Fronted by evocative cover art that depicts Gang Starr’s MC Guru and DJ Premier plotting in a clandestine meeting room decorated with a portrait of Malcolm X, a turntable flight case, and a briefcase overflowing with banknotes, Daily Operation is a heady foray into an early 90s New York City where street-level hip-hop ethics mixed with Five Percent Nation of Islam philosophy.
Released in 1992, the duo’s jazz-tinged third studio album opens with the punchy introductory statement “The Place Where We Dwell.” Rapping over the track’s raucous cymbal-saturated percussion, Guru presents a detailed anti-tourist’s guide to his and DJ Premier’s adopted borough of Brooklyn. “Don’t be afraid to venture over the bridge/ Although you may run in to some wild ass kids/ Take the J train, the D or the A if you dare/ And the 2, 3, 4 or 5 also comes here,” advises the MC in trademark monotone style. ”There’s so much to see ’cause Brooklyn’s historic/ Fools act jealous but you have to ignore it.”
As Daily Operation progresses, Guru stretches smoothly into relationship rap territory (“Ex Girl To Next Girl”), relays a fraught incidence of violence erupting outside a hip-hop venue (“Soliloquy of Chaos”), and laces “Conspiracy” with commentary on chemical warfare theories, the American education system and the music industry alike. “Even in this rap game all that glitters ain’t gold/ Now that rap is big business the snakes got bold/ They give you wack contracts and try to make you go pop/ ‘Cause they have no regard for real hip-hop,” vents the MC over DJ Premier’s subdued piano loop. Also notable: Daily Operation introduced Gang Starr Foundation members Jeru The Damaja and Group Home (represented by the rapper Lil’ Dap), who combine on the swaggering beat-shifting braggadocio standard “I’m The Man.” (The song includes Jeru making an unlikely lyrical comparison to chief barfly Norm Peterson from the TV sitcom Cheers.)
Over the course of a revered studio album discography that kicked off with 1989’s No More Mr. Nice Guy, the Gang Starr lyrical agenda has frequently explored the relationship between street-honed smarts and aspirations towards gaining wider worldly knowledge. It’s a redemptive blend that Guru thoughtfully pushes to the fore throughout Daily Operation. “I used to steal goods and fake my parents out real good/ But now I got K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E of self ’cause I’m me,” raps the MC over the brassy motivational production of key mid-album cut “2 Deep,” before layering in references to the Five Percent Nation’s efforts to “get through to the brothers on the corners with the reps.” Then after confronting a kid toting a firearm, Guru coins a couplet that aptly sums up the nuances of the grand Gang Starr operation: “But violence is never my first choice/ I come in peace to release the effect of my voice.”