Step in the Arena is the second studio album by hip hop duo Gang Starr, printed as a 1990 release,[4] and commercially released on January 15, 1991.[5] In 2007, it was named the greatest hip hop album of all time by IGN.[6] HipHopDX called it "the album that cemented Gang Starr as a timeless tag team."[7]

Step in the Arena
Studio album by
Released1990 (liner notes)
January 15, 1991 (commercial release)
GenreEast Coast hip hop
LabelChrysalis/EMI Records
0946 3 21798 2 1
ProducerDJ Premier, Guru
Gang Starr chronology
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Step in the Arena
Daily Operation
Singles from Step in the Arena
  1. "Just to Get a Rep"
    Released: 1990
  2. "Take a Rest"
    Released: February 14, 1991[1]
  3. "Lovesick"
    Released: April 11, 1991[2]
  4. "Step in the Arena"
    Released: August 29, 1991[3]
  5. "Who's Gonna Take the Weight?"
    Released: 1991

Background Edit

Filmmaker Spike Lee was a fan of Gang Starr's debut No More Mr. Nice Guy, particularly the song "Jazz Music". As Lee was filming Mo' Better Blues at the time of the album's release, he felt the duo needed to expand on the song's theme - which became the single "Jazz Thing". Lee introduced them to a poem written by Lolis Eric Elie, which group member Guru converted to a rap, as the poem didn't rhyme. The song caught the attention of Chrysalis Records, who offered them a deal based on "Jazz Thing". However, DJ Premier said the label had gotten the wrong idea of the group, stating: "When they signed us, they thought we were going to do records like "Jazz Thing" all the time. When we were just doing that for Mo' Better Blues".[8]

Critical reception Edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [5]
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [9]
Entertainment WeeklyB[10]
(The New) Rolling Stone Album Guide     [11]
The Source3.5/5[13]

In his review for The Source, Reef wrote: "Step in the Arena stands alone on a musical level, yet it also remains true to hip-hop's underground heritage."[13]

Legacy Edit

In addition to and HipHopDX's accolades, the album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[14] In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source's 100 Best Hip Hop Albums.[15]

In popular culture Edit

The song "Who's Gonna Take the Weight" was remixed by DJ Premier for use in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV.[16] "Step In the Arena" was on the video games Skate It and Skate 2,[17] and "Just to Get a Rep" was on Thrasher: Skate and Destroy.[18]

Track listing Edit

1."Name Tag (Premier & The Guru)"0:36
2."Step in the Arena"3:36
3."Form of Intellect"3:37
4."Execution of a Chump (No More Mr. Nice Guy Pt. 2)"2:39
5."Who's Gonna Take the Weight?"3:54
6."Beyond Comprehension"3:10
7."Check the Technique"3:55
9."Here Today, Gone Tomorrow"2:16
10."Game Plan"1:06
11."Take a Rest"4:18
12."What You Want This Time?"2:39
13."Street Ministry"1:21
14."Just to Get a Rep"2:39
15."Say Your Prayers"1:20
16."As I Read My S-A"2:35
17."Precisely the Right Rhymes"3:22
18."The Meaning of the Name"2:53
Japanese edition bonus track
19."Credit Is Due"4:51

Personnel Edit

  • Guru – rapping, production, mixing
  • DJ Premier – beats, scratching, production, mixing
  • Lisle Leete – piano, engineering
  • Shlomo Sonnenfeld – engineering
  • Yoram Vazam – engineering
  • Howie Weinberg – mastering
  • Marc Cozza – art direction, design
  • Rick Patrick – logo

Charts Edit

Album Edit

Chart (1991) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[19] 141
UK Albums (OCC)[20] 36
US Billboard 200[21] 121
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[22] 19

Singles Edit

Year Song Chart position
Hot Rap Singles
1990 "Just to Get a Rep" 5
1991 "Who's Gonna Take The Weight?" 9
Lovesick 11
"Step In The Arena" 5

References Edit

  1. ^ "Take a Rest - Gang Starr | User Reviews | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  2. ^ "Lovesick - Gang Starr | User Reviews | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  3. ^ "Step in the Arena - Gang Starr | User Reviews | AllMusic". AllMusic.
  4. ^ Per album liner notes.
  5. ^ a b Swihart, Stanton. "Step in the Arena – Gang Starr". AllMusic. Retrieved July 30, 2009.
  6. ^ "Top 25 Hip Hop Albums—Music Feature at IGN".
  7. ^ Arnold, Paul (January 25, 2011). "TIMELESS: DJ Premier Revisits Gang Starr's "Step In The Arena"". HipHopDX. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  8. ^ Cho, Jaeki. "DJ Premier Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records". Complex. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
  9. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Gang Starr". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  10. ^ Mack, Bob (January 25, 1991). "Step in the Arena". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  11. ^ McLeod, Kembrew (2004). "Gang Starr". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). (The New) Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 322. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  12. ^ Higginbotham, Adam (February 1991). "Mo' Better Rap". Select (8): 69.
  13. ^ a b Reef (February 1991). "Gang Starr: Step in the Arena". The Source (18). Archived from the original on March 21, 2008. Retrieved July 30, 2009.
  14. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  15. ^ Columnist. The 100 Best Rap Albums. The Source. Retrieved on 2010-12-07.
  16. ^ "Music stations: THE CLASSICS 104.1". Retrieved 2016-02-24.
  17. ^ "EA Unveils Eclectic Soundtracks for Skate It and Skate 2". 2008-10-23. Retrieved 2016-02-24.
  18. ^ "Thrasher: Skate and Destroy". 1999-06-12. Retrieved 2016-02-24.
  19. ^ "Bubbling Down Under Week Commencing December 16, 1991". Bubbling Down Under. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  20. ^ "Gang Starr | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart.
  21. ^ "Gang Starr Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard.
  22. ^ "Gang Starr Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard.