DJ Premier Recalls Convo That Inspired Gang Starr’s ‘Hard To Earn’

DJ Premier has shared the story behind the title of Gang Starr‘s Hard to Earn on the album’s 30th anniversary.

In an Instagram post on Friday (March 8), the veteran producer said the project’s name came from a conversation with the duo’s other member, the late rhymer Guru.


“Guru asked me to name this LP. He always comes up with dope titles so I didn’t think that I needed to, that’s his lane,” Preem began.

“We had a conversation and I said that being in this music business is HARD TO EARN. He says: THAT’S IT! You just named the album! I’m like: ‘I did?’ The rest is chiseled history!”

See the post below.

Hard to Earn, released on March 8, 1994, was Gang Starr’s fourth album and remains a favorite for many fans. As DJ Premier told Billboard on its 25th anniversary in 2019, it also marked a “change in my sound.”

“[W]e were always been categorized as only using jazz samples. It seemed like the media at that time was pigeonholing us,” he said.


“A lot of people were saying, ‘I never hear Premier use other sounds,’ and stuff like that. So I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna start getting a little weird on this one.’

“I had a chip on my shoulder with this album, where I wanted to show the people, the critics, that I can do any sound, and still make it sound dope. I like showing versatility.”


In his 30th anniversary post, Premier also thanked a number of people involved with the record and Gang Starr’s career, including photographer Danny Hastings (who shot what Preem called “my favorite cover of all our albums”); engineer Eddie Sancho; and rapper Jeru the Damaja, who appears on the song “Speak Ya Clout.”

The producer, of course, took a moment to thank his late partner in the group, Keith “Guru” Elam, who died in 2010.

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“Guru you’re always missed brother, and I will continue to protect your greatness the righteous way and no one will ever erase or shit on our hard work. I Love You For Life!” he wrote.

Just last month, DJ Premier paid tribute to another late rap legend: fellow producer James “J Dilla” Yancey.


Preem was one of a number of Hip Hop luminaries, including Common, Busta Rhymes and Pete Rock, to celebrate Dilla last month on what would have been his 50th birthday.

Premier wrote on social media: “HAPPY BORN DAY DILLA DAWG,” while Pete Rock added: “HAPPY BORN DAY TO THE G.O.A.T. His physical is missed, but his greatness is still here with us.”


DJ Jazzy Jeff called J Dilla the “greatest of all time” and a “genius” in a touching message of his own.

“It’s that time of year again when we celebrate The G.O.A.T. @officialjdilla,” he wrote. “Happy 50th birthday to the genius of all geniuses. You were clearly tapped into another frequency that us normal beings didn’t have access to.”

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