In the late 70’s, when disco was on its last legs, a new form of music was just beginning to take off. Filled with larger than life characters, they would address the social issues going on in their own neighborhoods; by using an unorthodox style of singing. They would rhyme out their words repeatedly, and throughout the whole entire song. Many thought this new genre of music would meet its demise, just as its disco counterpart ultimately did. But to the chagrin of the non believers, it survived for almost 40 years and counting. Sometimes its hard to think that Hip-Hop has been around for this long; but not without its fair share of black eyes in the process. To the tragic murders of some of its brightest stars, to political leaders using Hip-Hop as a scapegoat to catapult their own careers, by saying "all it does is increase crime", to the censorship of its content.
Nowadays, the phrase "keeping it real" has to be one biggest clichés in Hip-Hop. When artists have big corporations knocking at their door to promote their product; why keep it real when you can keep money in your pocket instead? For those that reminisce over Common’s 1994 ode to Hip-Hop, "I Used To Love H.E.R.", he explains all the transformations this historical genre has gone through. But for an art form that’s forever changing, there’s always been one constant.
There’s always been that one person who so-called "kept it real", that one person that epitomizes the true essence of Hip-Hop, that one person that’s always been an outspoken voice, in a sea of many. It’s difficult to talk about Hip-Hop as a whole, and not associate this particular person with the culture. This person has brought us timeless "food-for-thought" classics like "Love’s Gonna Get ‘Cha", "Self Destruction", "My Philosophy", "Black Cop", "Stop The Violence", and "13 And Good."
With a career spanning over 24 years, and an unprecedented 19 albums to his credit, he returns in 2007 with his latest offering, "Hip-Hop Is Alive", alongside fellow iconic Hip-Hop legend Marley Marl. Now, to his biological family, they know this man as Lawrence Krisna Parker. But to his Hip-Hop family, he’s known as "The Blastmaster", "The Teacha", or just simply; KRS-One.
CrackSpace.com: So what can we expect off your new album with Marley Marl, "Hip-Hop Lives"?
KRS-One: Well you can expect focus. The focus of this album is to put the focus on our community, and on the things that are real and important. Some of the songs like "Kill A Rapper" and the title track itself, "Hip-Hop Lives", are songs that should plague our community this year toward a more mature Hip-Hop. We’ve seen the "bling", we’ve blinged ourselves out. We’ve seen "thug", and we’ve seen the "sex", we’re just coming out of the sex right now. We’ve been sexed out, and now I think it’s actually time. When you look at James Brown passing on Christmas Day, and when you hear Nas say "Hip-Hop Is Dead", like when he says things like "well, if you continue to do things like this, Hip-Hop will be dead." When you look at the whole Imus thing, and that whole debate, you really notice the intellectual movement of Hip-Hop growing. You get more and more people asking questions.
CrackSpace.com: So you in your opinion, Hip-Hop is far from dead?
KRS-One: The entire Hip-Hop culture isn’t dead. A lot of us are reading, a lot of us are writing, and a lot of us are still rapping. So I would hope that this album, "Hip-Hop Lives" puts the focus on what’s really important. I’m hoping to change the graphic of Hip-Hop in a lot of minds. Right now when you think about the word [Hip-Hop], you think of guns, you think of drugs, you think of crime, you think of thugs. You don’t think of "KRS", some do [smiles]. But to those that actually live the culture, they think about Big Daddy Kane, and all the real MC’s.
CrackSpace.com: So what’s the definition of Hip-Hop to you?
KRS-One: Well the word "Hip" means to know, its a form of intelligence. The word "Hop" is a form of movement; to keep you up. So when you put it together as the word "Hip-Hop", you have an intelligent movement. So people should learn from that and be like "ahhh okay, now I know what this is." "It just hit me; now I know what its about." "I know what the actual term means, so now I want to learn more about it."
CrackSpace.com: Did you ever feel the need to reinvent yourself? To capture the attention of younger fans that aren’t too familiar with you?
KRS-One: Not at all; not at all. I have to reinvent myself anyway, in fact the [body] reinvents itself every six weeks. We all have to reinvent ourselves, that’s actually the meaning death; is when you stop creating yourself. Its not just for the young kids coming up today, I have to reinvent myself for the 38 year olds [laughter]. Its not so much as to reinvent myself, but its about reinventing us. The "MC" should give their listeners the opportunity to grow with him/her. So in this instance, "the reinvention" comes with "okay, let me flash some new styles on you, let me show you what else I can do." Its like let me inspire you with my career. I’m 42 years old, and I’m spitting mine, WHAT! [smiles]
CrackSpace.com: So do you believe older acts should automatically gain respect because they’ve laid the foundation?
KRS-One: Well I’ll say this right now, I’m not an advocate for respecting the old school because their the the old school. I’m an advocate for respecting the old because they’ll kick your ass [laughing], that’s what I’m an advocate of. Don’t respect Crazy Legs because of who is, and he’s the reason that you know what a B-Boy is. Respect him because its 2007, and the Rock Steady Crew Anniversary in July is going to be off the chain. Don’t respect Grand Master Cas because he’s the greatest MC of all time. Don’t respect him because he’s part of the Cold Crush Crew, which basically invented RUN DMC and everybody else. Respect him because if you hand him a microphone TODAY in 2007, he will spit something out his mouth that will blow your mind. I don’t want anyone to respect me for "Criminal Mined", even though I appreciate it. But if you ask me, I know I did the "Stop The Violence" movement [saying "sure" sarcastically], "Love’s Gonna Get ‘Cha" [saying "sure" sarcastically], "You Must Learn" [saying "right" sarcastically]. That was 15 years ago, what am I doing today? If you see me at show, I’m going to do all the classics, BUT "where’s the new single?" where’s the new album?"
CrackSpace.com: Some people say that the spot light left
KRS-One: Uhh… I would reluctantly say yes [reluctantly], because I see what that is. Yes there is internal beefing in
CrackSpace.com: What’s one of the biggest things that bothers you about modern day Hip-Hop?
CrackSpace.com: What keeps you motivated after all these years in Hip-Hop?
KRS-One: What keeps me motivated is the fact that I’m still hungry. I’m not rich, I don’t want to be rich, I want to be wealthy. I just want to pay my bills and live, I don’t need to be rich to do that. I just need to have enough, so I rate myself with a certain level of hunger; its called "discipline." I stay with MC’s on the streets, and on the corners. I try to stay within the ciphers, I just to keep myself involved.
CrackSpace.com: Right now it seems Hip-Hop is all about beats and hooks. Aren’t you get worried that true messages like yours will fall on deaf ears?
KRS-One: Well yeah it will fall on deaf ears, it will fall on "Def Jam" ears [laughing] no pun intended. But it will fall on deaf ears, and I like that. Because our album doesn’t have to sell a million copies to be successful, its not about that. I don’t give a f**k if [you] don’t want to listen to "KRS-One." This album has nothing to do with that, this album is not trying to make a younger audience understand who I am. I think they do, and I hope they do, but this album is about maturity focus. This is about Hip-Hop. So if it doesn’t excite [you], then fine. That goes back to 1987 when I was asked "are you scared that people won’t understand Criminal Minded?" "A teacher with a gun in his had, don’t you find that to be contradictory?" My answer was "I’m a teacher, I’m here to blaze the trail not follow the trail." But to answer you, "knowledge" ALWAYS falls on deaf ears, the "truth" ALWAYS falls on deaf ears. For me, I’d rather sell 100,000 records to the right people than 1,000,000 to wrong people. So let this album fall on a million deaf ears, and let at least 10,000 of the right people get this album. People like the future president, the future head of the board of education, or the future chief of the police. I hope and I pray something like that happens.