Today’s Post is based on this comment I made in my “Criminal Minded” Album Review HERE: “One thing that is interesting is later a word often associated with KRS One was contradictory, but Criminal Minded is probably rooted in more contradictions than any other part of his career.”
The idea of “Criminal Minded” being the most contradictory makes sense. He was still figuring things out. He was homeless, living between a shelter and a walk-in freezer at his label’s offices while recording this album. He had a street mentality, but he was also spending a lot of time at the library. The album constantly refers to him as “The Teacher” and his use of “Poetry”, often considered positive attributes and he was gaining knowledge from the Hare Krishna’s, a peaceful people. Yet his album is called “Criminal Minded” with an album cover with guns and grenades. He consistently referred to preferring violence to rhyme battles, often in songs that were predominantly about battling or challenging MCs (more on that HERE). He rhymes “I own my own label”, while simultaneously getting “jerked” by B-Boy Records. In some aspects, “Criminal Minded” is nearly as conflicted and contradictory as it is inventive and excellent*.
If the inner contrasts of that album aren’t enough, his second album clearly took a different approach. Sure, he’s still got a gun on the front cover, but mentally it’s aimed in a different direction. There’s a noticeable absence of gun talk, probably a result of Scott La Rock’s death from gun violence. Perhaps the biggest contrasting song is “Stop The Violence”, as there wasn’t anything quite like that on “Criminal Minded”. However, it wasn’t the first song of its kind for KRS One**, plus it was originally written and recorded pre-“Criminal Minded”. One could easily call “By All Means Necessary” contradictory to “Criminal Minded”, but growth would be a better description.
Boogie Down Productions-Stop The Violence (Original Version):
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/2-11-Stop-The-Violence-Original-Massive-12_-Extended-Version.mp3|titles=2-11 Stop The Violence (Original Massive 12_ Extended Version)]
Yet when I hear people speak about the issue contradictions, it always seemed directed at the later part of his career, particularly the 90s. I never fully understood that. Usually people threw that word out there with his name, but rarely did anyone everyone give specific examples, at least that I can recall. The exception is the PM Dawn incident, which is a horrible example that I’ll cover later.
Anyway, rather than these being contradictions, I tend to believe that is really called life experience. He constantly travelled the world, saw new things & met new people. Plus let’s not forget the natural growth as a person that we all have. I honestly don’t know many people, who I would consider doing well for himself/herself or being a productive part of society who thinks exactly the same way they did 10-15 years ago. Growing up In your 20s , which KRS One was at this time, that learning and growth process is happening fast. Multiply that by his world travels and the result is that he was supposed to evolve on things or he just wasn’t paying attention to the world around him…and he was. Secondly, I always felt he was being strategic. I don’t recall hearing/reading him say this, but to me it always seemed to make sense. His essence was “The Teacher” and it seemed KRS One understood a basic principal of that “job” was that different groups of people process information differently. Considering that, you need to cater your message to be able to hit certain points to reach particular people.
Probably the best example of him doing this effectively is on “Sex And Violence” with the song “Drug Dealer”. The hook ends “If your going to sell crack then don’t be a fool/Organize your money and open up a school”. Some people took it as him encouraging people to sell drugs, but I didn’t see it that way. I don’t know how effective it was, but in theory I think it is probably the most realistic anti-drug song I’ve ever heard. Certainly telling drug users “Just say no” didn’t work. Even warning drug dealers of jail time, death by other dealers, or even trying to guilt them out of the business with images of the lives they ruin didn’t slow the drug trade. Unfortunately, those concerns don’t out-weigh the allure for money and the oddly received street celebrity status, which that lifestyle brings. However, with this approach KRS focuses on the economics of it, rather than the morals. It seems logical that would at least make a drug dealer stop to listen and consider the options of an exit strategy. Sure, it’s nice to think people can just snap out of that lifestyle, but the selling of drugs is apparently nearly as addictive as the use of them. This is probably the best approach that could be taken to start a change in the thought-process of the dealer. It doesn’t mean that KRS supports the selling of drugs, but he recognizes that people are going to do it whether he or whoever else says they should stop. The best teacher presents his lecture with that specific intended audience in mind. Certainly if he was speaking to a different group of people his technique wouldn’t be the same.
Boogie Down Productions-Drug Dealer:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/03-Drug-Dealer.mp3|titles=03 Drug Dealer]
As previously mentioned, his incident with PM Dawn caused some people to feel he was being contradictory to his views of being a Humanist or his Stop The Violence Movement. I remember thinking you are taking those ideas a bit out of context. If you don’t know, Prince Be of PM Dawn was in a magazine interview and was criticizing some conscious rappers and made a comment like, “KRS One is a teacher…but a teacher of what?” In response KRS One and his crew appeared at a PM Dawn show, physically removed him from the stage and proceeded to rock some BDP classics. Let’s be clear, PM Dawn didn’t get hurt up or beat-down, they just got physically removed from stage. KRS One later responded that his actions answered Prince Be’s question, “I’m a teacher of respect.” Some consider that response a cop out because at that same time he was getting verbal jabs and disses getting thrown at him from X-Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers, & Ice Cube and he didn’t try something similar with them. On the surface it seemed like he picked on the weaker target. Even before I heard his response, I saw there being a difference. KRS One respected the art of battle in Hip Hop, whether it was the battle for the best MCs lyrically or the battle of philosophies. That is what he was having with X-Clan, PRT, & Ice Cube. He understood because that is how he entered the business, going at MC Shan and the Juice Crew. All of those issues could be dealt with on wax. He knew all of those artists respected and were a part of Hip Hop Culture. They were masters of their craft. They could compete as equals on the mic. Prince Be was outside of the circle and throwing rocks inside at the leaders of that Culture, that was taken as disrespectful. Truthfully, I’m a strictly non-violent guy, but when I saw Prince Be’s remarks I was heated myself, I would have like to have some words for him on why he thought he had a right to criticize people who had done so much for our Culture, what had he done? KRS One’s actions certainly weren’t outside of what he presented on his records leading up to that point either. He spoke heavily on intelligence and positivity, but he wasn’t a hippy. He was a hardcore MC. Two years previous to this event happening he rhymed on “The Kenny Parker Show”, “Give me a chance and I’ll rock the house/But don’t let a sucker try to take me out/Cause male or female I will strangle/If it’s a crew they’ll have to untangle/Adidas, Nikes, Arms, Mics/Turntables, suckers in the wheel of my bike/Step right up if that’s what you like/But watch your head cause it will fly like a kite…” Minus the bike, it sounds like that is exactly what went down with PM Dawn. Suckers were warned…ha. That negates it being a contradiction in my book. One could even say had he done nothing about those comments then there might be cause to call him a hypocrite.
Boogie Down Productions-Feel The Vibe, Feel The Beat (A B-side joint which touches on the PM Dawn situation. One of my favorite BDP tracks!!):
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Boogie-Down-Productions-Feel-The-Vibe-Feel-The-Beat.mp3|titles=Boogie Down Productions-Feel The Vibe, Feel The Beat]
However, I’m guessing the biggest topics where KRS One is considered to be contradictory are Race Relations and Religion. The common lifestyle attributed to KRS One from his music was humanism. In some circles it made him unpopular at a time when Pro-Black was a dominating theme in Hip Hop. It was that difference in theory that lead to the KRS One VS X-Clan situation. When KRS One responded to those critics in “Build And Destroy” (From "Sex And Violence") he handled it very well, as an MC and as a thinker. Yet a few years later he released “Ah Yeah” which definitely seemed to be weighted more to a Pro-Black experience. However, one must consider the context. “Ah Yeah” was made for a Compilation, “Pump Ya Fist (Hip Hop Inspired By The Black Panthers”). For that intended audience, in order to reach and inspire them, that was type of message needed. Often change must come gradually so you plan and teach accordingly.
KRS One-Ah Yeah:
When you read the extended liner notes in the “Criminal Minded” Deluxe Reissue KRS One says that the album was a concept record. He states that he and Scott La Rock had decided to make a hardcore record like that to draw in the streets as an audience and intrigue them and then switch the message over time to help educate them. That in itself embodies the idea of the sort of strategy I’m talking about here.
As for the other topic of religion, that’s a whole story on it’s own and it’s coming up next…
*Another point, that can be consider contrasting is that while the album is rooted in those graphic images and language of violence, it is missing a key element often associated with that imagery…profanity. There is no profanity on “Criminal Minded”. There are some intended words for sure and they were not edited out in post-production, KRS One omitted them when recording. On “Poetry” he drops, “I just smother every single stupid mutha…wait, wait brother”, rather than carrying out the MF bomb. For years on “Criminal Minded” I was confused by what he was saying directly previous to “I write and produce myself just as fast” because the preceding bar didn’t rhyme with “fast”. I eventually noticed he chose not to say the last part of “Kiss Other people’s…” He leaves out “Ass”, a pretty mild profanity, but he chose to keep the record pretty clean. The most profane part of the record is the use of the word “Ho” On the “The P Is Free” and some of the context in the scenarios described on “Super-Hoe”, but despite the tales of sexual adventures it’s pretty tame, even for the time.
**Besides “Stop The Violence”, before “Criminal Minded” KRS One had done “Say No” and anti-drug song as well as “Advance” that spoke on several positive issues.