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 90’s.
AllHipHop.com: What do you think about Barack Obama being President?
KRS-One: I think he’s doing a great job. I think he’s doing an excellent job right now. Here’s why I say he’s 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 ain’t even backed by credit anymore. They just in the back room printing that money. He ran on change. Barack said, “Yo. When I’m in office, thing’s gonna change.” Everybody said, “Yeahhhh.” Now it’s changing. Everybody is like, “Ughhhh. We don’t 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. Here’s a controversial piece right here. I’m 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, we’re recession proof, we’re 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. I’m not this, this is me? This brown skin, c’mon, that’s not me. I’m so far beyond this room right now. Right now when I speak to you, I’m 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. I’m an artist. I like art.
Hip-Hop is wonderful right now. Rap music is what’s having a little trouble because so many artists base their careers on selling a CD, a record or a cassette, selling a DVD, they weren’t really an emcee, they were music merchants.
AllHipHop.com: What do you think about the state of Hip-Hop now?
KRS-One: Remember you’re talking to the orthodox so when you say Hip-Hop… Hip-Hop is wonderful right now. Rap music is what’s having a little trouble because so many artists base their careers on selling a CD, a record or a cassette, selling a DVD, they weren’t really an emcee, they were music merchants. They entered the game like my meaning of my success is how much I’ve sold and so much of rap became that. But us emcees, we don’t 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. It’s part of the air that I breathe. Hip hop is doing fine, breaking, emceeing, DJing, graffiti writing, beatboxing, the fashion, language, knowledge, that’s all doing fine. That is expanding.
AllHipHop.com: Is there anybody that you want to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
KRS-One: There’s a whole bunch of people. I like to work with Gil Scott Heron, I say that because I think I’m going to get a chance, I mean, I want to work with everybody. I’d like to work with Bill Clinton. He’s an artist, forget the political side, drag that sax out. Let’s get that sax played over a track and we get it in.
AllHipHop.com: What are your favorite books that you’ve read and how much has those books played a part in your lyrical execution?
KRS-One: Lyrical execution. Let’s 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, I’ll break you down lyrically, move over to the philosopher. One thing I’ve 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 you’re a** kicked unlike even African American culture don’t 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 where’s the skill? Where’s the “I’ll kick your a** skill” (from the elders)? In Asian culture and Native American culture as well but I don’t see it in Native American culture, I don’t see it in African American culture, maybe, African culture, you may get that, maybe, but it’s 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 Crip’s 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: What’s 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 it’s 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: It’s funny you mention False Pride. That’s Judaism. That’s 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, there’s no ethnicity, there’s no “this is mine.” It’s 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 don’t relate to you. Which is where the whole “I am Hip-Hop” philosophy comes from.
AllHipHop.com: What’s 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, it’s 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, let’s do this. Buckshot, Black Moon, all of them, Heltah Skeltah, even Mr. Walt and Evil D, we all took a vow to preserve that 90’s style Hip-Hop. The 90’s style Hip-Hop is what we vow to keep no matter what happens to our career. We’re going to keep those ingredients together. So it’s our opportunity to stay true to our vow.