KRS-One is a producer as well as a rapper and “The Teacha” (intellectual/educator). He has released a mammoth 25 albums (including compilations).
Personal background / early life
KRS was born in ’65 in Brookyn to his mom Jacqueline, the oldest son with a brother and sister. His mom had a massive influence on his education, because from the age of three onwards, he began home schooling of African Studies. For the rest of his life KRS-One has always been studying knowledge. Aged seven the family moved to 1600 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, and KRS started writing poetry to his mom. He went on to experience the block parties happening at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue and other local jams. Soon he was experiencing the elements of Hip Hop – breaking, MCing, graffiti writing and DJing, and had dreams and visions about a “divine purpose” which he says his mom confirmed through astrology and numerology. Throughout his life, from a young age KRS would study many different philosophies and religious texts. For example aged ten, he started studying the Bible, experiencing Rastafarianism, yoga, meditation and fasting. However at school he has said he was “very unpopular and quiet” when he was young.
In ’77 after the New York City blackout, he was inspired to become an MC. His mom’s record collection deeply influenced KRS. From when he was fourteen she was buying the earliest records of the Hip Hop era such as “King Tim the Third” by the Fatback Band, and “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang – and by ’79 she was buying one Sugar Hill artist per week. He developed his rhyme writing with Neville T, his brother Kenny, and school friends Daryl D and Master Key and aspired to be an MC and mystic.
KRS ran away from home for a month at the age of 15 before being returned home by truant officers. Aged 16, after an argument he ran away from home for the final time and became homeless for four years.
Soon he was attending both Hip Hop and Reggae jams in Brooklyn and studied metaphysics and philosophy. His adopted son Randy was born when he was 18. He met Hare Krishnas who fed the homeless and taught the Bagavad-Gita, but guards at the homeless shelter started making fun of him, calling him “Krsna”. He moved to a group home and a graffiti writer taught him how to tag his name, Krsna – but soon he dropped the “na” and used “KRS” pronounced “Chris”. A year later he added the “One” signifying the original, first and/or best. It was common for popular graffiti writers to add a ‘one’ or ‘1’ to the end of their tags. The backroym Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone has also been applied to his name.
He met his first girlfriend, Christine, around this time and then, aged 20, moved to Manhattan YMCA shelter to further pursue his recording career. He was graffiti writing as well as MCing and got arrested for doing graffiti.
By the age of 21, KRS was inspired by T-La Rock, Kool Moe Dee and Melle Mel and developed what he calls an ‘off-beat’ rhyme style, sparring with other MCs. He was transferred to another shelter in The Bronx, and studied Christ Consciousness and the life of Jesus, as well as being introduced to the Nation of Islam through the popularity of the Five Percenters. KRS met a producer Ced-Gee here, through a graffiti writer and shelter security guard, Funk Master. He also met Scott La Rock who was his social worker, and the duo became Boogie Down Productions.
In ’85 he was introduced to Hip Hop’s late night club life. He started regularly hanging out at Danceteria, The Roxy and Latin Quarters in Manhattan. I.C.U. offered him a room in his apartment so he officially left homeless life, and he also met Ms. Melodie, who he married the same year.
His first 12″ single “Success Is The Word” with Scott La Rock and Kenny Beck was released on Sleeping Bag Records. Kenny says “Kris was never happy with the record at all, thought it was too corney”
“Success It The Word”:
As Boogie Down Productions they started shopping their music to record labels but they were “turned down by every recording label of the day”.
Finally they signed with Rock Candy Records and released “Crack Attack” warning people against the drug.
Boogie Down Production’s next track, “South Bronx” was written at the time in response to Mr. Magic’s Juice Crew, who had rejected Boogie Down Production’s demo and released a song “The Bridge” about Queensbridge, featuring M.C. Shan and DJ Marley Marl. KRS used his “Blastmaster” persona during this “Bridge Wars” period.
“The Bridge” (M.C. Shan):
“South Bronx” (Boogie Down Productions):
M.C. Shan answered that record with “Kill That Noise”
KRS-One replied “The Bridge Is Over” (original video)
And finally Roxanne Shante had the final word on “Have A Nice Day”.
Thhe classic diss records KRS-One/Boogie Down Productions and MC Shan/The Juice Crew made during the “Bridge Wars”, are on the compilation album “The Battle For Rap Supremacy: KRS-One Vs. MC Shan” which was released in ’96.
First album – “Criminal Minded”
In ’87 Boogie Down Productions released their first album “Criminal Minded” on sugar Hill. The album ‘pictured the duo draped in ammunition and brandishing guns and is often credited with setting the template for the hardcore and gangsta rap genres’ according to Wikipedia. According to All Music, such artwork “was unheard of in 1987” and the album “is the foundation of hardcore rap”. “BDP weren’t the first to rap about inner-city violence and drugs, and there’s no explicit mention of gangs on “Criminal Minded”, but it greatly expanded the range of subject matter that could be put on a rap record”.
Track 3 was “9mm Goes Bang”:
‘Production on the LP is credited to KRS and DJ Scott La Rock, but in interviews it has been revealed that an uncredited Ced-Gee had a key role in crafting the sound of the LP, which heavily sampled records from James Brown and AC/DC and also had a dancehall reggae influence.
‘Criminal Minded played an important role in reaffirming the social acceptance of having Jamaican roots. BDP referenced reggae in a way that helped to solidify Jamaica’s place in modern hip-hop culture.’ KRS-One was one of the first MCs to incorporate Jamaican style into Hip Hop, using the Zung gu sung melody originally made famous by Yellowman in the ’90s:
Track 7 “Remix for P Is Free”:
In ’98, the album was selected as one of The Source’s 100 Best Rap Albums, and it has been included on several other such lists.
Scott La Rock was killed in ’87 trying to calm down a dispute between Boogie Down Productions member D-Nice and local hoodlums. KRS carried on under the name Boogie Down Productions for a few more albums though.
A bonus track on “Criminal Minded” was the Scott La Rock Megamix:
An example of the AC/DC samples Scott La Rock used is the track “Dope Beat”:
In ’88 Boogie Down Productions released “By All Means Necessary” without the late Scott La Rock, but featuring beatboxer D-Nice, rapper Ms. Melodie and DJ Kenny Parker (KRS’s younger brother) and more. Wikipedia says “The album is widely seen as one of, if not the first, politically conscious efforts in Hip Hop”.
Track 1 – “My Philosophy” (original video):
After the murder of Scott La Rock, KRS moved away from the violence that dominated its debut “Criminal Minded” and began to write socially conscious songs, while using the moniker “The Teacha”.
Track 6 was “I’m Still #1”:
Track 9 was “T’Cha-T’Cha” – I love the beat on this one:
In ’89 KRS-One launched the Stop The Violence Movement – and “Self-Destruction” was released. Composed of some of the biggest stars in contemporary East Coast Hip Hop, all proceeds from sales went to the National Urban League.
“Ghetto Music: The Blueprint Of Hip Hop” came out the same year. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA.
“Why Is that?” was track 2 (live video:
On this album, All Music says KRS is “particularly concerned about the direction of Hip Hop. He’s wary of Hip Hop being cooped by the pop mainstream, and the album’s title comes from his conviction that real Hip Hop is built on the vitality and rebelliousness of the streets”.
Track 5 was “Jah Rules”:
Track 7 “Who Protects Us From You?””
Track 8 – “You Must Learn” (Original video)
Track 11 – “Gimme, Dat, (Woy)”
Track 12 – “Ghetto Music”:
The last track on the album, “World Peace”:
KRS-One also produced the reggae album “Silent Assassins” in ’89, as well as Just-Ice’s “The Desolate One”, and started touring Europe.
In 1990 KRS divorced from Ms. Melodie and started studying advanced metaphysics. He released “Edutainment” and started his career as a lecturer regarding Hip Hop and African Studies.
The first song on the album is “Blackman In Effect”:
‘The lyrics in “Edutainment” are based around Afrocentricity and socio-political knowledge. It has 6 skits/interludes known as ‘exhibits’ that all talk about or relate to Black people. Many skits feature Kwame Ture (née Stokely Carmichael) a leader of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA. KRS One has stated in interviews that the album has sold over 600,000 copies.’
Track 5 is “Beef” – I like the funky beat a lot on this:
All Music lists the topics on the album as “black history, homelessness, racism, police brutality and materialism”. “KRS was often compared to Chuck D because of his consistently sociopolitical focus, but he has his own unique mixture of black nationalism, Eastern religion, (both Hinduism and Buddhism) and Rastafarian philosphophy”. However, some critics said it wasn’t as popular as other albums because in places it was “preachy”.
Track 6 is “House N*ggas”:
Track 8 is Love’s Gonna Get’cha (Material Love) (original video):
A ragga-sounding track was “100 Guns”:
“Ya Strugglin” was track 10:
“Breath Control II” was a slower, laid back track:
“Homeless” – track 14:
“The Kenny Parker Show” another laid back track:
“The Racist” – track 18:
“7 Dee Jays” featuring Heather B and Ms. Melodie:
“30 Cops or More” a ragga-influenced track:
In ’91 he released a live album “B.D.P Live Hardcore” – the first live rap concert album.
He also released H.E.A.L – Human Education Against Lies – album “Civilization Vs. Technology”.
Track one was “Heal Yourself” featuring many big name artists:
The same year he collaborated with Shabba Ranks on “Jam”.
“Sex And Violence”
In ’92, the album “Sex and Violence” was released. It was the first album to feature multiple producers and it critics said it sounded more “up to date” because of this.
Track 1 – “The Original Way” a reggae-influenced track:
Track 2 – “Duck Down” (original video):
“13 And Good” (original video)
“We In There” (original video):
‘The track “Build And Destroy” deals with KRS-One’s ideological differences—as a self-proclaimed humanist—with X-Clan and its brand of Afrocentrism. Previously, and on numerous occasions, the X-Clan had denounced any association with the concept of humanism, instead affirming its pro-Black stance. This, according to KRS-One’s younger brother and Boogie Down Production’s DJ Kenny Parker, was an insinuation that KRS was a “sell-out.”‘
An incident with P.M. Dawn also happened this year – KRS explains “After several disrespectful comments made by rapper Prince B of the group P.M. Dawn about KRS-One “Wanting to be a teacher, but a teacher of what,” KRS-One and others interrupted P.M. Dawn’s concert performance at T-Money’s birthday party in Manhatten resulting in P.M. Dawn being thrown off stage and into the crowd. KRS-One later apologised for the incident.”
‘KRS One has stated that the album “Sex and Violence” sold about 250,000 copies, half of what the previous BDP album (Edutainment) sold, and he believes this was due to the PM Dawn incident that year.
He also studied and toured with Kwame Toure and the All African People’s Revolutionary Party.
“Return Of The Boom Bap”
In ’93 the album “The Return Of The Boom Bap” came out. The style of production on this album returned to the “spare, gritty” sound of “Criminal Minded”. Wikipedia noted that ‘Unlike the majority of the Boogie Down Productions LP’s, KRS took a step back from the production duties, letting DJ Premier, Showbiz and Kid Capri handle the beats in addition to his four contributions.’
Track 4 – “Mortal Thought”
“Slap Them Up”:
At this point he stopped releasing albums under the Boogie Down Productions name and began using his own name, KRS-One. Songs on this album included “Sound of da Police” (original video):
“Mad Crew” was track 8 on the album:
“Brown Skin Woman” was track 10:
“Return Of The Boom Bap” was track 11:
Track 12 “Stop Frontin'”:
Track 13 “Higher Level”:
‘In ’98, the album was selected as one of The Source’s 100 Best Rap Albums. The record was originally rated 4 mics in The Source in ’93.’
He also formed a management company “Front Page Entertainment” in ’93 which helped launch the careers of artists such as Fat Joe and Wyclef Jean.
KRS-One produced 12″ singles “Shoot To Kill” and “Take It Easy” for Hip Hop Reggae artist Mad Lion, and “Sparkin Mad Izm” for rap group Channel Live the same year.
He appeared on the “Menace To Society” soundtrack with “The Pee Is Free”.
Next week is “Part II” of KRS-One’s Hip Hop History..