KRS-One: Teaching. The Conscious Crowd. Respect. (4/4)

On June 15, 2010, KRS-One released his 17th solo project, Back in the L.A.B. (Lyrical Ass Beating), which also happens to be his 23rd overall. The six-track EP features the production of Freddie Foxxx, DJ Kenny Parker, DJ JS1 and the Beatminerz. And according to his management, a full-length will be released this upcoming Fall!

In the final segment of AllHipHop’s exclusive four-part interview, hip-hop’s incomparable living legend reflects on the 20th Anniversary of “Self Destruction” and the obstacles he faces with the distribution of his pioneering book, The Gospel of Hip Hop. If you’re just tuning-in, then be sure to check out Parts One, Two and Three. One last thought, as we bring this interview to a close, I wanted to get some comments on “Self Destruction,” which celebrated in twentieth anniversary in 2009. When you look back on its creation and evolution in the public imagination, what is your lasting impression of that song?

KRS-One: Oh, man, it’s funny you mention that. Jesse West is working on a mix and I came up with a song called “Self Construction,” which celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the Stop the Violence Movement. We did “Self Destruction,” the record you’re referring to, in 1989. And 2009 marks twenty years, so we we’re going to come out with a brand new song. It’s excellent, by the way. We have two versions of it, one called “Self Construction” and one called “Self Respect.” But the movement still exists. And it’s funny, what I learned when I first started with the Stop the Violence Movement in ’89, I thought that it was supposed to be a national movement where everybody was gathered in peace and in support of a stop the violence movement. Over twenty years I’ve learned now that that’s a fantasy. That’s not going to happen. Adults like violence, simple and plain. They like it, they want it, they need it. And we’re not giving it up so quickly. Plus, violence is natural. It’s a necessary part of nature. Nature is very violent, or it least appears that way to us, in that sense. Nature will burn down her own forests just to create a new one. Pregnancy and birth is violent. Self-defense, even, can be violent.

Having realized this, I realized that this movement cannot rely upon people. It cannot rest upon the trust of people. People are fickle. One minute they’re in, one minute they’re out. Most of the people on the record were there—they were there for their hearts, no doubt, but they did expect KRS to go ahead and lead the movement. And KRS never intended that or intended for that, so it kind of just waned. And one thing I’ll say is that I learned over twenty years the difference between being an artist and being an activist, and they are two different things. The people who shout positivity on records, they’ve got the red, black and green going, the dreadlocks, their women have the head-wrap with the long skirt and the backpack and it’s all black and we’re doing it and it’s all thug. And what I learned is really, honestly, I get more support from thugs, pimps, hoes, hustlers before I get the support of the so-called conscious, hip hop community or conscious urban community, neo-soul, whatever it’s called.

They’re afraid of what KRS is about or just plain critical of it, in that sense. But nonetheless, I don’t have an opinion either way. The job of the teacher is to teach. So it’s a shame. I mean, I hope that the so-called conscious hip hop community — and let me be specific — hip hop’s so-called conscious artists, I hope they read the Gospel of Hip Hop and at least glean some understanding from it, or hip hop from this perspective, and it helps them. But to be honest with you, based on the experiences that I’ve been having, it’s going to be the thugs that’s going to get this book first and start acting on it. And in a way, that’s probably how it should go down. But it will be a shame if we repeat again the same nonsense we do every time a philosopher, a prophet, a leader — any time that dude steps up to say, “Yo, we got a new way out of the ghetto. We’ve got a new way off the plantation.” It’s always those who think that somehow they’re going to be threatened or shown up, it always become a Cain and Abel kind of thing. “Why did God bless him and not me?” Have you thought about distributing the book to schools or jail ministries?

KRS-One: Yes, as a matter of fact, it’s difficult because the United States doesn’t allow spiritual materials to be taught in public schools. I’ve got to be really careful with where I teach this at, because of the separation of church and state. And I had this conversation with a teacher just the other day at a book signing, just about this very issue. How can you teach the Gospel of Hip Hop in a public school? You can’t. What we have to do is create a textbook from the tenants or principles of the Gospel of Hip Hop.

If you even want to teach the principles of the Gospel at all, keep this in mind: the principles of the Gospel of Hip Hop is just the truth. This truth can be taught, really, through any medium, as long as it’s hip hop. You can teach this through anything. If you were an architect, if you were into medicine, law, anything. The idea that we teach in the Gospel of Hip Hop is self-creation, that hip hop gives us the ability to self-create, and we go through a few of the techniques of that self-creation. That could be taught in any medium, really. There’s nothing unique about that. What’s unique is to apply hip hop logic to the logic of self-creation. A new kind of creative visualization. A new kind of way to notice God, in that sense.

For more information on KRS-One, visit his official website: