The first Hardcore Hip-Hop album. Minimal yet iconic, it set a new standard for Hip-Hop music.
Born Lawrence Parker, KRS One was a witness to the rise of Hip-Hop from the very beginning. Moving with his mother and brother into the South Bronx in the early ‘70s, he lived right across the street from the apartment of legendary Kool Herc, the original deejay, and took in the rec-room and block parties that were to be later known as the earliest Hip Hop jam sessions. After the Sugar Hill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight‘ put Hip-Hop music to the charts he got into MCing and eventually graffiti. Fascinated by the philosophy of the Hare Krishnas, he was dubbed “Krishna” by his friends, and shortened it as the graffiti tag ‘KRS-One’ which of course stands for ‘Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone.’
He met Scott La Rock while homeless and staying at a group home. A few weeks later they ran into each other at Ced Gee’s (Ultramagnetic MC’s) pad, which reportedly housed the sole SP-12 sampler in the borough. Recognizing a joint affinity for hip-hop, the two eventually formed a crew, later recruiting ‘The Human TR-808,’ D-Nice. They recorded their first demo tape entitled ‘Success is the World‘ as 12:41 and handed it over to Mr. Magic -a pioneer Hip-Hop DJ that was affiliated with the Juice Crew. After Mr.Magic’s turndown, Boogie Down Productions were formed and started dissing Mr.Magic and his associated acts – most notably MC Shan. They understood Shan to be claiming Queens as the birthplace of hip hop in ‘The Bridge‘ and responded with ‘South Bronx‘, a dissing track that pretty much ignited what would become known as ‘The Bridge Wars’. Shan wasted no time in striking back with ‘Kill That Noise,’ which dismissed KRS and even had a sample of the ‘South Bronx chant with Shan yelling after, ‘Kill that noise!’ KRS didn’t slack, and not even a week after came with a response, ‘The Bridge is Over.’ Over Scott’s drum pattern and a piano melody played by KRS himself, the track was even more vicious than ‘Bronx,’ calling out Shan, Marl, Magic, and others, with classic lines like, ‘Manhattan keeps on making it, Brooklyn keeps on taking it, Bronx keeps creating it and Queens keeps on faking it!‘
These two Hip-hop anthems aside, ‘Criminal Minded’ is filled with some amazingly crafted tracks, including ‘9mm Goes Bang’, ‘Criminal Minded’, and ‘Poetry’. And although there’s some matter of dispute over who the true musical architect of the album was (some say Ced Gee was a ‘ghost producer’ on the album) there’s no disputing that it was a game-changer. The album cover alone could prove it showing Scott La Rock and KRS decked out with guns, ammo, and grenades ready to start a war.
Not only was BDP on the front line of documenting hood mentality, they infused the culture with an ethical code and, along with Public Enemy, helped fuel a renewed Black radicalism. La Rock’s slaying in the Bronx ( he was shot and killed by an unknown assailant while acting as a mediator in a conflict between D-Nice and a dude in the hood before the release of ‘By All Means Necessary’) only legitimized KRS’s words and made him ever mindful of his role as ghetto spokesman. He retired his title of the Blastmaster, fully took on the title of the Teacha, and dedicated himself to educating and changing listeners with his words building a legendary body of work. A line from that record, famously sampled by N.W.A., cemented his philosophy: ‘It’s not about a salary/ It’s all about reality.’
If you liked this album you can:
2. Hear this cool KRS interview.
3. Watch this amazing clip from the Beef doc (skip to 18:31) about the ‘Bridge Wars‘