KRS-One is hip-hop royalty from the place where it all started, the Bronx. He came on to the scene as part of hip-hop group Boogie Down Productions which he started with DJ Scott La Rock in the mid-80s but he is better known for his solo hits Sound of da Police, MCs Act Like They Don’t Know and A Friend.
Priding himself off both conscious and gangsta rap, KRS is one of the biggest voices in hip-hop (literally and metaphorically). He is referred to by other rappers to have written the most rhymes of any rapper of all time and is known for his political activism, having started the Stop the Violence Movement after the death of his close friend Scott La Rock, and it all started in the Bronx for KRS.
“Although I was born in Brooklyn, New York, my Hip Hop birth begins in 1973 at 1600 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx which is the building just across from 1520 Sedgwick Avenue where Kool DJ Herc started focusing his mix on playing the musical breaks of certain songs like ‘Apache’ and ‘Funky Drummer’,” KRS says.
“I was about 8 years of age when all this began. Later I would move back to Brooklyn around 1975 and then I left home around 1981 to wander the streets of New York pursuing God, philosophy, and Hip Hop. Around 1985 I met DJ Scott La Rock at a homeless shelter in the Bronx and we formed the Rap group Boogie Down Productions which released the song South Bronx – and the rest is history.”
The importance of hip-hop to KRS’ life is undeniable and it goes much further than just music for him and he like to distinguish between hip-hop and rap:
“Hip Hop is the culture that Rap music comes from. Rap is something we do, while Hip Hop is something we live. Hip Hop causes Rap to occur.”
His influence on the culture has been widespread. It started with the production on his 1987 album Criminal Minded and on Return of the Boom Bap in 1993.
“I created much of the sounds and music styles of today’s Rap produces. Most people don’t know this, or they choose to ignore this, but factually speaking, much of today’s Rap music production styles are influenced or directly taken from MY WORK in the 1980s and 1990s; a style of Rap music production I called ‘Boom Bap’…
If you listen to the heavy bass sounds of today’s ‘Trap’ music, ‘Dance’ music and ‘Rap’ music all of these can be traced back to a song I did called “Love’s Gonna Getcha” produced by Pal Joey. This was the first time the 808 kick drum sound was ever used in such a way.”
And if you’re wondering who his favourite artists is? “I’m not sayin’ I’m number one, oh sorry I lied, I’m number one, two, three, four and five!”
Although he does claim to take influence from the likes of Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Busta Rhymes and Method Man.
Hip-Hop has changed a lot since the 90s and many of the originals have taken a disliking to the modern evolution of rap but KRS is not one of those, saying, “Hip-hop is great at this present moment!”
Although he does see the dark side of the genre, “some have no real loyalty to the culture or to the culture’s founders. This is because most people are only out to use Hip Hop for all that they can get from it.”
“These are the people that we must rid our culture of. If you are truly a citizen of the Hip Hop civilization, then be loyal to that.
“Peace, love, unity and joy must lead your every action and thought regarding Hip Hop.
“Corporations and government agencies of all sorts are actively trying to exploit ‘hip-hop’ and discredit Hip Hop’s leadership and legacy, and only the ignorant and the immature fall for these kinds of attacks; but not the wise.”
KRS thanks God for his career, “Hungry, thirsty, cold and afraid I would find my spot under this band-shell, and using the broken-down and corroded environment that it was at the time, I would visualize myself performing for thousands of people.”
“I begged God to make this reality for me, and if he did I would know for sure that God was indeed real. Some 20-something years later in 2007 I found myself in Brooklyn performing at this same band-shell which was now re-done, renovated and beautiful!”
Although when comparing performing in the USA compared to the UK, there’s only one he prefers.
“There’s no comparison. Hip-hop is much more appreciated in the UK and throughout Europe than it is in the United States, especially my style of emceeing. The “conscious” rapper can actually live in peace, raise a family, and get money as well as respect in the U.K. and Europe.”
There’s no denying KRS’ legacy and was a pleasure to see him live when he came to sheffield.
KRS signs out saying, “Hip-hop forever!”