Filed under: Features,In The Trenches,Interviews,Not Your Average,Steady Bootleggin'
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Following on from Part 1, Kenny discusses the aftermath of the PM Dawn beatdown….
Kenny Parker: So the next day, Jive Records calls up and they’re like “The press wants to talk to you, Kris. Come down to Jive”. When we got there, the mood was really somber. Everybody was upset, and I remember seeing Busta Rhymes – I guess he was there with Tribe [Called Quest], I dunno what reason Busta had to be at Jive that day, but he was there – and he was like, “Yo, you are the greatest!” He was hugging Kris, and he was shaking him so hard he was crying! Busta was crying tears, and he was hugging Kris and he was shaking him so hard that they knocked over a computer off of somebody’s desk and break it on the ground! [I burst out laughing] At this point they had done “Scenario”, so I guess Jive didn’t really care, but they broke a computer that day. [chuckles] It was just the illest thing, ’cause it looked like a classic video: sucker MC’s rhymin’, super MC comes along and knocks him off and starts rhymin’. It looked like that.
Jive was like “every press in the country and overseas wants to know what happened”. It was MTV, it was all Europe press, every magazine…everybody was like “What happened? Why did you do this?” And I think that’s where the problem started. When Kris said “PM Dawn tried to diss me so I went up there and showed ’em who the Teacher is”, that’s when all the backlash started. And let me say for the record – the backlash was enormously negative for him. ENORMOUS! You know how people say “All publicity is good publicity”? I’m gonna say “No” to that. I think Kris would’ve been better off saying, “Yo, I was just there and it was wack, and I was drunk and we just went up there and I just wanted to livin’ up the party!” He might’ve been better-off saying that then “PM Dawn tried to diss me so that’s why I went up there”. Because then it became: “Hold up, you’re the guy who made ‘Stop The Violence’. You’re a hypocrite. You’re a fraud!” And from that point on, people started saying “Kris is a hypocrite. Says one thing and does another”.
I think Kris is two kinds of MC’s. He’s a battle rapper, and he came-up battling, and he’s had a lot of numerous battles that people know about – and don’t even know about – AND he’s also a conscious rapper who tries to talk about upliftment of our race, the government, and things goin’ on. I think there’s no way you can be both without being contradictory, in my opinion. The problem Kris has had over the years is that when he starts talking about the government, about “Black man rise up”, people start saying “Yo, he’s too preachy. Edutainment was too preachy. Whatever happened to Criminal Minded? Why won’t he make ‘9MM’? Why won’t he rhyme like that?” Then when he makes battle records, then the “conscious” people go “Oh, he’s contradictory. How’s he talkin’ about snapping a MC’s neck? He’s supposed to be talkin’ about ‘Stop The Violence’!” The problem is that Kris would’ve had to leave one of those behind. Either he would’ve had to say “I’m not a battle rapper. I ain’t making those kind of records ever again”, or he would’ve had to say “I’m a battle rapper. I’m not making conscious records ever again”. Every album he has, he’ll do both. He’ll talk about things things going on in society, then he’ll make records talkin’ about how he’ll crush an MC.
I don’t have a problem with that, personally.
I don’t have a problem with it either, but in his career I’ve noticed that either which way he goes, the other side is gonna call him contradictory. That’s the price that he has to pay for being both. Knowing Kris, he really is both! He really likes battling and he write rhymes about rappers, even though he has no beef with them. He’ll just write a song about somebody and then just never use it. He’s just that kinda guy. And also he likes to talk about the government and Malcolm X – he’s that too. If you look at By All Means Necessary…that record “Stop The Violence” – everybody points to that, but on that same album on “My Philosophy”, he says “KRS-One is the kind of guy who lead a crew/right up to your face and diss you!” That’s there in clear English! No one hears that part, they just hear “stop the violence”, so if he takes a run-up with a crew they gonna say “Where that come from? He’s not like that!” when he’s tellin’ you “Yeah, I am!”
The biggest thing that hurt Kris with that PM Dawn thing is not even the incident, but it’s that Source article. That article caused us so much drama that year. The year of ’92, into ’93, was like “damage control year”, from that Source article.
He was callin’ out names big time in there.
Yeah, there’s two things in that article that caused us a lotta problems. One is that Kris was like “You know what? I’m tired of everybody. I’m tired of X-Clan, I’m tired of Ice Cube, I’m tired of PRT!” I don’t remember what Poor Righteous Teachers did that pissed Kris off. X-Clan I remember, and Ice Cube – I can’t remember for the life of me what Poor Righteous Teachers did! [laughs] Everyone that he mentioned in that article at some point that year tried to step up, and we had to deal with them. Also the second part that was a big thing was when Kris said “I am hip-hop”. That is the biggest polarization of his audience…and I think that’s a big misconception, because Kris says “I’m hip-hop. I’m not doing hip-hop – I am hip-hop. We ALL are hip-hop. We’re writing hip-hop as it goes along. There’s no rules! It’s not like a basketball player in the NBA and you have rules that you follow in the game. The hip-hop game – we’re writing the rules as we go along – so we ALL are hip-hop! I’m hip-hop, you’re hip-hop. We’re not doing it – we ARE it.” Even in that article he said “It’s not just me. Treach is hip-hop too.” But no one heard that part. They just heard him say “I’m hip-hop and I’m the greatest of all time!” and people was just like “This dude has lost his mind”. The funny thing was, I heard Vinny from Naughty By Nature said he was mad at that statement, and Kris said Treach was hip-hop!
He was just mad ’cause Kris didn’t say his name as well!
[laughs] Maybe! Vin is my man and I love Vinroc, but it got back to us that Vinny was mad too. Over the years a lotta people was mad. Biggie Smalls was mad over that! Biggie Smalls was like “How can KRS-One say he’s hip-hop? That’s bullshit”. But I think everyone’s missing what he was saying. Between him saying he’s hip-hop and him saying he’s stepping to the other rappers – yo, that hurt us. I think Kris lost half his audience that year. All the albums Kris had done prior to Sex and Violence went gold. At that time, Kris usually sold around 600,000 records or so, on the average. Sex and Violence sold like 300 [thousand].
Maybe that was because it was such a hardcore album – it was just raw.
I think that was part of it, but it was such a negative backlash. Every magazine you opened up: “KRS-One is a sucker. He’s a phony!”. I think a lotta people were like “You know what? Fuck him!” That whole year of ’92 was damage control. Now the thing with X-Clan – that was turning into some big deal. It was getting back to us – we had mutual people that knew both camps – that “Yo, they said this” and it would go back them “Yo, Kris said this”, and it was gonna be a big deal, and Afrika Bambatta called a meeting up in Bronx River. He was like, “This is not good. I’m cool with both groups, and both of y’all are really talking about the same thing. We can’t have a divide and conquer situation going on”. So Afrika Bambatta calls us up to Bronx, and I remember that X-Clan had brought guns up there – they thought it was gonna be like an ambush or something. Willie D, who’s down with us, is president of a chapter of five in Zulu Nation, so we have a real close affiliation. So if dudes from Brooklyn is coming all the way up to Bronx River to have a meeting with some dudes that got beef that are down with Zulu Nation – they must’ve thought it was an ambush or some drama. Security that was there was saying that X-Clan had guns and the whole nine, they told ’em to leave the guns outside and come inside.
I didn’t know they rolled like that.
I didn’t know they rolled like that either! So we had the meeting, and everything was squashed. By the time “Build and Destroy” came out that beef was already squashed. Kris was like “I’m down to squash the beef with X-Clan, but let me say my piece though. Then we good”. Here’s the third thing that caused us a lotta beef – he said something about the 5%ers that article too. 5%ers was furious! Kool Kim said “KRS did say nothing when 5%ers and King Sun was gonna fuck him up!” First of all – King Sun is our people from back in Latin Quarters days. We know King Sun really well. So King Sun came to one of our shows, and he was mad over the whole article and he wanted to talk to Kris about it. I don’t know if he actually got to talk to Kris, but he had a long conversation with Willie D about it. I wasn’t there at that moment, but Willie D told me after the fact that King Sun was mad, but he didn’t come there on some “Yo! I’mma punch Kris in the face!”. He came in on some “Yo, Kris. Why you say that? What’s the deal?”, and they squashed it up. But let me say, the second part is – people, you can’t just roll-up on us like that either. It’s not like “OK, I feel like punching KRS-One in the face. Here I go, I’m just going down to the show”. It wasn’t really like, because we had people with us too. You know what I mean? We had a show and a bunch of 5%ers came to our show too, and they was waitin’ outside and there was like thirty of ’em, and they was mad as hell around this time too. But one of the leaders of their group knew Will – again – and they came upstairs and they talked to Kris and somehow they smoothed it out and it was all good.
All these little things were happening, week after week, after that article. I don’t know if this is true or not, but somebody told us that Lord Jamar from Brand Nubians was trying to organise all the 5%ers in hip-hop against KRS. I heard that he went to GURU, he went to Rakim, and they was like “Nah, Kris is our man. We’re not getting that deep with it”. But it was brought to our attention that Lord Jamar was trying to do this. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it came to us like that.
So a week or so after this article comes out, Kris has a lecture in Jersey, and this is one of the first times I ever went to one of his lectures. All of a sudden, someone stands up in the crowd and goes: “You’re wrong, Blackman! You’re wrong!” So they shine the light on him and it’s Wise Intelligence from Poor Righteous Teachers! So first people was like “Shut up! Shut up! Sit down, he’s doing a lecture!” but Kris was like “Nah nah nah, let him say his piece!” So they get back and forth into a little debate. It was like ten minutes! I guess PRT’s stance was more like X-Clan’s: “How you gonna call yourself a humanist? You’re selling-out the Black race”. If I recall, that was kinda his stance. And this is on film – Kris has the tape! I don’t know what he did with it, but it was on tape though.
So were they yelling at each other?
Wise Intelligence was in the crowd – he was about maybe ten or fifteen rows back from the podium, so was yelling and Kris was talking on the mic – but it was heated! I remember getting mad because the whole time the other dude – Culture Freedom – he’s heated, he’s pacing back and forth. So finally Wise Intelligence goes” “You said in The Source that we were soft. What about PRT is soft?” to Kris. And Kris says “That guy right there!” and he points to Culture Freedom. [we both laugh] Right when he said that, I grabbed the microphone and I said “This debate is cool, but Culture Freedom if you’ve got problems we can settle it!” I remember saying it, and everybody jumps down my throat [in an official-sounding voice] “No! No! No! This is a college! This is intellectual!” You know, like “Get the fuck outta here” basically, to me! After I said that, then it was like “Aight, everything’s cool”. We did a show in Trenton a week later, right in their neighbourhood. When we got out the limo they was all standing outside, but it was just “What’s up” and we kept it moving. They was upset over that article but it wasn’t like they was gonna rush us. We travelled kinda deep a lot of the time, people don’t really know that. BDP crew was a lot of people at that time, so you couldn’t just run-up on KRS.
I think there’s a misconception in hip-hop that there’s an unwritten rule that back in the day all battles was on wax, and the rule was that everything was kept on wax. That was not the rule! It just so happened that it was like that, but the other crews had CREWS! So you didn’t want to run-up on them. For example, Eric B. & Rakim had a CRAZY crew! A NOTORIOUS crew!
Rich Porter and all them.
Yeah! All those dudes that was on the back on the album – those dudes were serious! Now if you was like “You know what? I wanna battle Rakim. I’ll run-up on Rakim” it wasn’t like that! You couldn’t just run-up on Rakim like that! Same with Big Daddy Kane. He was running with all those Brooklyn dudes – Hawk and all them guys. As a matter of fact, a lot of the fights that used to go on in Union Square and Latin Quarter was these Brooklyn dudes that used to run with Kane!
And they’d be fighting guys from the Bronx and different neighborhoods?
Yeah, they was always fighting guys from the Bronx. They was always fighting Chris Lighty and the Violators! [laughs] Back then, Chris Lighty was a Violator and he was a thug. You couldn’t even run-up on Red Alert! You think Red Alert is just the coolest guy in the world, and I love Red Alert – that’s my brother – but back in the day, if you ran-up on Red Alert like “Yo! Play my record!” you was gonna have problems! You follow me? Kane had a crew, BDP had a crew, Rakim had a crew…even Chuck D. If you ran-up on Public Enemy – those Security of the First World, the S1W’s was serious! They weren’t just marching around!
They knew kung-fu and shit!
Yeah! Professor Griff was a black belt in karate! Professor Griff will whip your ass! [laughs] Because dudes had respect – plus everybody was cool with each other – like KRS, Rakim, Kane…all these people were friends. But it was a mutual respect and dudes had crews. It wasn’t like a fear thing, it wasn’t like you were scarred of their crew, but you knew “If I step to Kane, there’s gonna be a problem”. People always thought battles was just on wax. Like if MC Shan had of decided “You know what? The ‘Bridge Is Over’ was a little too personal. I think I’m gonna kick KRS-One’s ass!” [I start laughing] If the Juice Crew had thought “We’re coming for KRS”, it wasn’t that simple. There would have been a nice little skirmish! I’m not saying we woulda won or lost, I’m saying that it would’ve been a problem. I think a lot of people just think rap was just like “Yo, we’ll battle, and that’s it. It’s just cool, cause nothing’s ever gonna jump off. We’re just gonna battle and that’s the code!” That was not the code! The code was dudes was getting robbed and beat-up and all kind of shit was going on, and if you ran-up on somebody tryin’ to battle them, chances are their entourage – “entourages gone wild” – chances are, not the rapper but the people that’s with them, is probably gonna kick your ass!
Or even steal your equipment.
Yeah, even back in the day with Flash and all them, they had a crew! You ran-up and try to steal Grandmaster Flash‘s turntables – you got a problem! And Zulu Nation? Forget about it! Don’t even THINK about stepping to Afrika Bambatta! That’s the last thing on earth you want to do. And Bam is the coolest guy and he talks about peace – Afrika Bambatta is one of the coolest guys I ever met. Don’t run-up on Zulu Nation and Bambatta. And because everyone had crews, I think that kept a lotta battles from not being battles. Plus you’ve gotta understand, back in the day if you lost a battle – your career was over! It’s not like now. Now dudes will make a couple of diss records on a mixtape and then they keep it moving. If Kane had of tooken out Rakim in a battle? Rakim was over! His credibility was over. I think that had a lot to do with it as well – dudes had a lot to lose.
But back to that PM Dawn incident…if Kris knew in hindsight? He wouldn’t have went to that thing at all. People say “Why didn’t he step to Ice Cube? Why didn’t he step to these other people like he stepped to PM Dawn?” After that PM Dawn incident and the amount of heat that Kris got – he wasn’t in the position to step to nobody! He had to really chill after that. After that thing, you probably coulda said anything you want about KRS for like a year, and he might’ve had to eat that, because there was so much flack. I can’t even begin to describe to you…everywhere we went…we went overseas to promote the album – nobody was even talking about “You have a new album out”, nothing. It was “PM Dawn!” People was talking – we needed a translator – we was in Japan, we didn’t know what they were saying, it was just “Duh duh duh duh PM Dawn duh duh duh duh!” We was like “Ohhh shit!” 90% of the time I was standing right next to Kris, so I saw all of the drama. If you was there at the club at that time? Then you was with it. If there was a thousand people there – 900 of them was like “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen”. But after you read the [Source] article, if you wasn’t there and you just read what people said and the you read Kris saying “I am hip-hop”…people was just like “Fuck him!” And you know what else? MTV was like “You know what Kris? You’re banned from MTV forever!” Cause it was their party and PM Dawn was their guy!
How long did that last?
Kris’ attitude was like “You didn’t play me records anyway, so fuck MTV!” was always his stance anyway. But they didn’t play no KRS records until “Rapture (Step Into A World)”. That was in ’97, so it took about five years for MTV to get past that. Kris was always an underground rapper anyway, but MTV was furious. That incident hurt Kris more than it helped him, in my opinion. But it happened.
Still to come: The third and final part of this interview, where Kenny talks about his production work and massive collection of BDP demo tapes….
X-Clan featuring KRS-One – Speak The Truth [Return From Mecca, Suburban Noize, 2006]
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