NEW YORK — For a man who has seen great success for himself in the
hip-hop community, KRS-One was on the verge of perhaps one of his proudest
His innovative and much-talked-about Temple of Hip-Hop school, which trains
and educates young aspiring MCs and DJs, was about to be christened with a
rap celebration after years of preparation and planning. But not all was right this
early January evening.
As rap-master KRS-One prepared to lead the bill Jan. 2 at Tramps, police
blocked 20th Street while crews dug to repair a water main break that caused a
gas explosion on Fifth Avenue in the afternoon. Dust was everywhere, and with
the street closed, not even the sound crew could unload their gear from the
trucks. But if KRS was going to have his way, there would be a show that night,
come hell or (literally) high water.
As the story goes, the show went on. And, appropriately enough, so will the
The celebration at Tramps was for the second anniversary of the Temple of Hip-Hop in Harlem, a project spearheaded by the 32-year-old KRS-One as a
finishing school for hip-hoppers young and old. Along with KRS-One, who
helped develop plans for building a school to carry out the project’s goals,
performers included the Cold Crush Brothers, Big Daddy Kane, Broadway, the
Ghetto Rats and Rites of Passage.
KRS-One, briefing the performers in the basement of Tramps just before
showtime, told them to remember that they were representing not only
themselves that night, but also the whole hip-hop movement. Once the show
started upstairs, he took a few minutes out to discuss what the Temple is all
about. (RealVideo excerpt)
The Temple, he said, “is hip-hop’s first school and institution for hip-hop philosophy, codes, this sort of thing.” After a year of planning and
developing ideas, the first school buildings will open at 125th Street on May 19,
during a week-long celebration of hip-hop culture that will include more old-school performances at the Apollo Theater across the street.
It will be a school in the traditional sense, he said, where the masters of hip-hop
will teach the basics to the younger generation. “We’re not interested in how
many records you’ve sold or how many times you play on the radio,” KRS said.
“We’re interested in the art of MCing, DJing, breaking, graffiti art (better known
as aerosol art or bombing), philosophy, spoken word, poetry, fashion and
Huron Cortez, designer of the Temple of Hip-Hop website, said that
the site has averaged 8,000 hits a month since it opened last summer. One
of the first things that went online was a registration form that fans
could use to join the Temple. “Probably 30-40 percent [of the site’s visitors] are
registering,” he said.
“Different radio stations are advertising the site,” he said. “Someone called me
from Virginia the other day saying they heard the site being announced while
they were driving.”
Cortez said music clips will be the next enhancement for the site,
along with more information about the Temple, news articles and online
merchandising. “We’re going to do it in RealAudio,” he said, referring to the
technology that allows for rapid playback of audio clips. “Streaming
[technology] is a little faster.”
The goal of the entire Temple project, according to KRS, is to instruct as much
as to entertain, to communicate to a new generation how hip-hop got started.
It’s a theme that flows through almost everything KRS is doing lately, such as
when he took time to tell the new acts performing that night not to forget the past
because it may be their future.
It’s a theme that framed his 1996 book, “The Science of Rap,” and that
dominated his 1997 album, I Got Next. Hip-hop is more than rhymes, he
says. It’s a movement with its own speech, styles and sounds, not unlike what
rock was to the hippies in the ’60s or what punk was to the ’70s underground
generation. And as hip-hop looks to close out the ’90s, it makes sense to
remember where it was in the ’80s, KRS added.
“We are the cultural bearers,” he said. “We say we are not just doing hip-
hop. We are hip-hop. So if we are, we have the responsibility to protect
the culture, to promote the culture and to make sure that people who
might want to get involved have a proper introduction to what’s going on.”
KRS-One draws a sharp distinction between an MC and a rapper, however. An
MC represents a culture. A rapper stands for a corporation, he said.
Performing and recording means striking a balance between art and
commerce, even within the hip-hop culture. His advice: “Be clear what you
want to make money on, and be clear what is your culture and your art and
your hobby. Once you’re clear about that in your own heart and your own
mind, you then move on to balance yourself in the sense that every year,
this culture changes. If you’re not changing every year, you’ll be
forgotten about the year that everything changes.” Color="#720418">[Fri., Jan. 16, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]