“Guru always makes the titles to the album first—before we do any music.”

The latest episode of “Off the Record” again features DJ Premier, who breaks down a little bit of the science behind his and Guru’s Gang Starr hit “Mass Appeal,” a classic, rugged boom bap anthem that helped inspire the name of the media brand and website you’re reading. Quite the full-circle moment.

Now, for a story.

Every song had an overall mission, says Premier of his studio sessions with the late Guru, who passed in 2010. Some were so-called “rhyming” joints, others were romantic records. “Mass Appeal” was designed as an anti-radio track, signified by the twinkling melody in the background, which Premier explains has a hidden significance.

“We were just saying radio was watering down our stuff,” said Preemo, “so we were like, ‘You know what? It always sounds like the music in the elevator.’” Bland and repetitive. It’s a brilliant concept, and one that would probably be more widely publicized if it worked the way the duo intended. Except…

“We were really making fun of radio, and it became one of our biggest radio records,” says Premier, as he reminisces on the track’s success. “Mass Appeal” peaked at No. 67 on the Hot 100 in 1994, and was featured on the soundtrack for the mega-popular ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4’ video game. To this day, it’s widely recognized as a marquee moment from rap’s “golden age” era.

Gang Starr’s legacy might’ve been hard to earn, but Premo helped make it look effortless. Watch “Off the Record” above.


Gang Starr – Mass Appeal

Drew Pierce

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