns and liquor stores on every corner--we didn't ask for that in our community. But they wanna blame us for all of that? That's crap! But at the same time, we can't sit and blame society anymore, either. We have to know this is going on and educate ourselves.

NT: What up-and-coming MCs do you like?
G: Noriega, DMX, Big Punisher, Jayo Felony, Camron--to name a few.
NT: Are you enjoying this lyrical Lollapalooza you're on?

G: Yeah, and the show is dope. The thing with us is that there's no gimmicks, no frills. You're not gonna see anything fancy--just straight up, raw hip-hop--but you can feel it. It's been a blast so far; we gotta go across the country and do 40 more shows. Cypress has been doing this for a few years, and I see why they're successful with it. It starts early, there's heavy security, and the groups are all professional. Everybody gets along.

Gang Starr is scheduled to perform with the Smokin' Grooves tour on Wednesday, August 12, at America West Arena, with Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Wyclef Jean, Canibus, Busta Rhymes, and Black Eyed Peas. Call for showtime.

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