KRS-One Looks To Web For Hip-Hop's Future

Set for Tuesday (Feb. 3) SonicNet chat.

NEW YORK -- Rapper KRS-One is setting himself up, on the one hand,

as hip-hop's historian, and, on the other hand, as one of its most

computer-savvy practitioners.

Just before going onstage at the top of a bill earlier this month at New

York City's Tramps nightclub - an event that included performances by Big

Daddy Kane

and the Cold Crush Brothers -- he spoke with Addicted To Noise about

where hip-hop began and where it's headed. (On Tuesday KRS-One will do a chat at "SonicNet".)

In his opinion, hip-hop didn't start on the streets of New York City in the

1970s. It's much older than that, perhaps tracing its roots back to

prehistoric cave drawings. "This thing is inside human nature, to want to

express their art," he said. "When we go to the yards, it's exactly like

that. You can't see what you're doing. You just have to know it. It's

pitch black, especially in the tunnels on the '2' and the '5' lines. We do

our art in the caves of trains, because our art was rejected and not

thought of as being of any substance. We had to do it illegally."

Now hip-hop is legal, he said, and the culture has built itself into a $700

million industry worldwide. It has reached far beyond the streets of New

York into fashion and art. It's ready for its own hall of fame. But,

because of the violence and vandalism that has hounded many hip-hop acts,

it's tough to find it performed in clubs or stadiums.

One way around this "distribution" problem, the 31-year-old KRS-One said,

is to put hip-hop on the Internet, where the fans are only a few

mouse-clicks away from the music. For his 1997 CD, I Got Next, which

contains the tracks

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/KRS-One/Heartbeat.ram">"Heartbeat"

(RealAudio excerpt) and

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/KRS-One/Over_Ya_Head.ram">"Over Ya

Head"

(RealAudio excerpt), he included videos, a discography and several other

items that can only be seen on a PC or Mac with a CD-ROM drive and

QuickTime software installed.

"This is how we're going to move forward in the future, up-and-coming 21st

century. Feel free to click around on the many facets of hip-hop as they

come up on your screen," he said in the introduction of the enhanced CD.

Much of the enhanced CD's content also can be found on the website of the

Temple

of Hip-Hop, http://www.templeofhiphop.com/, his hip-hop school that plans

to open a storefront on 125th Street in Harlem. As that grand opening

approaches in May, even more content will be added to the website, KRS-One

said.

The Web will allow people in cities that don't have clubs that will book hip-

hop acts to still see or hear the music through cybercasts. Big-name acts

such as

Sean

"Puffy" Combs and the Family can fill stadiums with their mass appeal, but

many other lesser-name rap acts don't get their videos played on MTV or

their CDs stocked in Wal-Mart, he explained.

To help give these artists some exposure, KRS-One said he wants to do more

with the Web, with CD-ROM and with video. A lot will be tied to the

scheduled May 19 opening of the Temple of Hip-Hop, he said, which will

feature not only performances by the old-school masters of the

social/musical genre, but also seminars and tutorials.

To KRS-One, hip-hop is more than just rhymes. It's a movement with its

own speech, styles and sounds, not unlike what flower-power was to the

hippies of the '60s or what the underground scene was to punks of the '70s.

On I Got Next, KRS-One revisited the 1980s new-wave group Blondie and

their rap classic "Rapture" with his track

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/KRS-One/Step_Into_A_World.ram">"Step Into

A World" (RealAudio

excerpt). It recalls the early days of hip-hop, when new-wave punks such as

Blondie leader Debbie Harry started doing dance remixes, and when rappers

such as Afrika Bambaata and the Soul Sonic Force first sampled German techno.

"No one ever really talks about the punk-rock involvement in hip-hop, which

influenced Afrika Bambaata," KRS-One said. "The only time you had blacks,

whites and Latinos jamming together was in hip-hop. It's an unsung

history."

History is one thing. Airplay is another, he added. "Step Into A World"

was put together in search of a commercial hit, KRS-One said, something he

had been avoiding on his two previous albums but that his record company

was coming to insist upon. "I said to the record company that when I

decide to go gold, we gotta do certain things," he said. So they made a

deal. The Jive Records reps told him that if he does what it takes to go

gold, they'll do what it takes to go platinum, he added.

In turn, KRS-One went to Blondie's Harry for permission to re-use some of

the "Rapture" lyrics, and he went to Puff Daddy for a remix and some

additional vocals. The remix, sadly, took on a new role after the

gangland-style assassination of the Notorious B.I.G. on March 9, 1997.

After Biggie died, KRS-One and Puffy went back into the studio and remixed

the track yet again, turning it into a tribute that predates "I'll Be

Missing You" by several months, he added.

But by that time, it was too late to change the album art, so the remix

became unlisted bonus-track 19 on I Got Next.

Color="#720418">[Mon., Feb. 2, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]