Interviews — 23 November 2009

krsBy Odeisel

Hip-Hop is about evolution and change. The young devour the old and weak just as in nature and the cycle repeats.  The world is replenished.  But some wolves hold their position longer than expected and never succumb to the traditional usurpation that is commonplace among their peers.  Some wolves continue to lead the pack with renewed vigor after season upon season of the hunt.  Kris Parker is a wolf in an emcee’s clothing; a holdover from a bygone era where skills matched your mouth. It takes a nation of millions to hold us back; it takes a nation of Hip-Hoppers to move forward. With the blood of many seasons still fueling his sinews, KRS may not still be number one on the charts, but reach for his mic and you’ll need another hand to count Rakim’s 7th emcee.  Read on.

Planet Ill: People died so I can rhyme, you think I’m gonna grab the mic and waste my nation’s time? What does that mean to you?

KRS-ONE: I would start by saying it’s the beginning of my emcee spirit; the reason why I rhyme. You know Kirk Franklin, a very famous talented gospel artist…really a Hip-Hop artist, one of his first big hits was “The Reason Why I Sing.” One of the reasons why the record was so big, not only because it was a good record, but the theme of the record. It was the theme of the record itself where he says we all sing for a variety of reasons, but here’s the reason why I sing. And it had to do with God; and it had to do with the inspiration that God gives to sing.

In my instance, when I said that at the time, it really had a lot to do with the Malcolm X’s, the Dr. Kings, the Stokely Carmichaels. In fact, Stokely Carmichael, who changed his name to Kwame Toure, when I wrote that statement, I was being taught by him. Kwame Toure was teaching KRS-One Pan-Africanism, the Black Power struggle, the truth about the Civil Rights movement, and I really took an affinity to Kwame Toure.

A lot of us rap the way we do because we are not accountable to anyone or anything. And in a way that’s good for Hip-Hop to have a free emcee that can rhyme about anything. But some of us actually know Civil Rights leaders. Some of us actually finance Civil Rights organizations and go to dinners with the daughters and sons of these famous men and women.

I can’t say certain things on record or on video and then take…

Planet Ill: Gamillah ShabazzI can’t grab the mic and waste

KRS-ONE: Yeah, I’m trying to take Gamillah out, Miss Shabazz as she likes to be called, so I’m trying to take her out, and I’m representing this? It doesn’t work like that.  And not like Gamillah’s all that, she’s down to earth, but there are things that a few people in our society stand for and if you stand for “that” then you can’t stand with “that.” So for me, I can’t grab the mic and waste my nation’s time talking nonsense because I know why I’m rhyming. I know what Dr. Betty Shabazz said to me as well about Hip-Hop about keeping it moving and becoming mature.

Planet Ill: You always hear about “going back to the essence.”  Isn’t that regression?

KRS-One: Yes, it is regression.  To constantly talk, “We taking it back, we going back!” In a way, that is regression; in a big way. Only a modern emcee should say, “We’re taking it back.” If you are one of those back in the days dudes you should be talking about taking it forward.  Only young kids should be talking about taking it back. And they should be out of respect; out of tradition.

I’m big on tradition.  But I’m not big on young people just respecting tradition ‘cause it’s the tradition. I’m an emcee, and I like rhyming with younger people because they’re supposed to test my skills and I’m supposed to test theirs. I represent the orthodoxy.

Now a lot of youngins sometimes try to elbow the tradition to see if it’s still strong and they are supposed to! But now when the tradition elbows back to prove the strength; youngins sometimes go home crying. [Cries] “You hit too hard!” How many times has your younger brother wanted to play fight with you, and somehow your effortlessness yokes him up. He can’t breathe. “You play too much!” You ain’t trying to hurt your brother, but you’re older, bigger, stronger, and they’re challenging you to some play fight duel. No I’ll kick your ass, that’s the end of it.  The same rule applies in all cultures; all traditions.  We are the elders of our culture. We love our children; we love our culture.  I love everything about Hip-Hop today. Everybody and everything in it.  I think Hip-Hop is so magnificent right now it’s not even funny. I don’t need to take it back. Forget taking it back; take it forwards, let’s keep it moving. However I do understand the importance of tradition. I think the elders of the culture should be talking about forward and the youngins of the culture should say take it back.

Planet Ill: In the original version of “We Aint Goin’ Out” you spoke on Mr. Magic. “To get a deal from this mother**king coke addict/back in the day Mr. Magic was god, but when we seen him in the studio he dissed us hard.” Were you able to reconcile that before he went out?

mr magic quoteKRS-ONE: I don’t think you ever reconcile bad words. On both sides. And it also goes to show that when you do have words with another person, what the feeling is when that person passes. The real wisdom of it all, is that it makes no sense to argue with anybody.  Because when they pass you don’t really be like, “Aw f**k them, they passed.” You’re like damn, I could have said something different, and didn’t. So that’s wisdom right off the top.

But KRS-One IS wise, and so I did get a chance to tell Mr. Magic before he passed, “Magic I love you.” As a matter of fact it started on our 2007 project with Marley Marl. That whole project was about reconciliation with the Juice Crew. Marley, Shan, Shante, Magic, Fly Ty, everybody.  I never battled Kane, me and him was cool, but Kane was the writer for Roxanne Shante’s disses and me and him would talk that out in our later years as well. For years, we’ve all been family, but we’ve never really buried the hatchet; settled the karma. So I did get a chance to do that with Marley Marl.

That album is sort of the tribute to like finally, we’re coming together and settling that and I am proud that I was able to do that album with Marley Marl and on that album I shouted Mr. Magic, gave him complete credit for my career. I say that to this day if it wasn’t for Mr. Magic…imagine how great he was.  Even in his rejection of us, he put us on. Even in battle he put us on.

Planet Ill: There are many similarities between the beginning of your career, and the beginning of 50 Cent’s career. Do you think his behavior is robbing him of a pivot point to move on like you have?

KRS-ONE: Yes and no. I know that’s a coward’s answer but let me speak on both sides. If you compare the early part of 50 Cent’s career to the early parts of KRS-ONE’s career, that’s an accurate depiction in that sense. We both came into the industry not giving a fuck. But there is something to be said when you start off criminal minded and end up spiritual minded.

I been seeing behind the scenes on 50.  I’ve been talking to 50 about the Stop the Violence Movement. He gave me drops for it, video presentations for Stop the Violence.  You know he got his money now.  He’s in a safe place. He got his hits out now he is Hip-Hop now.  Like imagine we forever gotta talk about this motherfucker now. Congratulations.  Imagine that.  His page is guaranteed in our book of Hip-Hop; no doubt about it, he’s earned his stripes. But now that he’s there, he’s probably realizing in his own maturity.  His son is bigger now. He’s probably realizing himself as we all do. You come out the hood, you didn’t want to live that life to begin with. That’s why it’s so ridiculous when these kids try to mimic that, because the guy doing it is trying to get out! That’s why he’s busting off because he’s trying to get the hell out of here!

Now that 50 has his fame, he has his fortune and he has his respect, I guess now you will see a more spiritual minded 50. And not that we want that even. I know a lot of people were pissed when even KRS started talking about stop the violence. I received criticism for it. Cats were coming up to me saying, “We want to hear Criminal Minded, we want to go baaaaack!” But at the end of the day all artists like 50 , like myself are faced with that.  And I wouldn’t suggest that 50 should come conscious or change his image at all, I wouldn’t suggest that at all.  I would just keep doing what the hell he’s doing!


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