We all know about KRS-One: The master, the teacher, the poet, the philosopher, the B-boy. But to what degree do we appreciate Kris? While he’s never been short on his zeal, Kris doesn’t ask much in return. How active are most MC’s approaching their twentieth year of making records? In KRS’ own words, “Why is that?”
KRS is doing a lot more than making records these days though (though he still has dropped at least one a year for five years). KRS wrote yet another book. He’s overwriting a plan to make Hip-Hop into a union: spiritually and in terms of labor benefits and pensions. But like the old owl, KRS is always watching. He has very specific goals and visions, and he knows who is with him and against him.
Speaking with KRS-One is a lot like being in a cypher. Throw away the outline, and see where the words take you. When caught in the cypher, a lot of people get pigeon-holed and run out of rhymes. In his third decades, KRS can’t be muted, he’s still WORD PERFECT.
AllHipHop: Not many books written by Hip-Hop artists sound as fulfilling to the reader as your book, “Ruminations.” Tell me more about the project, and how it differs from your previous literary work.
KRS-One: It’s called “Ruminations.” Because, to ruminate means to turn an idea over and over again in your head, to look at something from a variety of perspectives. I called it Ruminations because the book does not focus on one particular idea, the book focuses on a variety of hot topics that are being discussed on college campuses and amongst people, and so on. Some of [the topics are] spirituality, politics, voting – there’s a chapter called “rocking the vote”, there’s a chapter called urban inspirational metaphysics – which talks about metaphysics in the inner-city as opposed to the suburbs or the rain forest somewhere. There is what’s called, “right supremacy” which is a play on the term, “white supremacy”, but it’s about reparations to African Americans, I take the argument out of whether we are owed something, I took it to the level, “what does it mean to be civilized?” Are African Americans civilized [according] to the true definition of the term civilized. Are we civilized in the sense of asking for reparations, trying to obtain reparations, to ask another government for reparations? Where’s our government? Where’s our constitution? Where’s our leadership in the sense that we’ve been reperated. But then it also goes over to United States government and law and the fact that if we are citizens, then why is our grievances being ignored? An inquiry is not even being done [relating to] reparations. How civilized is the American society when it feels that slavery as a question, a race question, can be left out there with no real answer? So it talks about that for a little bit, from both perspectives, and the theme being civilization.
Then of course, there’s a state of Hip-Hop, where we talk about Hip-Hop and poverty – and how the recording contracts basically keep us in a state of poverty – no matter how rich or popular we get. I also added “The Science of Rap” in the same book that was originally printed in ’95 and has become sort of a collector’s item, that’s become out of print. I printed an updated version of that book, not the entire, but the meat of it, some fifty pages of that book, in the back of Ruminations. Tavis Smiley did the forward for the book, and Dr. Cornel West introduces the CD which accompanies the book. The CD [is of] my lectures. [Dr. West] did one of my lectures with me – him talking about Hip-Hop. That’s really the book. It’s out right now, it’s in stores. People have been having a good time with it so far.
AllHipHop: What have we to look forward to in this May’s Hip-Hop Appreciation Week?
KRS-One: I think it’s the sixteenth to the twenty-third [this year]. The theme this year is faith. Actually, that’s it. We’re all gearing up for that. The Temple of Hip-Hop has its own meeting this week about the agenda for 2004 is. One of which, we’re very happy about is we’ve completed The Gospel of Hip-Hop. This was a lot of members of the Temple of Hip-Hop that wrote this book that I kinda oversaw and edited in some ways. But about eight people got down on this book. It took us about six-seven years to write it. It’s finally coming to a finishing point. We’re really happy about that. This book actually accompanies the Hip-Hop lifestyle. If you really want to live Hip-Hop and raise a family by Hip-Hop, master the elements, know the true meaning of the consciousness of Hip-Hop, this book is for you. This is the ultimate Hip-Hop manual. In addition to that, we’re gonna start distributing that right around Hip-Hop Appreciation Week. May, we’ll start distributing it to Temple members only.
AllHipHop: Right now that book isn’t available to the general public though?
KRS-One: Eventually, it’ll be public. But in about three or four years. Just the Temple members themselves will be able to have the book. Mainly, because the information that is in the book – the Hip-Hop community is not yet ready for it. I say that respectfully. We have a seven year plan (ending 2010), to educate the Hip-Hop community on knowledge of itself. The plan has been very subtle. I can reveal portions of the plan now and you’ll see it.
– In 1994, we had a “Meeting of the Minds” with Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Herc, Crazy Legs, Grand Wizard Theodore, a whole bunch of other people was also there. We realized that Hip-Hop needs to have a book that outlined what we wanted our children to know in the future of Hip-Hop. We also came to a few other conclusions as how to guide Hip-Hop for the next ten or twenty years. In that conversation, my team was sent out to get the book done and put together and get interviews and tape all the summits. That was from my involvement with the Stop the Violence movement. In addition to that, the lesson plan, we came out with the statement that “Rap is Something You Do. Hip-Hop is Something You Live.” And a lot of people were like, “What the Hell is KRS talking about?” I came out with the statement, “I Am Hip-Hop.”
AllHipHop: We’ve all got the shirts.
KRS-One: Yes indeed! And a lot of people caught offense to that: “What do you mean you are Hip-Hop?” Obviously, that was not my point of view – that I alone, am Hip-Hop and no one isn’t. The point was that I declared that I am not just doing this art-form, representing Hip-Hop like it’s over there somewhere – distant from myself, I Am Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop is my being! Hip-Hop doesn’t happen until I do it. And that goes for others.
– The second lesson is the United Nations’ Hip-Hop Declaration of Peace, from when we went to United Nations in 2001 and declared Hip-Hop an International Culture by presenting the HHDOP to the UN Press Secretary. We are promoting that now, to Hip-Hoppers. There’s eighteen principles written by Afrika Bambaataa, Ralph McDaniels, Russell Simmons, Ernie Panicolli, Popmaster Fables, the list goes on and on. The document is finished, and we’re printing it and getting it out.
– The final step is [the book]. At that point, the Temple has succeeded in its plan to preserve Hip-Hop, which is really its plan to preserve to Hip-Hopper. As long as Hip-Hoppers are healthy, aware, wealthy, Hip-Hop will be healthy, aware, wealthy. We are the expression that we’re eating off of. So the idea is to see to it is that Hip-Hoppers themselves are free and prosperous and is at peace, and then Hip-Hop itself will reflect such a consciousness.