There’s not much to say about this album that hasn’t already been mentioned in one hip-hop conversation or another. It was KRS-One laying down real, meaningful, aggressive lyrics and injecting them with heavy bass-lines and snappy snare drums. The album came at a progressive stage in hip-hop with Nas dropping Illmatic, and groups like Wu-Tang Clan putting out 36 Chambers. Lyrics started to sound like fine cutlery slicing through sociopolitical issues and other MC’s.
KRS-One retained the ‘rock the crowd’ mentality of a true MC and yet challenged other artists lyrically in ways that hadn’t been done before. With the loss of his close friend and one-third of the Boogie Down Productions group Scott LaRock, KRS-One starts his record off with a compilation of productions from the group on album opener ‘KRS-One Attacks’. Track two, ‘Outta Here’ drops in like a semicolon; separating old from the new. What follows is a four-minute annex looking in first-person view at the history of KRS-One and BDP. DJ Premier hooks up the beat and KRS-One charges it with lyrical proficiency.
His first foray into social conversation comes on ‘Black Cop’ where he satirizes the idea of black men working in a profession that has never been on their side. He embraces his inner-reggae artist annunciating his lyrics like an angry Jamaican.
“You never will conquer the champion.”
The first words you hear on ‘Mortal Thought’ and a statement that KRS-One goes on to reinforce throughout the album on ‘Sound of da Police’, ‘Mad Crew’ and ‘Return of the Boom Bap’. Lyrically, rhythmically, any way you spin it, KRS-One is on the top of his game. He speaks like a prophet and takes on the role of hip-hop’s messiah hoping to inject diving inspiration into his peers. He challenges them in turn by challenging himself. There are very few moments on the LP that sound proportionally uninspired and even when they do, they are as fun as weed-dream recollection, “I Can’t Wake Up’. The staple elements of boom bap light the fire while the small electronic additions combined with KRS-One’s frenetic vocals are gasoline to the flame.
KRS-One even lends his own hand to the production on Doug E. Fresh inspired track, ‘Uh Oh’. The beatbox fashioned track has KRS-One directing his delivery at white kids embracing the gangster lifestyle even though they basically grew up living in the same neighborhood as Ferris Bueller, metaphorically of course. His story here comes in a refreshing third-person style and his story is a wake-up call for anyone glorifying a lifestyle that they don’t understand. Whether it is his lifestyle, the lifestyles of people in different neighborhoods, his fearlessness in the face of rap opponents or social injustice, KRS-One is consistently clarifying something through his own understanding.
Cohesively, the album comes together sounding like a hip-hop how-to-guide for the future from the mind of one of the pioneers of the genre. He is efficient with his clarity, both in what he is saying and in how he says it. His syllables are noticeable, which is to say each word hits as hard as the album title suggests. Putting it all into perspective, I think it is fair to say that KRS-One and specifically this project blazed a path through the incredibly saturated sound of the industry at the time and reminded people everywhere what hip-hop was capable of sounding like.