“Real Hip-Hop is over!” was chanted by the veteran old-school rapper throughout his performance as he kept the fire burning for hip-hop’s 80s New York roots.
KRS-One is a legend in hip-hop history, emerging in the mid-80s through the group Boogie Down Production and was influential in the scene today with his solo career too, representing the four key elements of hip-hop. He told us “I created much of the sounds and music styles that today’s Rap produces” in a recent interview and this pride was shown on the mic.
But, with this legacy behind him, I was surprised to find him performing to less than a hundred people in a small room upstairs in the O2 Academy, Sheffield.
It did make it more intimate however, with the crowd mixed between those who grew up listening to Love’s gonna gettcha on cassette and those young enough to have only heard stories of what it was like at this time.
Even before KRS came booming on stage, the left side of the room opened up in a circle where b-boys immersed themselves in the beats as they danced off. It was a beautiful sight as you didn’t expect such talent from the Steel City and it gave me an idea of what it would have been like back in the hey-days of the Bronx.
As I watched these lads’ dazzling footwork and head spins, I thought to myself how sad it is that you don’t really see this anymore. In a way, this core aspect of hip-hop has died as the genre has evolved so it was good to see it return from its grave.
As KRS spat his bars, you knew he missed the old days of the culture emerging from New York’s rubble and still having his friend Scott La Rock on the mic next to him. Instead, keeping it in the family, now his son provides the hype whilst the absence of Scott remains a running theme throughout.
While he played the hits Sound of Da Police and Outta here, KRS dominated the performance through his freestyling; applying his memories of old-school times, blending it with the vibes of today and showing why he truly is a lyrical genius.
His performance was put a peg down though by the bad sound set up in the little room as the feedback made it hard to hear his bars and was painful on the ears. You could tell he was getting pissed off about it, stopping the gig half way through to get them to change the mics, but brought it into his own through freestyling his raps, “this is where the show really starts”.
It was an intimate performance as you appreciated the skill and raw sound of KRS’ boom bap but you also could tell he was past it in terms of where hip-hop has come today and was attempting to keep the fire alive from the decade he loved, MCing like his mind was still in 1985.
It did feel like he had been left behind and his influence forgotten about. Performing small gigs on this side of the pond and pushing merchandise like any YouTuber on their vlogs might, it feels like such a decline for a talent such himself. But, as I said for the Gods of Rap gig, the chance to see the raw origins and what hip-hop was made of in the big apple, was a pleasure for me to witness nonetheless.
Check out videos from KRS’ gig on our Instagram story: @motivehiphop