A crowd exciter, a visionary writer and one of the most influential rappers for over two decades, KRS-One, took the Hip-Hop scene by storm in 1987 with partner DJ Scott La Rock and hasn’t looked back since. He’s crafted 20 albums and dropped gems on nearly innumerable guest appearances.
While he has battled fellow rappers, he has also identified problems and built solutions through song and deed. There isn’t an area of Hip-Hop that hasn’t been redefined by KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Every One). The Blast Master continues to do what he does best. In this candid sit down, the legendary rapper discusses his career, books, Barack Obama, and his vow to the music of the 90s.
AllHipHop.com: What do you think about Barack Obama being President?
KRS-One: I think hes doing a great job. I think hes doing an excellent job right now. Heres why I say hes doing an excellent job, because he inherited a huge problem from previous administrations with and just spending seven trillion dollars, they somewhere in the back room just printing money. Money is not backed by gold anymore. It aint even backed by credit anymore. They just in the back room printing that money. He ran on change. Barack said, Yo. When Im in office, things gonna change. Everybody said, Yeahhhh. Now its changing. Everybody is like, Ughhhh. We dont want it to change. Especially the Conservatives and the Republicans are having a real hard time with the change.
Now, me, I am Hip-Hop. Heres a controversial piece right here. Im not afraid of a New World Order because Hip-Hop is already global. When they have a new world order, we got ourselves a true new world order. Hip-Hop has been immune to all of that, were recession proof, were a new world order proof, FBI proof, CIA proof, counter intelligence proof, because we realize you limit yourself by calling yourself this or that. We will call ourselves Hip-Hop and we will limit ourselves to that but that is universal. I am consciousness. Im not this, this is me? This brown skin, cmon, thats not me. Im so far beyond this room right now. Right now when I speak to you, Im practicing my rhymes.
AllHipHop.com: Tell us about your origins and evolution as an emcee. What are your earliest memories with music and when did you begin rapping?
KRS-One: My earliest recollection as an emcee was when I was born.
AllHipHop.com: What drives you to make music?
KRS-One: Two things. One, my sense of spirituality. My duty to Hip-Hop and then art. Im an artist. I like art.
Hip-Hop is wonderful right now. Rap music is whats having a little trouble because so many artists base their careers on selling a CD, a record or a cassette, selling a DVD, they werent really an emcee, they were music merchants.
AllHipHop.com: What do you think about the state of Hip-Hop now?
KRS-One: Remember youre talking to the orthodox so when you say Hip-Hop Hip-Hop is wonderful right now. Rap music is whats having a little trouble because so many artists base their careers on selling a CD, a record or a cassette, selling a DVD, they werent really an emcee, they were music merchants. They entered the game like my meaning of my success is how much Ive sold and so much of rap became that. But us emcees, we dont care how much we sell. Who cares? I gotta do this when I wake up in the morning, when I go to sleep at night. Its part of the air that I breathe. Hip hop is doing fine, breaking, emceeing, DJing, graffiti writing, beatboxing, the fashion, language, knowledge, thats all doing fine. That is expanding.
AllHipHop.com: Is there anybody that you want to work with that you havent worked with yet?
KRS-One: Theres a whole bunch of people. I like to work with Gil Scott Heron, I say that because I think Im going to get a chance, I mean, I want to work with everybody. Id like to work with Bill Clinton. Hes an artist, forget the political side, drag that sax out. Lets get that sax played over a track and we get it in.
AllHipHop.com: What are your favorite books that youve read and how much has those books played a part in your lyrical execution?
KRS-One: Lyrical execution. Lets start with the battles. Lyrical murder. First of all, you have to go with The Art of War, all philosophies of Buddhism, Zen philosophy, all of that is good for defense. Now the books on the other hand, I move over to the more metaphysical stance about lyrical execution, rap murder, Ill break you down lyrically, move over to the philosopher. One thing Ive always called myself was The Teacher, the teacher also comes from that Asian culture. The teacher is the elder, where you have to respect your elders or you get youre a** kicked unlike even African American culture dont practice this. We see our elders, Oh, man get out of here, and then, our older men and women just say, You need to respect your elders, but wheres the skill? Wheres the “Ill kick your a** skill” (from the elders)? In Asian culture and Native American culture as well but I dont see it in Native American culture, I dont see it in African American culture, maybe, African culture, you may get that, maybe, but its not popular as the old Chinese master as he is sipping his tea and you come over, you want to talk that bulls**t, suddenly that cup is in your mouth. You cannot play with that.
AllHipHop.com: What are some of the musical elements outside of what most would define as Hip-Hop that have helped you build your craft?
KRS-One: Well, like I said, Bruce Lee, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, U Roy, I Roy, Yellowman, the ancient culture coming into the west Indian culture, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglas, Marcus Garvey, you got the Nation of Islam, awww man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Edwards, Stokey Carmichael, these are the ingredients in Hip-Hop. This all went into the pot, stirred it up, there are some others as well, the Crips and the Bloods, the originals, the Black Spades, the Savage Skulls, the Nomads, La Familia, essays, all that goes into the pot, stir it up. [Laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Whats your favorite album from your own collection?
KRS-One: I would say Spiritual Minded but I move over to the Sneak Attack. Obviously, Criminal Minded is right there. Each album has its own reasons for existence. So that question is hard for me to answer.
AllHipHop.com: Just one?
KRS-One: Sneak Attack.
AllHipHop.com: I love False Pride.
KRS-One: Its funny you mention False Pride. Thats Judaism. Thats a story out of the Torah. You can see where all of this is coming from. When it comes to Hip-Hop, there is no race, theres no ethnicity, theres no this is mine. Its like, I can relate to that, I can relate to that. I can relate to this, I can relate to this. If I can relate to all of this, what does that say about me? And then you go back to your own people and they dont relate to you. Which is where the whole I am Hip-Hop philosophy comes from.
AllHipHop.com: Whats the latest with the Duck Down project with Buckshot?
KRS-One: Yeah, that was dope. That was hot. I really enjoyed that one. I got a chance to explore some new styles as an emcee. I got a chance to work with Buckshot, for a long time, I used to work with them on Nervous Records, those were the days with Mad Lion, no one remembers Nervous Records anymore, its a shame but karma works just like that. So [Buckshot and I] kept running into each other over and over again, like, Yo. We gotta do a record together. This was back in 93. So we figured 16 years later, we get the opportunity. So here we are, it was like, ok, cool, lets do this. Buckshot, Black Moon, all of them, Heltah Skeltah, even Mr. Walt and Evil D, we all took a vow to preserve that 90s style Hip-Hop. The 90s style Hip-Hop is what we vow to keep no matter what happens to our career. Were going to keep those ingredients together. So its our opportunity to stay true to our vow.