Rap pioneer KRS-One, who built his reputation on fiercely political music, is taking heat for comments he recently made about September 11.
Thursday's Rush & Molloy gossip column in the New York Daily News alleged that "the hip-hop anarchist has declared his solidarity with Al Qaeda by asserting that he and other African-Americans 'cheered when 9-11 happened,' " and said that KRS's words "defiled the memory of those who died in the terrorist attacks."
KRS-One's comments came during an October 2 discussion panel at The New Yorker Festival. He ignited heated reactions when he stated that security guards at the Twin Towers did not let blacks enter because of their manner of speech and dress, and that because of that discrimination, "when the planes hit the building, we were like, 'Mmmm ... justice.' "
The often controversial rapper (see "KRS-One On Nelly: 'I Can Slap Him Around For Days' ") also said he felt that voting adds to society's corruption and that "America has to commit suicide if the world is to be a better place." The statement incited former Nirvana member Krist Novoselic — also on the panel — to shout in response: "That is wrong, man. Suicide is not the answer."
In response to the Daily News story, KRS released a statement on Thursday to explain his words.
"Like everyone," he wrote, "I was shocked to read that I and other African-Americans actually 'cheered when 9-11 happened,' and that I have 'declared my solidarity with Al Qaeda.'
"I would never just say something as crazy as 'we cheered when 9-11 happened'!" he continued. "I was making an objective point about how many hip-hoppas as well as the oppressed peoples of the world felt that day."
The rapper said that when he was asked why hip-hop has not "engaged the current situation more [meaning 9-11], my response was 'because it does not affect us, or at least we don't perceive that it affects us. September 11 happened to them.' I went on to say that 'I am speaking for the culture now; I am not speaking my personal opinion.' "
KRS said that after he stated that the hip-hop community's response to the attacks was "Mmmm ... justice," he had hoped to say, "Now of course, a lot of our friends and family were lost there as well," but was interrupted.
In the lengthy statement, KRS went on to explain that his words were taken out of context and that some of what he said may have been misunderstood because "I am a poet and I speak poetically."
With regard to his statement about America committing suicide in order for the world to become a better place, KRS explained: "If you want to go beyond voting, American interests must put a gun to its head and commit suicide, because as long as we are only interested in American interests, we go out and invade the rest of the world."
Though he was saddened by 9-11, the rapper said, he and many members of his community who were "racially profiled and harassed by the World Trade Center's security" felt a "sense of justice, a sense of change, a wake-up call watching the Twin Towers fall."
"For the record," the rapper said, concluding his statement, "I am an American philosopher. I speak and seek truth." KRS apologized "if the slander that the Daily News has printed regarding my political views has offended anyone in any way."
"However," he added, "we do have a voice and a point of view, and if you are not prepared to hear what hip-hop has to say about its view of world events, then don't ask!"