KRS-One Raps Hip-Hop’s History & It Doesn’t End Well

Over a quarter-century ago, KRS-One assisted Das EFX in a cultural anthem, “Real Hip-Hop.” Featuring production by DJ Premier (and Pete Rock on the remix), the EastWest Records single served as a battle cry for the culture these artists loved in the winds of change. In 2022, Kris returns with “Raw Hip Hop,” a video highlight from his 24th solo album, I M A M C R U 1 2.

The video begins with a train arriving at Hip-Hop’s credited birthplace, 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. Kris’ bars discuss the formative years of Hip-Hop: “Back in ’73, in the borough of Bronx / Man, you couldn’t be weak, man, you had to be smart / See, we talkin’ ’bout streets, now we talkin’ ’bout art / When we talk about beats? Man, we talk about heart.” The figurative language is set against images from the BX, including murals of Malcolm X, Grandmaster Caz, Grandmaster Flash, Big Pun, and KRS-One, as well as his late Boogie Down Productions partner, Scott La Rock’s honorary street sign. Blastmasta reminds Heads that he had a front-row seat to this history, “I was there from the start.” He points out his former residence at 1600 Sedgwick. “Hip-Hop started right on my block.” KRS invokes dancers and graffiti writers with his chorus and in the video.

In the second verse, Kris reminds listeners that Hip-Hop was a positive alternative to drugs in the community, including heroin and crack. After discussing fashion and ferocity, KRS explains how money and violence permeated the artform.

With an abbreviated third verse, KRS uses crescendo for effect. “When the ’90s arrived, ’80s money was spent / All the dudes that was live, to the prison they went / And them dudes, to survive, they began to repent / Then they realized in Rap there was money to get / So gangstas became rappers, rappers became gangstas / Fake became the real for the paper.” The same MC who touted “it’s not about a salary, it’s all about reality“ is still arguing that commerce wrecked the art almost 35 years later.

Previously, KRS-One released videos for “The Beginning,” “Krazy,” and “Can You Dance” from his latest campaign.

#BonusBeat: Two recent songs from KRS-One are currently on the official AFH playlist, as well as new tracks by Brother Ali, Cypress Hill, Dr. Dre, Nas, and Elzhi & Georgia Anne Muldrow, among others:

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