With the passing of Guru, it’s up to the rest of the Gang Starr Foundation to carry on the Boston-to-Brooklyn legacy. Freddie Foxxx aka Bumpy Knuckles has done a great job of carving out his own niche, while DJ Premier has never had a problem staying relevant in the game. 1/3 of the original Militia, Big Shug, lends his perspective to it with I.M. 4-Eva, his fourth studio album, which ships with a 36 page hardcover book, chronicling the history of Gang Starr and his career thus far.
Shug was Guru’s early partner-in-rhyme, before being imprisoned on drug-charges during the pre-Gang Starr era, which he details on “We Miss You”. There are quite a few of these introspective moments on “I.M. 4-Eva”, such as “My Kids”, where he dedicates heartfelt verses to each of his seeds, or “True Love”, about his wife. What Shug lacks in complex lyrical prowess, he makes up for in honesty and integrity that comes through in his rhymes.
DJ Premier blesses Shug with a handful of tracks, such as the aforementioned “We Miss You”, the “22 Two’s”-inspired “Spit Six”, or the less-than-stellar “Blue Collar”. The standout of the bunch is “Hardbody”, a blazing posse cut featuring fellow large, intimidating rappers Fat Joe and M.O.P.
But “Hardbody” demonstrates something when Shug shares mic time with his peers – that he is unfortunately the weakest of the bunch. The same can be said about “For The Real”, where again, he is outshined by fellow Boston homies Termanology and Slaine. The fact of the matter is, Shug – while undoubtedly a seasoned vet – has trouble keeping up with the more technically-tongued new generation. Shug also separates himself from the rest with his “Shuggie Diamonds” alter ego, which finds him crooning a lot of his own hooks, for better or for worse.
It’s no coincidence that Shug was last out of the Gang Starr posse, with acts like Group Home and Jeru the Damaja preceding him by many years, while he saw his 90’s Payday album shelved until 2005. But what Shug has that many others don’t is a brand of authenticity, through a longtime friendship with Guru and Premier, and that is something that can’t be created, bought, or faked. Gang Starr forever, in whatever form it takes.
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