Hip Hop these days really isn’t much different than a Happy
Meal – cheaply manufactured, mass-produced, no nutrition, childish, full of
gimmicks and unsatisfying, fake beef. Twenty years ago, before the game became
likened to the Golden Arches, Hip Hop’s beef was slow cooked and left you
drooling for more. In those days, if you tried to sit at the table with KRS
One, you got ate.
Make no mistake about it; the reason for the verbal fist fights really weren’t
any different than they are today – trying to take the spot of those above you.
People like to think it was more pure back then – hell no! It was just up and
comers trying to get on…only difference was they actually meant something.
Reputations were at stake, careers were on the line.
In 1986, when Queensbridge’s MC Shan and Marley Marl
made “The Bridge,”
they were just making a song about their hood. KRS knew that,
but he saw his opportunity to get on and the legendary Juice Crew/BDP
battle began after he attacked with “South Bronx.” After the Blastmaster destroyed’em with “The Bridge Is Over,”
KRS was a star and Shan faded into relative
Two decades later KRS has teamed up with Marley
– the man who he once claimed was gay, out of touch, and a shitty deejay. The
gem of the album is without question “Rising To The Top,” an autobiographical
joint in the vein ofKris‘ classic “Outta Here.” Marley
flips the same sample Pete Rock used for “The Game” and
laces it with some of that ol’ boom bap while KRS details his
come up some 20 years ago with the help of MC Shan and Marley;
“spittin’ rhymes over the radio set/these are the days and the ways I could
never forget/so I don’t forget it, to Marley
and Shan I am indebted/for the start
of my career these guys can take credit/for my rappin’, the whole battle they
let it happen/Marley and Shan and Shante coulda been gun strappin’/cousin, but they wasn’t/you know
why? Cause they was on some real Hip Hop…let’s keep it buzzin’“
Back” is more vintage Hip Hop with both men rocking at their best. KRS
caps the song off with another lesson; “on my block, women get respect and
trust/cause when you dissin’ a woman, you dissin’ her fetus/and dissin’ our
unborn children will defeat us/I’m not an elitist, I just know the world need
us.” DJ Premier joins the duo (drool here), and adds his
incomparable cuts to “The Victory” that also has QB’s Blaq Poet
joining Kris on the mic. It’s sounds as good as it looks on
Skool” is another ridiculous banger, only let down a bit by the
fact that Marley flips another familiar sample – last heard in
Ghost‘s “Run” – but truthfully, Marley‘s trump’s
The one and only Chief Rocker Busy Bee Starski comes through
to pay tribute to Marley‘s legendary studio the “House of Hits”
in another great history lesson. School is indeed in session for much of the
album as KRS never really stops dropping the knowledge he is
so famous for. Unfortunately, not everything is done as well as “Kill A Rapper”
or the title track. “I Was There” has KRS letting everyone know
he has been there and seen it all, the concept is great…the execution?
Horrible. KRS has probably done more concept rhymes than
anyone else, and they are usually unbelievable. I don’t know what he was
thinking with this one. Another track that isn’t up to par with the rest of the
LP is “Over 30.” It isn’t terrible, just doesn’t really come together.
Both are arguably the best and most influential artists at their respective
crafts. Unfortunately, they are both – with all due respect – past their
primes. If KRS and Marley had teamed up 15 or
20 years ago most people would be expecting an album that could be the greatest
of all-time. Now, I was just expecting something great, and that is exactly
what they delivered. When our legends are putting out music this good this late
in their careers, Hip Hop will be alive for a long time.
Check out the pictures from the album release party here.