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