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Meaning of the song ‘Work’ by ‘Gang Starr’

Released: 1998

“Work” by Gang Starr, a track on the iconic 1998 album “Moment of Truth”, is a song that encapsulates the essence of late 90s hip-hop. It underscores the grind and determination needed to make it in the game, elegantly weaving together the themes of perseverance, ambition, and street wisdom.

From the start, Guru (one half of Gang Starr) is boasting about his imminent success, “Victory is mine, yeah surprisingly.” His work in the rap game is reaping rewards. The phrase “ti-dop” is a play on ‘on top’, where Guru aims to be. Throughout the song, Guru uses ‘work’ as a metaphor for his relentless grind in the music industry.

His lyrics “Now i’ma start collectin props, connectin plots/Networkin like a conference, cause the nonsense is yet to stop” convey his strategic approach in the industry. He’s taking the initiative, making connections, and working tirelessly to heighten his status. Guru frames his journey in the industry almost like a veteran strategist navigating a battlefield.

The line about “Jakes shake me down”, is a nod to the tension with law enforcement. ‘Jakes’ is slang for police, and the line signifies a common reality for many in the hip-hop scene and for people of color in urban areas. Guru smoothly switches back to his hustle and flow, asserting his dominance in the rap game and dismissing his competition.

Next, Guru touches on the concept of time and money, hinting at the fakeness he sees in the industry. His lines express how laughable he finds the small talk, and the phoniness he encounters in his journey to success. He’s focused on his grind and won’t let anything distract him.

Gang Starr illustrates the harsh reality and violence that often accompanies the struggle for success, “A kid got shot on the spot for goin where he should not.” He’s not glorifying this lifestyle, but reflecting the gritty realities that inspired his music. His use of explicit imagery is honest and it’s what makes the song (and Gang Starr) so authentic.

Finally, the song ends where it began, with Guru declaring his victory. After the hard grind and everything he’s been through, he knows that he’s “puttin’ in work” more than anyone else in the game. His hustle is paying off, his status is escalating, and he’s ready for whatever comes next. Gang Starr’s “Work” is an anthem for anyone who’s ever chased a dream and worked tirelessly to achieve it.

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