XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
March 31, 1998: Four years after releasing their previous album, Hard to Earn, in 1994, Guru and producer DJ Premier stepped into the studio once again to craft what would be their second to last album. On this day in 1998, Gang Starr released their fifth LP, Moment of Truth in 1998.
The 20-track project, which features guest appearances from Bumpy Knuckles, M.O.P., Big Shug, Scarface, Inspectah Deck and more, was on a different musical vibe from their previous jazz-heavy work.
The album’s lead single, “You Know My Steez,” would go on to become one of Gang Starr’s most popular songs. The track is about Guru being one of the best rappers in the game with lyrics like “Subtracting all the rappers who lack over Premier’s tracks/Severe facts have brought this rap game to near collapse.” The late rhymer continue his braggadocios steelo on “Royalty,” which features Jodeci’s K-Ci and Jojo Hailey singing the chorus.
But Guru also tackles serious topics like racial disparities in the criminal justice system on the captivating track “JFK2LAX.” On the song, the beloved rhymer recounts his legal predicament in which he was arrested and jailed after security at the JFK airport discovered a handgun in his luggage.
After releasing four projects, Moment of Truth is the first gold album of their careers.
“Going gold was a really big deal [at the time], Guru used to always complain that we should be gold like everyone else,” Premo told Billboard in 2018. “I told him that it would happen one day and in due time. When we got word that the album went gold, Guru—who used to go to fashion school—he was asked about designing the plaque. Guru designed them whole thing and we put it up in the studio.”
In the end, Moment of Truth was Gang Starr’s comeback album at the time and boasted more of a hardcore hip-hop sound for the beloved rap duo.