quick trip down memory lane will remind even the most casual of Hip-Hop
fan, that at one time commercial endorsements were taboo. The popular
commercial of a bankrupt MC Hammer elicits laughs now, but last decade
he was virtually shamed out of the industry after pitching everything
from soda to buckets of fried chickenof course, the genie pants sure
didnt help things either.
In 1995 the self-proclaimed true heads cried foul when KRS-One teamed
up with Nike to recreate Gil Scott Herons classic The Revolution
Wont Be Televised. If The Blastmaster could pitch Prince Be off of
a stage and pitch shoes for Phil Knight within the same three-year
span, was it okay for Hip-Hop to get involved with major corporations?
In todays era of copyrighted ringtones, where even C-List artists and
backpackers keep track of their Soundscan numbers, no one is asking
that question anymore. In fact, when a Nike commissioned collaboration
with Kanye West, Nas and Rakim debuted on this very site and others
like it, the Ill Community had virtually all positive feedback. Was the
The Teacha a hypocrite or merely ahead of his time? Scroll down to
find out from the man himselfjust watch out for the ads.
AllHipHop.com: The Classic collaboration has your name making headlines again. How did this come about?
KRS-One: Id like to start with my man Dru Ha [co-CEO of Duck Down
Records]. According to the legend they were asked by Nike to put this
project together and a couple of names were thrown around. I dont even
think my name was one of the first mentioned, but after the argument
ensued and things happened I guess it fell to myself. Kanye was first,
then Nas, then myself and then Rakim. I guess it happened out of an
argument of, Who should be on the track? Dru Ha fought for me and
said, Yo, I think KRS should be on this, and obviously Dru Ha won his
argument. KRS was on the project.
Heres the icing on the cake, another executive at Nike was DJ Clark
Kent. We were at the concert, and at this point, Im already in. I had
signed the contract and accepted the check. I went in the studio and
voiced my piece, and now Im at the concert that we did on 34th Street.
I asked him why did they chose me, and he looked at me with that look
like, Cmon man you cant be serious, and he just walked away. I
said, Alright f**k him [laughing] let me get the answer from Nike. I
had to know why they wanted KRS-One. I dont have no records out, Im
not a video guy, Im not platinum, and as a matter of fact, Im pretty
controversial. Im that guy,
so why would a white bread company like Nike wanna work with me? Thats
when all these answers started coming in. Obviously Dru Ha went to bat
AllHipHop.com: Did you guys get to record the vocals together?
KRS-One: I didnt get to record with any of the artists personally. I
did get to rehearse for the concert with Kanye, and Rakim and I did
another show about two months later for a separate show with Doug E.
AllHipHop.com: You caught a lot of heat for your Nike ad in 1995. Was there any hesitation on your part?
KRS-One: Once I found out it was for Nike, I grilled everyoneNike,
Cornerstone, Dru Haon Hip-Hop and what this project really means to
Hip-Hop and what its all about. Of course its Nike, so the money was
there, and the promotion was there. We did the thing for MTV live and
the crew was there. I was more interested in how the project benefits
Hip-Hop since thats my stance on everything.
AllHipHop.com: Thats a win-win, but its not like this was done for free, right?
KRS-One: After talking to Dru I realized that this was beneficial to both Hip-Hop and
KRS-One. I obviously need the promotion from two different angles, both
as KRS-One and on behalf of The Temple Of Hip-Hop. My angle is the
promotion and the money, let me not front on that. We were
definitely compensated and treated with respect and it was dope. We got
free gearme my kids, wife and the whole family.
To be in the company of Nas, Rakim and Kanye was humbling in and of
itself. I had to get on that. If they said the record was free, I would
have still participated because that was a moment of emceeing. When you
have Kanye, Nas and Rakim, what am I gonna do, say, No? The fact that
we are all on a joint, regardless of the money or the promotion, is
what drew me in. Me and Rakim have been talking about this for 20
years; every time I see Rakim were both like, When are we getting in
the studio? Finally we get a chance to get this close to each other. I
love Rakims rhyme when he says, Uptowns we call em upppies when they on divas/probably wear em when KRS-One teaches.
Rakim did his thing by incorporating us all into his rhyme, knowing
that he was going to be the last to rhyme. There was a lot of emceeing
mastery behind the scenes that well get into later.
AllHipHop.com: Your album is Hip-Hop Lives. Did you and Nas get into the debate over whether Hip-Hop is dead or not?
KRS-One: As a matter of fact, Nas ran up on me and said, Let me tell
you what this is gonna be about before it even comes out, and I cut
Nas off. I said, Dont explain anything, because your [album] cover
revitalized Hip-Hop. Sometimes we dont know what we got until its
gone. What Nas did was declare Hip-Hop dead, so everyone went, No its
not; it cant be! That now is the statement that helps it to live.
Before Nas said Hip-Hop is dead, it was dead. Everyone was blinging,
drinking, smoking, f**king, sucking and doing whatever they wanted to
do. And they were teaching it to our children
at the same time. You can believe Hip-Hop was dead. Now that Nas
declared it, it came back alive because no one wants to see it die.
Nas invited me to a party that Kelis was throwing him about a week
later. I checked my schedule and I couldnt make it, but I recorded an
exclusive song for him mixtape style. Marley Marl produced this track
and we gave it to Nas as an exclusive for his party. I think Marley
leaked the record to the Internet, so its floating around out there
somewhere. One of the lines on that record is, Nas Hip-Hop cant be dead/you brought it back with the words you said.
Nas is Hip-Hop, and as long as he is walking the earth Hip-Hop cannot
die. Just to go a little further and end that, Marley and I did an
album called Hip-Hop Livesobvious title. Thats a project in and of itself: 20 years from 1987 through 2007.
AllHipHop.com: So The Bronx and Queensbridge come full circle?
KRS-One: Exactly, and let me show you the karma of it. Nas is from Queensbridge. Why is it at this stage that Nas drops the Hip-Hop is Dead
album? Were dealing with death, from 1987 through 2007. Scott La Rock
was killed in 1987 as well. It was Scotts death that brought the
Hip-Hop community together. It was actually after Scotts death that we
realized we were a community because people were shocked that a rapper
could actually be killed. This was the first time that it ever
happened. So, you look at that, and in 1987 were dealing with death
and rebirth. Out of Scotts death KRS-One is born. Out of that battle
situation, a guy who would be the advocate for peace in Hip-Hop is
born. Imagine the advocate for peace coming out of battles, intense
violence, shootouts, fights and who knows what else we were involved in
back then. Thats all 87 and the karma of that, but Hip-Hop grew for
those 20 years.
Now were in 2007, miraculously, me and Marley get together. Its got
nothing to do with Nas, [MC] Shan, [Roxanne] Shanté, none of them or
even Queensbridge in general. It was just the fact that we are
recognizing the 20th anniversary of Boogie Down Productions. We thought
it would be a cool thing if Marley Marl did the whole KRS-One album. It
was not only for historic and karmic purposes, but also for Hip-Hop and
cultural purposes. These two guys who were rivals, because to this day
our history is one of being rivals in that sense, were coming together.
Its like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazieryou only want to see them
beating each other in the ringbut, in real life, Im quite sure he
mustve paid Muhammad Alis rent a few times. They get down like that.
Me, Marley, Shan, Shanté and Kane have all been like that for the past
20 years on a personal level, not just emceeing. I helped Kane move to
his house in Brooklyn some years ago. It goes on and on. Hip-Hop Lives,
the new album by Marley Marl and myself drops May 22. I bring that up
because that album is a part of everything thats going on. Is it a
coincidence that just as Im about to release my May 22 album with
Marley Marl producing it, on the 20th anniversary of Boogie Down
Productions, now Nike wants to come up and do this record? This gives
me free promotion. There are people out there who dont know who I am?
No doubt. These people are into Hip-Hop, that may be almost impossible,
but There are those out there who are into Hip-Hop and will tell you,
Hey, Im into Hip-Hop, but their reference point is Chingy or Lil
Wayne. I dont knock that at all.
Id rather go live in the South, which I did, where Hip-Hop is still
alive and people are walking around like its the 80s. It gets kind of
aggravating sometimes because the South can be really slow sometimes,
but on the other hand, you kind of need that slowness. Thats what
everybody is crying about. Wheres the Hip-Hop from the Golden Age? Go
to the South [laughing]. You got people who are still playing cassettes
and its 2007, dog!
AllHipHop.com: Another artist that instantly comes to mind when you
think of this project and karma is Nelly. Its kind of ironic that you
two had a battle and he did the Air Force Ones song, yet Nike chose
you for this campaign.
KRS-One: It was me, Clark Kent and Kid Capri and I pulled Clark Kent to
the side and asked him, Why me and not Nelly? Nelly did a full song
called Air Force Ones. Nike has a variety of shoes, and Nelly did a
million dollar video and advertised the Air Force One. You know what
Nike said? Nike was like, So. I felt bad, I felt guilty, like, Wow.
You did a whole song, promoted their sneaker for a year and that
sneaker is part of your musical catalogue. You have to sing about that
sneaker for the rest of your life and Nike said, So. Hes not special
to us right now. Hes not important.
This is the biggest I mean, Nelly is Nelly. Im not dissing him at all
because we squashed our little thing. Big up to Nelly, and I hope he
has success for the rest of his career. Im not saying that out of
sarcasm, but I seriously mean it. I hope he goes on. But, when I look
at this You did the Air Force Ones song, video and everything. And
now with the Air Force One 25th anniversary and everything Nike doesnt
even consider you.
AllHipHop.com: One of the quotes that came out during your battle with
Nelly was that you thought there wasnt an equal platform anymore
because people in Corporate America, radio, etc. didnt recognize your
contributions to Hip-Hop.
KRS-One: Ill tell you this. Hip-Hop heard it. Im experiencing a
breath of fresh air right now. Ive been doing my thing on the
so-called underground since 1997. I make a very good life and I dont
complain. I stay away from radio, television and all that s**t because
I think its the devil. But, I cannot deny the truth. KRS actually
Rakim, X-Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers, The Coup, Public Enemy all of
us are experiencing a rebirth.
Something came out in The New York Times.
One of the biggest Brazilian Hip-Hop artists in the world [Guiné Silva]
is doing a Hip-Hop workshop. The person was quoted as saying, We dont
want Puff Daddy, we want someone like Public Enemy. This all speaks to
that breath of fresh air coming up. Our children are growing up and our
movement was successful. They did get it.