XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:

March 8, 1994: By 1994, Gang Starr had established themselves as a force in the rap game when they dropped, on this day, their fourth studio album, Hard to Earn.

For their fourth album in five years, the dynamic rap duo went for a more stripped-down version of their signature sound. Guru rapped about politics, oppression and society's flaws over bare beats, a stark contrast from the jazzy production Gang Starr fans were familiar with on their 1992 project, Daily Operation. Everything from the stark intro to the classic closer "Comin' for Datazz' is some of the best East Coast boom-bap to come out in the 1990s.

Guest appearances by Gang Starr Foundation members Group Home, Jeru the Damaja and Big Shug added extra flavor to the project, making it feel like a collective effort. The 17-track project features outstanding production from DJ Premier, but had an overall biting tone to its message. Five years after the duo released their debut album, it felt like the industry was starting to get to them.

Fueled by the singles "DWYCK," "Code of the Streets" and "Mass Appeal," the EMI/Virgin Records release debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top R&B and Hip-Hop Albums chart for the week ending March 26, 1994. Hard to Earn would be the last album the duo dropped until 1998's Moment of Truth, reason being that Guru and Premier were becoming increasingly fed up with where rap was going.

Check out DJ Premier talking about the making of the song "Mass Appeal" below. 

Rest in peace to Baldhead Slick.

Watch Gang Starr's "Code of the Streets" Video Below

Watch Gang Starr's "DWYCK" Video Featuring Nice & Smooth Below

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