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KRS-One 1965–

KRS-One 1965

Rap musician

At a Glance

Selected discography

Sources

As one of hip-hops pioneers, KRS-One has reached audiences from around the world with his beats and incredible rhymes that vividly detailed life in the ghetto. At the same time, he also sought to raise the consciousness of all who would listen. KRS-Ones days as a member of Boogie Down Productions have helped to establish him as an innovator who still continues to deliver to his fans.

In these cynical times, wrote Rolling Stones Alan Light in 1991, KRS-One is an inspiring example of the role pop music can play in social discourse. A self-described teacher whose Boogie Down Productions (BDP) has been an important influence on hardcore rap, KRS-One has survived street life, prison, home-lessness, the murder of a close friend, and negative criticism to emerge as one of raps most powerful figures. While many of his contemporaries have confined their raps to boasting and glorifying gunplay, KRS-One, Boogie Down Productions MC, has always considered his time on the mike as an opportunity to enlighten his listeners both politically and socially. His booming voice and skillful rhyming have helped him achieve huge sales, and he has used his earnings to influence and finance projects that stress dignity, self-worth, the acquisition of knowledge, and otherwise advance his humanistic views.

The advent of Boogie Down Productions in the late 1980s has been responsible, in part, for giving rap music visibility as a viable teaching medium and for pioneering the hardcore sound that is characterized by graphic depictions of the downside of life on the streets. The success of BDPs first record fueled a string of smash releases, guest appearances by KRS-One on other musicians albums, and an editorial by the rapper in the New York Times. Despite conflicts with some other rap groups over credibilitynotably a skirmish with P.M. Dawnand a move towards more politically oriented lyrics, KRS-One triumphed again in with a successful return to the hardcore rhymes and heavy beats of his early days.

KRS-One was born on August 20, 1965 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jacqueline Jones, a real estate secretary, and Sheffield Brown, a Trinidadian handyman who according to People was deported the year of Kriss birth. Though given the name Lawrence at birth, the childs name was changed to Kris, a shortened version of Krishna. In 1970 Jacqueline remarried, and Kris and his brother Kenny received her husbands last

At a Glance

Born Lawrence Parker c. 1965, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Jacqueline Jones (a real estate secretary) and Sheffield Brown (a handyman); married Ramona Scott (rap name, Ms. Melodie), 1987 (divorced).

Career: Recording and performing rap artist; formed Boogie Down Productions (BDP) with DJ Scott LaRock (born Scott Sterling; died in 1987), c. 1985; performed in New York City area and released Criminal Minded on B Boy Records, 1986; signed with Jive/MCA, 1988; founder of Edutaîner Records and H.E.A.L. (Human Education Against Lies), 1990; lecturer; producer; Reprise, vice president of A&R, 1998-00; established the Temple of Hip-Hop.

Addresses: Organization H.E.A.L., P.O. Box 1179, Murray Hill Station, New York, NY 10136.

name, Parker. Mr. Parkera United Nations bodyguardwas given to violence, however, and Jacqueline and the boys fled in 1972. The family later welcomed a sister to the fold.

Kris remains in constant contact, with his mother, according to The Source, and he described her to People s Steve Dougherty as an education fanatic, though he admits he was interested only in rap music from a young age. Indeed, his brother Kenny recalled to Jon Schechter of The Source that when he and Kris were 12 and 13 years old respectivelyand dirt poorthey imagined what theyd do with a thousand dollars. Kris was like, Id make a record. I was like, Are you out of your mind? We have nothing! I thought he was crazy. But now it looks like I was crazy, actually.

Kris matured early; six-foot-two by the time he was in ninth grade at New York Citys Grady High School, Kris admitted to The Source that he was vicious in school. At age 13 he left home. No one told me leave, and I wasnt going to back whining, he recalled to Dougherty. I was going to stick it out until I got what I wanted. He lived on the streets and in homeless shelters, taking odd jobs, hanging out, and reading in public libraries. Independent reading formed the basis of his doctrine of self-education. In the meantime he was living hand to mouth; he served some jail time at age 19 for selling marijuana.

After his release, while staying at the Bronxs Franklin Armory Shelter, Kris met Scott Sterling, a 22-year-old social worker and part-time DJ. Kris had been writing poems and raps for some timeI beat out my songs on the bathroom wall, he remarked in People. He and Sterling formed a powerful bond. Sterling, who worked under the DJ name Scott LaRock, exercised a tremendous influence on Kris. The two began working together, along with Levi 167 and MC Quality, first calling the group, Scott La Rock and the Celebrity Three. In 1984 they recorded a single, Advance, a song about nuclear war prevention. A short time later, the group disbanded but Kris and Rock stayed together renaming themselves The Boogie Down Crew in honor of the Boogie Down Bronx.

Rock was asked to help a record coompany with the release of a single. Though he and KRS-One helped, they received no credit or payment. The two realized the importance of being producers and changed the groups name again: Boogie Down Productions. Their first release was Criminal Minded. Their trailblazing, hardcore album detailed street life and violence. It came out on B Boy Records in 1986 and sold impressively, attracting the attention of several major labels.

Kriss nickname, KRS-One, which had begun as graffiti he sprayed in his neighborhood and initially meant Kris, Number One, became the acronym for Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone, as he explained in the track Elementary on Criminal Minded. The album also featured hardcore jams like 9 mm Goes Bang and South Bronx. The twosome eventually signed on with Jive/RCA Records and was at work on a second album when Scott was killed while trying to break up a fight. Devastated, Kris nonetheless decided to keep BDP alive: If I was to quit, Scott would really be dead, he explained to Dougherty.

Unfortunately, Jive/RCA wanted to drop the deal after Scotts death; only extensive effort from Kris kept BDP signed. In 1988 Kris had a new deal with Jive and released his second record, By All Means Necessary. Dougherty noted that the album uses the bold rhythms and raw rhymes of rap and hip-hop to call for social justice. Featuring raps that would become trademarks for Kris, most notably My Philosophy, the album was another hit, combining the intellectual probing of Kriss lyrics with relentless beats and a militant stanceon the cover Kris emulated a famous picture of Malcolm X at a window holding a gun. The record also contained the landmark track Stop the Violence, one of the earliest rap songs to address black-on-black killing. In My Philosophy, KRS-One announced, Rap is like a set-up/A lotta games/A lotta suckers with colorful names. Unlike the suckers, this MC promised to focus upon the reality of the intelligent brown man while espousing vegetarianism, community activism, what we call hiphop/And what it meant to DJ Scott LaRock.

The death of a young fan resulting from a fight during a 1988 BDP show with fellow rappers Public Enemy in Long Island, New York, led to widespread calls for censorship of rap and resulted in far fewer rap concerts around New York City. To repair some of the damage, Kris and several other rap heavyweights got together to form the Stop the Violence movement, recording a single called Self-Destruction. The success of this record helped raise half a million dollars for the National Urban League, an organization dedicated to broadening opportunities for minorities and solving community problems of low literacy rates and substandard education. KRS-One, however, would later wonder, in an interview with Rap Pages, what had been done with the money.

In 1989 Kris took a new approach to BDPs sound, crafting a spare, intensely politicized album called Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop. The BDP crew now consisted of Kriss wife, Ms. Melodie, born Ramona Scott, whom Kris had married in 1987; D-Nice; Scottie Morris; Harmony, Ms. Melodies sister; and eight others. KRS-Ones goal, as quoted in Lights Rolling Stone profile, was making intelligence the fad. Ghetto Music included raps like Why is That?, Kriss lecture on black history traced through the Bible, and Jack of Spades, the theme from the Blaxploitation parody film Im Gonna Git You Sucka. David Fricke of Rolling Stone praised both the album and its creator: KRS-One is actually a man of remarkable patience. By advocating higher learning and communal faith to rebuild the black spirit, hes embarked on the long road to change. But Ghetto Music shows that KRS-One has the mind and muscle to last the trip. KRS-Ones liner notes to the album, in which he refers to himself as a Metaphysician, declare the records intention to return to our rootsThe Ghettoto insure purity, talent and intelligence often lost in trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Ghetto Music s intellectual focus caught the attention of the mainstream community, and in 1989 the New York Times asked Kris to write an editorial on education; he complied and explained his belief that Rap music, stigmatized by many as mindless music having no artistic or socially redeeming value, can be a means to change. He also expressed that its no longer acceptable to strut around with big gold chains, boasting. That stereotype, that lifestyle, must be crushed. Soon thereafter constituents at Harvard and Yale universities asked him to lecture; his speaking tour spanned 40 U.S. cities. He also participated in a number of political causes and rallies, including an appearance at an Earth Day event in Washington, D.C.

KRS-One managed to release a new BDP album in 1990, Edutainment, featuring the hit single Loves Gonna Getcha (Material Love). As the title of the album suggests, Edutainment combined Kriss teachingmore explicitly humanitarian in focus this timewith the irresistible BDP sound, which Light described as a stripped-down beat, a throbbing bass line, maybe a dash of keyboards, with occasional forays into reggae stylings. Like all the preceeding efforts, the album was a smash.

KRS-One also formed a new organization in 1990, which he named H.E.A.L., or Human Education Against Lies. H.E.A.L.s pro-education focus spawned an album, Civilization vs. Technology, on Kriss Edutainer label, featuring such rappers as Queen Latifah, Big Daddy Kane, L.L. Cool J., along with pop performers like Billy Bragg, Ziggy Marley and R.E.M.s Michael Stipe. Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme shot the video. H.E.A.L. published and distributed a free book at schools, shows, and by mail. The H.E.A.L. project, Kris noted in Rap Pages, simply says that before you are a race, a religion or an occupation you are a human being. Once we begin to act human, we can act African correctly. If youre thinking African and not human, youre not a correct African.

In 1991 Kris contributed a rap to Radio Song on Out of Time, the hit record by rockers R.E.M., and appeared on the little-known rock album Cereal Killers by Too Much Joy. He remarked of such appearances that they make rap look a little better. Its not that separatist, racist solo attitude that people think rap is aboutwhich is an image rap has lived up to. The same year saw the release of Live Hardcore Worldwide, one of the first live rap albums ever, andaccording to many criticsthe most ambitious. Steven Volk of Rolling Stone noted that Nonstop booty shakin is one option as BDP runs through 21 tracks in around 50 minutes, but listening to the words pays too. Parker has taken rap lyrics to a whole nother level of complexity. The live album contained a number of tracks from the hard-to-find Criminal Minded, as part of a royalty settlement with B Boy. He also produced other acts, including Queen Latifah and the Neville Brothers.

Kriss lecture tours, mainstream appearances, and outspoken humanism left him vulnerable to criticism from within the rap community about his hardcore credibility. Black Nationalists and Muslims accused him of not following their path; the group X-Clan rapped on one of their records that they got no time to be hangin out with humanists; and Prince Be from P.M. Dawn questioned KRS-Ones status as a teacher. KRS-One and his crew responded by storming the stage during a 1992 P.M. Dawn concert, forcing the group off the stage and performing three BDP classics. The crowd, noted Schecter, was simultaneously shocked and rocked. Defending his motives to USA Todays James T. Jones IV, KRS-One remarked, I answered his question. A teacher of what? Im a teacher of respect. He added that he had a hit list. Whoever dissed me in the past is on it. His hits, though, would be in rhyme.

KRS-One was serious, as evidenced on his next album, 1992s Sex and Violence, which returned to the hardcore sound of early BDP. Creems Suzanne McEl-fresh declared that the record delivers slamming beats and hooks galore, hit-hard lyrics and KRS-Ones trademark execution, which varies between straight-on conversational, emphatic oratorical romping and a musical Jamaican lilt. Dimitri Ehrlich commented in Spin that there is a sense of delight, confidence, creativity, and sheer pleasure that KRS-One has been unable to generate since By All Means Necessary. Of the track Like a Throttle Ehrlich asserted that it ranks among the best rap songs of all time. Among the other tracks on the album are Duck Down, which contains a message to Sucker MCs, Build and Destroy, and the single 13 and Good. Entertainment Weekly took exception to the latter song, calling it not only tacky but so inept youd like to forget its on the album at all, but otherwise deemed Sex and Violence funky from beginning to end.

The BDP posse had changed again. Kris had divorced Ms. Melodie, and she and Harmony left the group, as did D-Nice. Kriss brother Kenny Parker, noted producer Prince Paul, Pal Joey, and D-Square were the crew for Sex and Violence, a record my audience asked for, Kris told a New York Daily News correspondent. He explained that his core followers wanted him to reprise the hard-edged sound he had established on Criminal Minded. So Sex and Violence for my audience is like, Here it is. Hes given us what we want! Now I can go back to raising consciousness for five more years. And Im not contradicting myself. A TV set doesnt just have one channel, and neither do I.

KRS-One has continued to release albums including, Return of the Boom Bap (1993), KRS-One (1995), and 1997s I Got Next, which reached number two on the charts. He and his record label, Jive, began having conflicts when he was approached by another label, Reprise, with an executive position. He took the position as vice president of A&R and released a greatest hits album to fulfil his contract with Jive.

Reprise wanted to break into the R&B and rap markets and needed someone with talent-seeking capabilities. KRS-One told Billboard, My ear goes far, and I talk directly with the artist. They trust me and I will never betray that trust. Though he left the company after two years, KRS-One helped to develop two artists, Mad Lion and Lady Red.

KRS-One returned to his roots and released The Sneak Attack in 2001. He hit the lecture circuit as well, making stops at Harvard, Yale, Vassar, Columbia University, and Stanford. He has performed all over the world, including Japan, Denmark, France, and Italy. KRS-One has recorded with many artists including, reggae artists Sly & Robbie, Shelly Thunder, Ziggy Marley, and punk rocker Billy Bragg. He also took time to establish the Temple of Hip-Hop and held the International Hip-Hop Conference for Peace.

KRS-One has been given many honors and awards. He has received keys to Philadelphia and Compton, California, among others. He was nominated for the NACA 1992 Harry Chapman Humanitarian Award. He won the Reebok Humanitarian Award and three Ampex Golden Reel Awards.

2002 saw the release of Spiritual Minded, another departure from KRS-Ones usual releases. Some have considered it gospel rap. He teamed up with fellow gospel rapper B.B. Jay. According to a review at Amazon.com, themes of redemption and rebirth run throughout the album. Reviewer Dan Aquilante of the New York Post Online wrote, his is one of those discs that will reward you, if you have the faith to take a blind leap, with one of hip-hops real thinkersa scholar who can rhyme with gangsta force and goodwill toward men. John Bush of allmusicguide.com was not completely impressed with the album, he did state that it was intriguing to see one of hip-hops best rappers release a gospel album.

KRS-Ones message has always been about fighting and taking unpopular stands. World peace is the issue. I want to be remembered as the first ghetto kid to jump up for world peace, because the stereotype is that all ghetto kids want to do is sell drugs and rob each other, which isnt fact. I came from the heart of the ghettothere aint no suburbia in me!, the rapper exclaimed in Stop the Violence: Overcoming Self-Destruction. Though critics have confronted him with the contradictions of his violent raps in the context of the Stop the Violence movement, KRS-One refuses to be pinned down; as he told Schecter, I got all kinda flavors. I got styles that I didnt even start doin yet.

Selected discography

With Boogie Down Productions

Criminal Minded, (includes Elementary, 9 mm Goes Bang, and South Bronx), B Boy, 1986.

By All Means Necessary, (includes My Philosophy and Stop the Violence), Jive, 1988.

Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop, (includes Why is That? and Jack of Spades), Jive, 1989. Edutainment, (includes Loves Gonna Getcha ), Jive, 1990.

Live Hardcore Worldwide, Jive, 1991.

Sex and Violence, (includes Like a Throttle, Duck Down, Build and Destroy, and 13 and Good), Jive, 1992.

Return of the Boom Bap, Jive, 1993.

KRS-One, Jive, 1995.

I Got Next, Jive, 1997.

The Sneak Attack, Koch, 2001.

Spiritual Minded, Koch, 2002.

With others

Stop the Violence, Self Destruction, MCA, 1989.

H.E.A.L., Civilization vs. Technology, Edutainer, 1991.

R.E.M., Radio Song, Warner Bros., 1991.

Too Much Joy, Good Kill, Warner Bros., 1991.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, Volume 8. Gale Research, 1992.

Periodicals

Billboard, October 31, 1998; August 5, 2000; September 9, 2000; February 10, 2001; May 19, 2001.

Creem, May 1992.

Entertainment Weekly, March 27, 1992.

New York Daily News, April 2, 1992.

People, February 27, 1989.

Pulse!, August 1992.

Rap Pages, April 1992.

Rolling Stone, October 5, 1989; May 30, 1991; June 27, 1991.

The Source, April 1992.

Spin, April 1992; May 1992.

USA Today, March 6, 1992.

On-line

Amazon, http://amazon.com

www.krs-one.com

New York Post Online, www.nypost.com

VH1 Online, www.vhl.com

Other

Additional information was obtained for this profile from the liner notes in Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop, Jive, 1989.

Simon Glickman and Ashyia N. Henderson

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KRS-One

KRS-One

Rap singer

On the Streets From Age 13

Formed BDP With Scott LaRock

Developed Personal Philosophy

Lecturer and Rap Spokesperson

Returned to Hardcore

Selected discography

Sources

In these cynical times, wrote Rolling Stones Alan Light in 1991, KRS-One is an inspiring example of the role pop music can play in social discourse. A self-described teacher whose Boogie Down Productions (BDP) has been an important influence on hardcore rap, KRS-One has survived street life, prison, homelessness, the murder of a close friend, and negative criticism to emerge as one of raps most powerful figures. While many of his contemporaries have confined their raps to boasting and glorifying gunplay, KRS-One, Boogie Down Productions MC, has always considered his time on the mike as an opportunity to enlighten his listeners both politically and socially. His booming voice and skillful rhyming have helped him achieve huge sales, and he has used his earnings to influence and finance projects that stress dignity, self-worth, the acquisition of knowledge, and otherwise advance his humanistic views.

The advent of Boogie Down Productions in the late 1980s has been responsible, in part, for giving rap music visibility as a viable teaching medium and for pioneering the hardcore sound that is characterized by graphic depictions of the downside of life on the streets. The success of BDPs first record fueled a string of smash releases, guest appearances by KRS-One on other musicians albums, and an editorial by the rapper in the New York Times. Despite conflicts with some other rap groups over credibilitynotably a skirmish with P.M. Dawnand a move towards more politically oriented lyrics, KRS-One triumphed again in 1992 with Sex and Violence, a return to the hardcore rhymes and heavy beats of his early days.

On the Streets From Age 13

KRS-One was born around 1965 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jacqueline Jones, a real estate secretary, and Sheffield Brown, a Trinidadian handyman whoaccording to People was deported the year of Kriss birth. Though given the name Lawrence at birth, the childs name was changed to Kris, a shortened version of Krishna. In 1970 Jacqueline remarried, and Kris and his brother Kenny received her husbands last name, Parker. Mr. Parkera United Nations bodyguardwas given to violence, however, and Jacqueline and the boys fled in 1972. Jacqueline had a daughter by another man in 1975, but this relationship also collapsed within a couple years.

Kris remains in constant contact, with his mother, according to The Source, and he described her to Peoples Steve Dougherty as an education fanatic, though he admits he was interested only in rap music from a young age. Indeed, his brother Kenny recalled

For the Record

Born Lawrence Parker c. 1965 in Brooklyn, NY; son of Jacqueline Jones (a real estate secretary) and Sheffield Brown (a handyman); married Ramona Scott (rap name, Ms. Melodie), 1987 (divorced). Education: Attended Grady High School, New York, NY; dropped out at age 13; received GED.

Recording and performing rap artist; formed Boogie Down Productions (BDP) with DJ Scott LaRock (born Scott Sterling; died in 1987), c. 1985; performed in New York City area and released Criminal Minded on B Boy Records, 1986; signed with Jive/MCA, 1988; founder of Edutainer Records and H.E.A.L. (Human Education Against Lies), 1990; lecturer; producer.

Awards: Four gold records.

Addresses: Record company Jive Records, 137-139 W. 25th St., New York, NY 10001. Other H.E.A.L., P.O. Box 1179, Murray Hill Station, New York, NY 10136.

to Jon Schechter of The Source that when he and Kris were 12 and 13 years old respectivelyand dirt poorthey imagined what theyd do with a thousand dollars. Kris was like, Id make a record. I was like, Are you out of your mind? We have nothing! I thought he was crazy. But now it looks like I was crazy, actually.

Kris matured early; six-foot-two by the time he was in ninth grade at New York Citys Grady High School, Kris admitted to The Source that he was vicious in school. At age 13 he left home. No one told me leave, and I wasnt going to [go] back whining, he recalled to Dougherty. I was going to stick it out until I got what I wanted. He lived on the streets and in homeless shelters, taking odd jobs, hanging out, and reading in public libraries. Independent reading formed the basis of his doctrine of self-education. In the meantime he was living hand to mouth; he served some jail time at age 19 for selling marijuana.

Formed BDP With Scott LaRock

After his release, while staying at the Bronxs Franklin Armory Shelter, Kris met Scott Sterling, a 22-year-old social worker and part-time DJ. Kris had been writing poems and raps for some timeI beat out my songs on the bathroom wall, he remarked in People. He and Sterling formed a powerful bond. Sterling, who worked under the DJ name Scott LaRock, exercised a tremendous influence on Kris. The two began working together, calling their rap duo Boogie Down Productions in honor of the Boogie Down Bronx. Criminal Minded, their trailblazing hardcore album detailing street life and violence, came out on B Boy Records in 1986 and sold impressively, attracting the attention of several major labels.

Kriss nickname, KRS-One, which had begun as graffiti he sprayed in his neighborhood and initially meant Kris, Number One, became the acronym for Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone, as he explained in the track Elementary on Criminal Minded. The album also featured hardcore jams like 9 mm Goes Bang and South Bronx. The twosome eventually signed on with Jive/RCA Records and was at work on a second album when Scott was killed while trying to break up a fight. Devastated, Kris nonetheless decided to keep BDP alive: If I was to quit, Scott would really be dead, he explained to Dougherty.

Developed Personal Philosophy

Unfortunately, Jive/RCA wanted to drop the deal after Scotts death; only an extensive effort by Kris kept BDP signed. In 1988 Kris had a new deal with Jive and released his second record, By All Means Necessary. Dougherty noted that the album uses the bold rhythms and raw rhymes of rap and hip-hop to call for social justice. Featuring raps that would become trademarks for Kris, most notably My Philosophy, the album was another hit, combining the intellectual probing of Kriss lyrics with relentless beats and a militant stanceon the cover Kris emulated a famous picture of Malcolm X at a window holding a gun. The record also contained the landmark track Stop the Violence, one of the earliest rap songs to address black-on-black killing. In My Philosophy, KRS-One announced, Rap is like a set-up / A lotta games / A lotta suckers with colorful names. Unlike the suckers, this MC promised to focus upon the reality of the intelligent brown man while espousing vegetarianism, community activism, what we call hiphop / And what it meant to DJ Scott LaRock.

The death of a young fan resulting from a fight during a 1988 BDP show with fellow rappers Public Enemy in Long Island, New York, led to widespread calls for censorship of rap and resulted in far fewer rap concerts around New York City. To repair some of the damage, Kris and several other rap heavyweights got together to form the Stop the Violence movement, recording a single called Self-Destruction. The success of this record helped raise half a million dollars for the National Urban League, an organization dedicated to broadening opportunities for minorities and solving community problems of low literacy rates and substandard education. KRS-One, however, would later wonder, in an interview with Rap Pages, what had been done with the money.

In 1989 Kris took a new approach to BDPs sound, crafting a spare, intensely politicized album called Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop. The BDP crew now consisted of Kriss wife, Ms. Melodie, born Ramona Scott, whom Kris had married in 1987; D-Nice; Scottie Morris; Harmony, Ms. Melodies sister; and eight others. KRS-Ones goal, as quoted in Lights Rolling Stone profile, was making intelligence the fad. Ghetto Music included raps like Why is That?, Kriss lecture on black history traced through the Bible, and Jack of Spades, the theme from the Blaxploitation parody film Im Gonna Git You Sucka. David Fricke of Rolling Stone praised both the album and its creator: KRS-One is actually a man of remarkable patience. By advocating higher learning and communal faith to rebuild the black spirit, hes embarked on the long road to change. But Ghetto Music shows that KRS-One has the mind and muscle to last the trip. KRS-Ones liner notes to the album, in which he refers to himself as a Metaphysician, declare the records intention to return to our rootsThe Ghettoto insure purity, talent and intelligence often lost in trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Lecturer and Rap Spokesperson

Ghetto Musics intellectual focus caught the attention of the mainstream community, and in 1989 the New York Times asked Kris to write an editorial on education; he complied and explained his belief that Rap music, stigmatized by many as mindless music having no artistic or socially redeeming value, can be a means to change. He also expressed that its no longer acceptable to strut around with big gold chains, boasting. That stereotype, that lifestyle, must be crushed. Soon thereafter constituents at Harvard and Yale universities asked him to lecture; his speaking tour spanned 40 U.S. cities. He also participated in a number of political causes and rallies, including an appearance at an Earth Day event in Washington, D.C.

KRS-One managed to release a new BDP album in 1990, Edutainment, featuring the hit single Loves Gonna Getcha (Material Love). As the title of the album suggests, Edutainment combined Kriss teachingmore explicitly humanitarian in focus this timewith the irresistible BDP sound, which Light described as a stripped-down beat, a throbbing bass line, maybe a dash of keyboards, with occasional forays into reggae stylings. Like all the preceeding efforts, the album was a smash.

KRS-One also put together a new organization in 1990, which he named H.E.A.L., or Human Education Against Lies. H.E.A.L.s pro-education focus spawned an album, Civilization vs. Technology, on Kriss Edutainer label, featuring such rappers as Queen Latifah, Big Daddy Kane, L.L. Cool J., along with pop performers like Billy Bragg, Ziggy Marley and R.E.M.s Michael Stipe. Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme shot the video. H.E.A.L. published and distributed a free book at schools, shows, and by mail. The H.E.A.L. project, Kris noted in Rap Pages, simply says that before you are a race, a religion or an occupation you are a human being. Once we begin to act human, we can act African correctly. If youre thinking African and not human, youre not a correct African.

In 1991 Kris contributed a rap to Radio Song on Out of Time, the hit record by rockers R.E.M., and appeared on the little-known rock album Cereal Killers by Too Much Joy. He remarked of such appearances that they make rap look a little better. Its not that separatist, racist solo attitude that people think rap is aboutwhich is an image rap has lived up to. The same year saw the release of Live Hardcore Worldwide, one of the first live rap albums ever, andaccording to many criticsthe most ambitious. Steven Volk of Rolling Stone noted that Nonstop booty shakin is one option as BDP runs through 21 tracks in around 50 minutes, but listening to the words pays too. Parker has taken rap lyrics to a whole nother level of complexity. The live album contained a number of tracks from the hard-to-find Criminal Minded, as part of a royalty settlement with B Boy. He also produced other acts, including Queen Latifah and the Neville Brothers.

Returned to Hardcore

Kriss lecture tours, mainstream appearances, and outspoken humanism left him vulnerable to criticism from within the rap community about his hardcore credibility. Black Nationalists and Muslims accused him of not following their path; the group X-Clan rapped on one of their records that they got no time to be hangin out with humanists; and Prince Be from P.M. Dawn questioned KRS-Ones status as a teacher. KRS-One and his crew responded by storming the stage during a 1992 P.M. Dawn concert, forcing the group off the stage and performing three BDP classics. The crowd, noted Schecter, was simultaneously shocked and rocked. Defending his motives to USA Todays James T. Jones IV, KRS-One remarked, I answered his question. A teacher of what? Im a teacher of respect. He added that he had a hit list. Whoever dissed me in the past is on it. His hits, though, would be in rhyme.

KRS-One was serious, as evidenced on his next album, 1992s Sex and Violence, which returned to the hardcore sound of early BDP. Creems Suzanne McElfresh declared that the record delivers slamming beats and hooks galore, hit-hard lyrics and KRS-Ones trademark execution, which varies between straight-on conversational, emphatic oratorical romping and a musical Jamaican lilt. Dimitri Ehrlich commented in Spin that there is a sense of delight, confidence, creativity, and sheer pleasure that KRS-One has been unable to generate since By All Means Necessary. Of the track Like a Throttle Ehrlich asserted that it ranks among the best rap songs of all time. Among the other tracks on the album are Duck Down, which contains a message to Sucker MCs, Build and Destroy, and the single 13 and Good. Entertainment Weekly took exception to the latter song, calling it not only tacky but so inept youd like to forget its on the album at all, but otherwise deemed Sex and Violence funky from beginning to end.

The BDP posse had changed again. Kris had divorced Ms. Melodie, and she and Harmony left the group, as did D-Nice. Kriss brother Kenny Parker, noted producer Prince Paul, Pal Joey, and D-Square were the crew for Sex and Violence, a record my audience asked for, Kris told a New York Daily News correspondent. He explained that his core followers wanted him to reprise the hard-edged sound he had established on Criminal Minded. So Sex and Violence for my audience is like, Here it is. Hes given us what we want! Now I can go back to raising consciousness for five more years. And Im not contradicting myself. A TV set doesnt just have one channel, and neither do I.

His newfound contentiousness may have surprised journalists who knew only his edutainer side, but KRS-Ones message has always been about fighting and taking unpopular stands. World peace is the issue. I want to be remembered as the first ghetto kid to jump up for world peace, because the stereotype is that all ghetto kids want to do is sell drugs and rob each other, which isnt fact. I came from the heart of the ghettothere aint no suburbia in me!, the rapper exclaimed in Stop the Violence: Overcoming Self-Destruction. Though critics have confronted him with the contradictions of his violent raps in the context of the Stop the Violence movement, KRS-One refuses to be pinned down; as he told Schecter, I got all kinda flavors. I got styles that I didnt even start doin yet.

Selected discography

With Boogie Down Productions

Criminal Minded (includes Elementary, 9 mm Goes Bang, and South Bronx), B Boy, 1986.

By All Means Necessary (includes My Philosophy and Stop the Violence), Jive, 1988.

Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop (includes Why is That? and Jack of Spades), Jive, 1989.

Edutainment (includes Loves Gonna Getcha [Material Love]), Jive, 1990.

Live Hardcore Worldwide, Jive, 1991.

Sex and Violence (includes Like a Throttle, Duck Down, Build and Destroy, and 13 and Good), Jive, 1992.

With others

Stop the Violence, Self Destruction, MCA, 1989.

H.E.A.L., Civilization vs. Technology, Edutainer, 1991.

R.E.M., Out of Time (appears on Radio Song), Warner Bros., 1991.

Too Much Joy, Cereal Killers (appears on Good Kill), Warner Bros., 1991.

Sources

Creem, May 1992.

Entertainment Weekly, March 27, 1992.

Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop (liner notes), Jive, 1989.

New York Daily News, April 2, 1992.

People, February 27, 1989.

Pulse!, August 1992.

Rap Pages, April 1992.

Rolling Stone, October 5, 1989; May 30, 1991; June 27, 1991.

The Source, April 1992.

Spin, April 1992; May 1992.

USA Today, March 6, 1992.

Simon Glickman

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Krs-One

KRS-ONE

Born: Laurence Krisna Parker; Brooklyn, New York, 20 August 1965

Genre: Rap

Best-selling album since 1990: KRS-One (1995)

Hit songs since 1990: "Out of Here," "Do or Die," "Black Cop"


In a hip-hop world in which rappers typically brag about the thug life of mistreating hos and tramps and driving fancy cars, KRS-One, nicknamed the Teacher, stands apart for his philosophical views. A study in contradictions, he went from rapping about New York's tough ghettos to guest-lecturing at Yale University. For a while he worked as a Warner Bros. A&R executive while railing against mainstream rap. He lived the gangsta lifestyle but also studied theology and preached the word of God.

KRS-One, an acronym for Knowledge Reigns Supreme over Nearly Everyone, grew up close to Brooklyn's lush Prospect Park. At thirteen he left home to live in the park and nearby subways. Eventually he was arrested as part of a drug bust in the city's shelter system. After a two-month stint at the Brooklyn House of Detention, he was shuffled between shelters and foster homes and the street. It was while living at the Franklin Avenue shelter in the South Bronx that he ran across the counselor Scott Sterling, aka DJ Scott LaRock. They found common ground in their love of music and formed Boogie Down Productions.

Boogie Down Productions released a duet album, Criminal Minded (1987), a work eventually recognized as the foundation of hardcore rap. The CD cover features the men holding automatic weapons, something no rapper had ever done before. There were other hardcore rappers, but Boogie Down Productions stood apart for their hard-edged music, explicit lyrics dealing with inner-city drugs and crime, and KRS-One's deep baritone vocals.

As they began to prepare to record their next album, LaRock was murdered on August 26, 1987, in a dispute over a woman. KRS-One pressed forward with another album, By All Means Necessary (1988), but he had been clearly transformed by LaRock's death. Now he questioned, as much as he boasted, challenged as much as he criticized. Songs like "Stop the Violence" and "Illegal Business" examine the growing crack and crime problem. On "My Philosophy," KRS-One took the first step as the Teacher, as he would later call himself, by decrying the social and economic conditions that drive people to desperate measures.

KRS-One continues in this vein on Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop (1989), Edutainment (1990), and Sex and Violence (1992), exploring black history and condemning police brutality, racism, ignorance, and homelessness with lucid and insightful lyrics. But by now, fans were tiring of KRS-One's increasingly preachy stance, and sales slowed dramatically.

KRS-One made an attempt for street credibility on KRS-One (1995) by incorporating a fuller sound and working with a younger crew that include several guest artistsDas EFX, Fat Joe, and Mad Lion. His momentum continued with I Got Next (1997) and The Sneak Attack (2001), but by this point KRS-One was past his peak. Through it all he remained a philosopher, and he tackled premarital sex and the struggle for absolution in Spiritual Minded (2002). Essentially a gospel album with the requisite Christian messages of confession and salvation, the CD lacked the slick production values of his previous works.

With his thundering voice and socially conscious music, KRS-One became a lone voice of reason in the macho world of rap and helped shape the evolution of the genre in the late 1990s.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Criminal Minded (Sugar Hill, 1987); By All Means Necessary (Jive, 1988); KRS-One (Jive, 1995); I Got Next (Jive, 1997); The Sneak Attack (Koch, 2001); Spiritual Minded (Koch, 2002).

ramiro burr

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