KRS-One: Lil Wayne Cries. The Greatest. The Gospel. (3/4)

Welcome back to third segment of AllHipHop’s exclusive four-part interview with KRS-One. In Part One, the Teacha discusses the uniqueness of hip-hop with Clayton Perry, followed by a introspective examination on the philosophical influences of Edgar Cayce, Minister Louis Farrakhan, and Bishop Clarence McClendon in Part Two. Continue below, in order to find out how KRS feels about Lil’ Wayne and the current music landscape. On page 10 of [the Gospel of Hip Hop], you write: “…many have forgotten the love of GOD. Desperate and impoverished and suddenly propelled to the top of the World’s social circles, they marvel at the effects of their own artistic skills caring little for the cause of such skills; they just want to eat.” What’s your take on this current state of rap music and rappers that proclaim themselves to be “the best rapper alive”? Do you think their comments are misguided?

KRS-One: You’re so right in this way, but let me just tell you how I deal with it in this sense. There is good in all of this. Let me criticize, first. First, the statement that you read in the Gospel, that was said with the spirit of not so much a judgment, but an observation as to the state of hip hop right now. These dudes don’t know where their food comes from. And it’s really for them to read this themselves. This message will get to them in some way, shape or form, that you don’t know how to do what you are doing, so you’re doing of it is temporary. And this is what the Gospel of Hip Hop lays out — it’s actually saving their lives and their necks as well, because deep down inside, if you really want to get money, and you say, “I really want to get this cash.” If you really want to get this cash, you can’t act like the way a lot of these dudes act. It’s impossible in real life. You can’t do it. So, to be on a TV or radio or Internet, and you say, “I’m the best rapper alive. I’m the greatest alive,” they don’t realize that you’re bringing that onto yourself. We already learned that if you say you’re criminal-minded, that you are going to attract criminal-minded activities to you. We learned the hard way that lesson. Bad Boy learned the lesson. Look at Ready to Die. If you’re going to put a record out that says you’re ready to die, well come on, man, this is what it is. So at the end of the day, these guys are going to probably have to learn the same lesson again, and the lesson is, “I’m the greatest. I’m the best. I’m the this.” Well the greatest and the best is also socially responsible. I do believe that. It’s just that a lot of these guys are young, and it is right to say you are the best. OK.

KRS-One: But here’s my second part to this. It is right to say you are the best. In hip hop, you’ve got to say that. That’s how you’ve got to come off, otherwise you’re a punk, and you have no right to rap at all. You have to step up, “I’m the best.” But then you find yourself in a club with KRS one night. It’s industry night. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s somewhere where real dudes are in getting it in. And you may have the hottest record on radio, or on the Internet, you may be selling millions of CDs, but I tell you the truth. I’ve been around since ’77, but professionally twenty-three years since Criminal Minded [repped] South Bronx. In those twenty years, I’ve seen dudes with platinum s**t, crazy, all over the place. That means nothing when you step before the people.

Now, if you say, “I’m the best,” then be the best. That means you say it, that’s why I’m on my way, that’s why I’m on my way to be the best. But then with hip hop, see, hip hop tests you. Now that don’t mean you in the club and say, “I’m the best,” but then you never in the club. Or you say, “I’m the best,” but you never really where dudes are spittin'. And I be where cats be spittin’ that. I be in the battles. I be at the Lion’s Den up in Harlem. What I’m pointing out is that these guys have the right to say whatever they want in their fantasyland. In a poetic sense, they have the right to say whatever they want. Freedom of speech. We live in a free country. However, at some point you’re going to meet Supernatural in the club. And you’re going to be embarrassed. I’m not fronting. You’re going to be embarrassed, and it happens over and over. I can only imagine! [laughing]

KRS-One: I can’t tell you the list that I’ve embarrassed. I wasn’t even trying to, because I’m not that type to try and show somebody up. I come in humble, but I’m going to do me. I come in there, I’m doing me, and these cats can’t even take it. Platinum dudes, they won’t want to go on after KRS. They don’t want me in the building. They don’t call me for tours. None of that. You know, I was the host of Rock the Bells. Cats was getting it in. In, in, in. We was getting it in. I bought some Hulk gloves and went to work. Crazy. But you don’t think they see that? These kids see that, too, these rappers that are claiming to be the best at this and the best of that. They know, really, what it is, and they have to say that really.

Let me say this. I do have an aura of elitism, that I am the best. But I would never irresponsibly run around yelling – “I’m the best!” – the way we’re hearing it come across. “You’ve done nothing. You’ve only been on the scene two years, if that. You have one record, and you’re claiming king,” and all of this. No doubt, that’s poor. But what it also says, though, is it’s ignorant. If you can get past the criticism real quick – because it’s wack – when people do that: you claiming the best but you’re not. You claim mastery, but you’re not a master. You haven’t mastered your craft, yet. Slow down. But that’s the problem with the young’n’. See the young’n’ always has that problem. I had that problem, too. But I had to learn to control my arrogance. As the old saying goes: “Heavy is the head that wears the crown!”

KRS-One: Definitely. I feel for Kanye. I feel for Drake. I feel for these guys who do have to wear their career on their shoulder, on their chest, to make everybody know they’re the best, because it’s brutal out there. It really is. When I was coming up, I had Melle Mel on my back. I mean, imagine that s**t. I mean, I would not be who I was if it wasn’t for Melle Mel. Let’s just start right there. That it’s. Melle Mel. That’s me, KRS-One, straight up and down. And here now, I’ve got to actually stomach the fact that this dude wants to battle me, live at the Latin Quarter, because I am saying: “I’m taking all comers. I’m from the Bronx. And I’m starting with Bronx MCs.” So Melle Mel took offense, and was like, “No, you ain’t the best around here. Melle Mel is.” And I said, “Oh, no. You’re finished.” And the battle, it went on. And I came out victorious, and a lot of people saw it. And that’s what it was. But that don’t mean you run around, still saying you’re the best. To this day, I still give Melle Mel reverence, saying to you what Marley Marl, the late Mr. Magic, everybody that I battled in that sense. But you’ve got to have some sportsmanship about yourself. And that’s what a lot of people are not really exercising – is the sportsmanship to the whole thing. If you are the best, then you are just the best. That’s it. You don’t yell it. You don’t say it. You don’t have to say it. Your skill is going to show the world who the best is. Well, humility is a trait that is often hard to come by! [laughing]

KRS-One: True! [laughing] But it is good to be in a community where all the artists think they’re the best. That’s a good thing. It’s a brutal thing, because there can only really be one. So there is a process of elimination, no doubt. But hip hop is vast enough where if you ain’t talkin’ that s**t, then ain’t nobody coming at you like that. But if you want to step into the arena, and how you step into the arena is by saying “I’m the best over all of you.” “Oh, well now let’s put that to the test. Let’s see if that’s really what it is.” And I’m that dude. I’m that dude right there who walks around with no other purpose than to put that claim to the test. Sometimes it’s not even my words. It’s just my presence.

When I walk in a building, or walk into a party — I be at these industry parties when I get a chance. And I see how people move. I see how the room moves around, like, “Oh, s**t, KRS is here.” And I’m like, “Yeah, KRS is here, what? You thought it was going to be fake all night?” You know how many cats say that and can’t look me in the eye. And on the flip side. I’ll tell you a real story about Wayne. Real Wayne. I like his style. I think Wayne is bussin’ off at you as an MC. I haven’t seen his show, so I’m reluctant to call him an MC. Why is that?

KRS-One: I mean, I’ve seen his show, and he was just getting money. I haven’t really seen him in his element, like going in, hungry and off-stage, to call him an MC-MC. But I like his metaphors. I like how he puts his words together, for the style in which he’s coming with. Now he claims the best, too. Oh, yes, Wayne definitely thinks he is the best rapper alive or dead! [laughing]

KRS-One: I remember the BET Hip Hop Awards, when I was there to get my Lifetime Achievement Award. Right in the wings, Wayne was like, “Yo. The Teacha.” And I’m like, “Yo, don’t even start.” So I give him a pound, and I say, “Let me tell you something. You are the number one MC today.” He said, “Yo, don’t f**k with me, Kris. Don’t say that s**t, man. Don’t f**k with me.” Coming from you? Don’t fuck with me.” Everybody was staring around – like a hundred people. And he’s like, “Don’t f**k with me, man.” I told him: “Stay focused. Don’t get distracted. Don’t get with that bulls**t. You are the number one MC. Stay focused. Take hip hop with you.” Everybody clapped. The s**t was ridiculous. He broke down into tears. It was ridiculous.

Somebody got it on film, somewhere. Cameras were all over the place. I was just telling him, “You the number one. You the number one.” But the point is: he took that s**t seriously. And I said it seriously and he took it like, “Wow. KRS-One validated my whole s**t right now. Oh, s**t.” And he was waiting for that. He was looking for that. He could always pop that yang, he could always say, “Yeah, I’m the best, and I’m selling . . .” But there’s a part in his soul that wants Africa Bambaataa to come by and shake his hand. There’s a part of his soul that wants to be accepted by Chuck D or have a KRS come over. All them dudes from 50 on down — everybody — and I’m saying it because I’m living it — this ain’t gossip. I’m living these things. These dudes are coming to me with real questions about their lives: this, that and the other. I probably need a reality show. I need to stop bulls**tting and go get a reality show so that people can really see. Why don’t you give Viacom a call?!? [laughing]

KRS-One: Man, I should! [laughing] I’ll just be walking down the street and run into somebody — an artist, an executive, somebody you knew or something like that, and they be like, “Yo, let me tell you, man. It’s like this. It’s like that.” It’s not always tad and bad news. A lot of times cats be like, “Yo, I just got blessed crazy. I’m on my way here, here and here.” It’s not always death and destruction in hip hop. It’s not always, “Yo, ni**a, what’s up? We beefin’.” Hip hop got a lot of love in it. Cats are exchanging information, resources. People are getting together.

I just got a new album from Masta Ace and Ed O.G, and that s**t is kind of hot. I also say it because I’m on it! [laughing] But Masta Ace slid off. I did some eight bar thing for him some months ago, and he gave it to me. He said, “Look. It’s finished. Here listen to it. Tell me what you think.” So I listen to the whole album. The whole album was good. I was like: “Damn, listen to Ace. Listen to Ed O.G, man.” These cats, they doing it, and you can only do it for love, now. You can get a little money, no doubt. There’s still money out there to get. But not no more selling no CD. You’ll get a little something. But really, if you ain’t doing it really for the love of it right now, you not really doing it. You can’t really do it. And it’s funny how the universe works that out. The cats that did it for the money, now, can’t do hip hop, because there’s no money in rap music. Well, I guess you can say that Mother Nature ran her course and let all of the genuine MCs persevere! [laughing]

KRS-One: True! [laughing] But the money in rap music is getting smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller, and everybody’s running to movies and fashion lines and restaurants and whatever other entrepreneurial thing they could come up with, but nobody’s really thinking about hip hop. See, the Gospel talks about that, too, about how we drove the car far and now we need to gas up again. And everybody’s just saying, “Up. We’re here. Let’s get out of the car, and leave the car because we’re here now. We drove the car. We have corporations. We’re in everything, now. Hip hop is everything.” So that’s it, now fuck hip hop. It just fades away. No! Not on KRS on watch. So this is where the Gospel comes to us because we’re saying, “No. More than ever now, let’s decide who is hip hop and who really isn’t.”

And not me saying, “This is hip hop and this isn’t.” But you will say to yourself, “I love this culture. I ain't part of this bulls**t.” And f**k, with your own mouth, you say, “Boom. I’m not down.” But if you are down, with your own mouth, you don’t say, “Yo, I am hip hop. This is me. I’m this. I feel this. This is what I’m about. This is what I’m going to eat off of. This is how I’m going to define myself.” And that’s what we’re really putting forward. I think it’s a brilliant time, really, for it. It’s a brilliant time to do it. It’s the right time to do it. Do you realize that the Gospel of Hip Hop, even though I stay away from the term religion, is really defining culture? Your culture is your religion, and your religion is your culture, in that sense. What you live daily is your religion, is your culture. I live hip hop daily, and millions of other people do, too. So it can be called our religion.