In the
fickle world of Hip Hop, careers can end before they start, with more than a
few lasting only one album. Meanwhile, KRS-One
continues to defy this and other trends currently prevalent in Hip Hop with the
release of Life, his 15th
studio album. Those familiar with previous efforts will probably not find
themselves surprised by the range of thought provoking topics; from the
desperation of poverty, street life, politics, Hip Hop as a culture (both
positive and negative), to just plain ol’ being a dope emcee. The same powerful
voice that fronted Boogie Down
some 20 years ago is back with more food for
thought, served fresh to the anorexic minds that abound in today’s society.

For his
first album on Antagonist Records, The Blastmaster taps The Resistence (Dax Reynosa and Dert),
who provide pretty consistent production for the most part. There are a few
misses, such as “Gimme the Gun,” which finds KRS trading double time verses with Raphi (of Footsoldiers) over an
extremely busy, rock-influenced beat. Not to worry though, the aforementioned
low points are more than made up for by joints like “Bling
where the man known as Kris
experiments with the potentially tricky science of vocal inflection. Once
combined with the violin laced boom-bap of the track, the results are nothing
short of success. Later, he goes on to demonstrate how brilliant writing and
simple language are not mutually exclusive on the truly poignant “Life
,” waxing philosophical about the interconnectivity of –
you guessed it – life. Other notable joints include “On the Mic,”
an almost battle sounding song featuring a scathing, but short, tirade against Jeb Bush over a dope little piano loop,
and Freedom, as KRS
proclaims “I’m talkin’, walkin’, working’,
exertin’ energy for certain, not an average person.”
I think most
would find this statement hard to contest. The album’s 4 guest shots are
provided by members of The Footsoldiers,
a relatively unknown crew that does their thing without bringing down the
overall quality of the album. Triune
manages to deliver the best guest verse by far on “Have Mercy, Mr. Percy,”
absolutely setting the track ablaze by opening with “You’ll get choked for the dough, stabbed for the stash, my axe is
brass, ya’ll rap for grabbin’ the cash / they search for Blackwards faces, so
no need checking your ethnicity on application,”
while KRS makes his own inquiry into the
rampant unemployment many are facing.

All in all,
The Teacher delivers on
expectations for this record. Relevant topics abound, as collection of dope,
but not overpowering, soundscapes play the background. Heads are left with
plenty to think about with strangely juxtaposed questions like “How’s America
great when Iraq
had no nukes? Oops. Whatever happened to samples and loops?”
the uninitiated KRS
even throws in an extremely detailed autobiographical rhyme, “My Life,”
tracing his story from drinking Olde English and being homeless, to the fateful
meeting with Scott LaRock,
to his current endeavors in the underground world of indie rap. Making an album
that pleases old school fans and just-catching-up heads alike, all while
maintaining some sort of cohesiveness seems like a very difficult undertaking,
yet it’s pulled off nearly flawlessly here. In KRS-One’s own words “whatever
you perceive as live, KRS is as live as that.”