Gangstarr’s Hard To Earn will always hold a special place in my heart. The LP dropped on March 8th, 1994 and it was DJ Premier and the late Keith “Guru” Elam at the top of their game. Released two years after the similarly lauded Daily Operation, this album was an example of a group giving fans exactly what they wanted before we even had a chance to want it. At the time, Guru was one of my favorite MCs and Hard To Earn just solidified his status as one of the best to ever do it.
In honor of the 20 year anniversary of the album, we spoke to DJ Premier about how it all came together. He explained the album’s sparse sound and walked us through the creation of what are now recognized as some of the more timeless cuts from their well respected and extensive catalog. From “Code of The Streets” to the “Aiiight Chill…” skit, “Mass Appeal” to ” Mostly Tha Voice”, it’s all here.
I have to give a special shout to UpNorthTrips for contributing some amazing archival images for the piece, as well as a custom mix highlighting some of the album’s samples by their in-house DJ The Vinylcologist. Listen below.
The mix goes beyond highlighting the beats and samples on Hard to Earn, as over half of the album’s instrumentals we’re deconstructed and re-workings by Vinyl himself.