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Meaning of the ‘You Know My Steez’ by ‘Gang Starr’

Released: 1998

“You Know My Steez” by Gang Starr is a powerful piece that emphasizes the authenticity and skill required for real hip-hop. Guru and DJ Premier, the forces behind Gang Starr, unload their critique on the state of the genre, positioning themselves as the preservers of true hip-hop essence, while calling out the ‘wannabes’ and fakes infiltrating the scene.

We’re thrown straight into the thick of it with Guru’s assertion that he and Premier hold it down for their vision of hip-hop, updating their formula but never straying away from the essence. Using a gun (Derringer) metaphor, Guru compares his rounds of rhymes to bullets, suggesting their impact on the listener.

Guru metaphorically places his foes in the ‘Terrordome,’ referencing Public Enemy’s Chuck D to drive his point home about new artists who disrespect the genre’s rich history. He further asserts his authority by comparing himself to the Wizard of Oz, guiding lost MCs, represented by Dorothy. The metaphor about words splitting wigs with the power of Desert Eagles, a type of powerful handgun, further underscores his lyrical prowess.

The line, “Subtracting all the rappers who lack over Premier’s tracks,” is a straight shot at artists who fail to bring substance to Premier’s beats. Guru isn’t here to play games; he’s here to rip apart the fakes and elevate the game. He refers to himself as a ‘master builder,’ a reference to the Five-Percent Nation, a movement known for its influence in hip-hop, suggesting he’s crafting his path, making a way home for authentic hip-hop.

With the refrain, “You know my steez,” Guru reaffirms his unique and recognizable style (steez is hip-hop slang for style) which, according to him, is a beacon in the sea of fake MCs.

Guru presents himself as a minister in the church of hip-hop, curing the scene of its artificiality, “curing the mess” of the genre’s wackness and hype. His travels “through the darkness, carrying his torch” symbolize his journey to keep true hip-hop alive.

He uses the metaphor of a kamikaze pilot to explain his approach to his craft—relentless, fearless, and explosive— while dismissing those who try to exploit hip-hop for fame and wealth. The “magic wand” and the nuclear bomb represent the power of the microphone and lyrics to either create beauty or massive destruction.

The song concludes with a steadfast assurance that Gang Starr isn’t going anywhere. They’ll continue to bring the heat with fat beats, dope rhymes, and remain a reliable source for authentic hip-hop. Essentially, they’re saying, “You know my steez” and if you don’t, you’re probably part of the problem.

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