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KRS-One: ON Kanye and 50 Cent

At the 2007 Hip Hop Honors I was asked by AllHipHop.com about my musicalpreferences this year—50 Cent or Kanye West? I chose 50 Cent. At the time my answer was spontaneous and said without much thought. It was simply a quick honest answer. However, the next day I get a Google alert that somehow my comments “dissed Kanye West”. This could not be further from the truth. As I’ve said repeatedly and on many occasions, “rap is something we do; Hip Hop is something we live”, and when youask KRS about his musical choices his answers are going to reflect the life that he (KRS) actually lives. If I have to compare 50 Cent’s album “Curtis” with Kanye West’s album “Graduation” I am more motivated by “Curtis” than I am “Graduation”. Of course, Itotally respect “Graduation” and what it means to and for Hip Hop. But personally, I relate more to 50 Cent’s subject matter more than I do Kanye’s.I like both albums. I personally went to Circuit City and bought two copies of each album the day they came out and listened to them both. After listening to both albums I found myself rewinding several of 50 Cent’s tracks—track 2, track 3, track 4, the rhyme style on track 5, track 12, the joint with Mary-track 15, track 16 and track 17. For me, ALL THAT SHIT WUZ HOT! On the other hand, when I listened to Kanye’s album I found myself rewinding only track 1, track 6, and track 10.  Honestly, I felt that Kanye’s album related more to women whereas 50′s album related more to men, maybe that’s why I gravitated more toward 50′s album? Maybe I’m just too “old skool?” Maybe I’m just a New York nigga at heart? Maybe I’m still stuck on that “gun  talk?” Whatever. In any event, I totally respect Kanye’s message and his album was clearly a breath of fresh air for Hip Hop. Even Kanye’s musical production style was superior to 50′s in my opinion. But for motivation, hard beats and rhymes, or when I’m driving through the “hood” for me 50 Cents album “Curtis” simply delivered more “bang” for the buck.When I stated that I preferred 50′s album over Kanye’s album the Allhiphop.com interviewer seemed shocked and surprised. This caused me to think about my response a little more. Why did I choose 50 Cent? I began to think about this with more depth. First, when it comes to Hip Hop and its cultural preservation we must never equate record sales with artistic excellence. Just because Kanye out-sold 50 Cent does not mean that Hip Hop as a community has made a choice as to its cultural direction. In fact, I would argue that Kanye out-selling 50 Cent has more to do with the record buying public’s demand for more soulful, thoughtful and innovative music than it has to do with Hip Hop making a statement about itself. Hip Hop is about the mood of the streets; all of  it, the so-called “conscious” streets as well as the so-called”gangsta” streets. True Hip Hop (cultural Hip Hop) is not about the selling of a CD. So one must ask, did Hip Hop buy Kanye’s album or did the American public buy Kanye’s album? Secondly, let us not equate the “conscious” Hip Hop movement with CD sales. Remember, we are still getting ripped-off contractually by those corporations that exploit and sell our music with nothing going back toward Hip Hop’s actual preservation. Just because you put out a “conscious” album does not mean that you are a “conscious” person. Your album presentation does not make you an “activist” or a “gangsta”. It is your actions in real life that determine your propensity for revolutionary thought or rebellious activity. The questions are; what have you done with your success to support and preserve Hip Hop’s actual cultural preservation? How does Hip Hop’s existing organizations benefit from your success? If 50 Cent actually builds Hip Hop’s museum/archive with the money and influence made from his “gangsta” music and Kanye (as an example) buys more Gucci and gold chains with his money and influence who has really served theculture? Please, let us keep things in perspective here. Finally, let me make this last point very clear. KRS ONE is an artist that has produced both “Criminal Minded” as well as “Edutainment” and this is what I have found to not only be the key to my own professional longevity, this is also what has kept Hip Hop itself vibrant and self-sustaining for over 30 years. Hip Hop thrives upon its variety of styles and diversity of ideas. Remember, Hip Hop is a continuous international urban conversation; it is not a dictated lecture or a one-sided statement. It is an on-going urban discussion about life and living expressed through art and culture. EVERYTHING ABOUT HIP HOP IS GOOD! Our music and art reflects life itself.When I hear artists like 50 Cent, Fat Joe, Camron, Jadakiss, Snoop Dogg, etc I hear courage, fearlessness and victory over the streets. And when I hear Kanye West, Common, Talib Kweli, etc I hear vision, innovation, and the pursuit of life’s higher ideals. ALL OF THIS IS HIP HOP! And all of it is good. ALL OF IT! Not one style over another or one style better than another. All of it together is Hip Hop, and you will not have true Hip Hop without this balance of ideas and expressions. Hip Hop cannot be one thing or it will cease to exist as Hip Hop. The key word here is BALANCE, and I am proud to say that in 2007 with the release of 50 Cent’s “Curtis” and Kanye West’s “Graduation” Hip Hop has achieved such a balance. The struggle now is to convince mainstream media to honor such a “balance” in its public presentations of our culture and lifestyle. Yes, I remain Hip Hop’s “teacha” and authentic cultural voice; and yes, I will continue to promote both spiritual and political thought through Hip Hop. Like most people I too seek the “Good Life”, but let’s just keep it really real; “NIGGA MY GUN GO OFF!”Big respect to both Kanye and Curtis!KRS ONE—the Teacha

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