Filed under: Bronx Bombers,Interviews,Newest Latest,Not Your Average,Steady Bootleggin',Video Clips
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
One of the all-time highlights in my Unkut Dot Com experience would have to be speaking to DJ Kenny Parker last year, and when I recently had the chance to speak to his younger brother Kris a week or so ago, it was on like Donkey Kong. The problem was, unlike the three hours I had to talk with Kenny while he was kicking back at the crib, KRS was in the middle of a KOCH Records press day, which meant I had only a 45-minute slot to work with, which ended-up being only 40 minutes after some jerky before me ran overtime. Nevertheless, he proved to be every bit as entertaining as I’d expected, carefully walking the line between brilliance and insanity during our conversation, while the album itself finds the Blastmasta regaining some of his old swagger on the better tracks.
[some other interviewer hump who’s on my dime] Why Marley Marl?
Marley is a karma. You know the whole battle – the Bridge Wars – KRS vs. MC Shan, Boogie Down Productions vs. the Juice Crew, Scott La Rock vs. Marley Marl and Mr. Magic, Red Alert vs. Mr Magic on WBLS/Kiss-FM…the whole thing. We always were friends – the members of the Juice Crew, Boogie Down Productions, Red Alert and Marley Marl. We started off battling, no doubt. It was real for a good year – maybe six months – it was real in the field. Bronx was lookin’ at Queensbridge, Queensbridge was lookin’ at Bronx, you couldn’t go into certain neighborhoods…it was real for a minute. We managed to get past that, because there were certain rules. Zulu Nation was more respected then by the artists than now, and we would never go past peace, love and unity and safely having fun. So we were able to have a battle without throwing guns, because the first one who drew the gun, Zulu Nation would punk you right there on the spot. So we were under a certain hip-hop principle. Keep in mind, Roxanne Shante was battling UTFO under the same principals, MC Shan was battling LL Cool J under the same principles…Salt ‘N Pepa had started their careers at the same time, battling Doug E. Fresh, same principles – and here I come, answering MC Shan. It was the whole answer record era. So we were answering each other, not on a beef, “I’m gonna shoot you”, but out of competition. And the competition was fierce and it was real and fights did break out!
1987 I dropped Criminal Minded, 2007 I got a twenty year anniversary coming up, and Alan from KOCH Records called me up for another project and I said “I’ve got this twenty year anniversary coming up, whatchu wanna do? I think Premier should produce the album”, and everyone said “Word! That would be hot, call Premier”. Premier was widdit, but when we got in the meeting and I said that, we thought about it and a guy named Dee at KOCH had said “What about Marley Marl?” and the minute ha said it, we was like “Whoa!” That does make an impact. And it lifted my spirit. The minute he said “Marley”, a karma lifted off of me. Why am I living under this dark cloud of rivalry with someone that I don’t really have rivalry with? This is folklore, this is an old mythology. It works for our culture, it’s a great motif, but why am I, Kris, living under this dark cloud? I thought about Marley and I said: “Man, he’s been living under a dark cloud”. I’m doing the “South Bronx” every night, I’m doin’ “The Bridge Is Over” – for twenty years I’m dissing Marley in “The Bridge Is Over”. Twenty years! And he’s my friend on top of that. I mean real friend – beyond music. We have stories together. So the karma lifted off of me and I said “This is what we need to do”. So we called Marley right there on the spot, Marley said “Yes, I’m with it. Let’s do this. I need this. Let’s go!” He didn’t know what the deal was, he didn’t know what he was getting paid, he didn’t know when the album was coming out, he just said “I’m in”. First I went to LA where I live, he’s in Jersey and we got on the phone. We talked for three and a half hours about us, about history and about hip-hop. When we got away from that phone conversation it was clear – his heart was lighter, my heart was lighter, we were clear-minded. We joked with each other, we cursed each other out, we got rid of some lies, we got rid of some misconceptions about each other and we became men. Right there on the phone, three and a half hours, we just rose-up to that level.
So Marley sent me nine tracks and said “Pick one”. That would start the album for him. Of course I blazed all nine and sent him back all nine tracks. He then realized what time it was and invited me over to the House of Hits. I went to his house – amazing, absolutely AMAZING experience recording at the House of Hits. We finished up the album in like four days – recorded thirty, forty tracks – and the rest of it was tweaking, getting things together, and that was it.
Robbie: You seem to have made a conscious effort to patch things up with a lot of guys you had falling-outs with, especially in ’92, guys like PRT, X-Clan, Blaq Poet. Have you reached a point in your life where you want to squash all that stuff, or is it just a natural progression where you started making music with guys you’d had disagreements with previously?
It’s both of what you just said, and it’s more. First of all, we were always friends. This after the beefs and battles, we became friends. Wise Intelligent, Poor Righteous Teachers crew, X-Clan…Brother J, even Lench Mob and Ice Cube! [laughs] We were always friends once we put our differences aside. The beef was never beef – it was never “I disrespected your wife” or some bullshit. It was never that – it was always philosophical. This is what kept things under wraps. It did get physical, ‘cause dude’s ain’t no punks! Poor Righteous Teachers ain’t no punks and neither is X-Clan. Neither is Boogie Down Productions! Everybody got they own crew and everybody hype and everybody like “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” but it was all philosophical. But as a man who holds himself out to be a spiritual man, or a man of God, I would hop that when you think of KRS you think of a man of principles – a man of truth. If I stay within that realm of truth, then I should express that to the public. You should not have a misconception of who KRS is and what his environment is really like. I don’t wanna come on television and you thinking “Yeah! That’s my nigga! He got beef with Marley, he shut down X-Clan…yo, he’s dissing Poor Righteous Teachers – yo, this is my dude!” I don’t want you to think that, ‘cause it’s not the truth.
The truth is, Wise Intelligent’s been down with the Temple of Hip-Hop since the beginning. When I announced the Temple of Hip-Hop, Wise Intelligent was there right next to Chuck D. Brother J and I both live in Los Angeles and have been attending Native American conferences on whole different levels that don’t even have nothing to do with me or him! We’ve been attending Native American conferences and movements here in the United States to bring justice to the aborigines of the United States, I would say. Me and X-Clan have toured together for years. And the same thing goes for Marley Marl as well. For most of hip-hop you think “KRS and Marley got beef! Shan, Shante…Boogie Down Productions, Juice Crew. Do y’all still got beef? Do y’all still talk to each other?” Well now it’s time to clarify all that. Let’s get clear – we’re seekers of truth. Let’s get the truth out. The truth of the matter is that Wise Intelligence is a member of the Temple of Hip-Hop. The truth of the matter is that Brother J is a member of the Temple of Hip-Hop and Zulu Nation. The truth of the matter is that Marley Marl and I have been best of friends for the last fifteen years!
Because you guys used to tour together.
We used to tour together, we did a whole lot. But the folklore, the mythology, the “history” of hip-hop still puts a grey cloud over me, over Marley, over hip-hop – unless we dispel that cloud with the sunshine of truth. That’s what Hip-Hop Lives is all about. I don’t even have beef with Nelly, really. We haven’t reconciled, we haven’t made any amends. It was just a quick battle and that was that. I don’t even have beef with PM Dawn. I did apologize to PM Dawn on numerous occasions….
It’s funny you should mention that because Kenny was telling me that even with that whole incident, you weren’t even the one that kicked him off the stage. That was Just-Ice and a few of the crew that got physical with him.
Right! But see, that’s the truth of it all, but the folklore is “KRS grabbed PM Dawn and threw him off the stage!”
By the seat of his pants…
“By the seat of his pants”. I picked-up a three-hundred pound dude and…[laughs] But this is the point though. There is mythology and folklore – which works for our culture, it keeps us together, but then there’s real scholarship and there’s real truth when you get down to it. And Kenny is correct – I didn’t really even touch PM Dawn. But at that moment I was the lead of that whole brigade. I was giving the orders, so when the cops come around – “Yeah, it was me”. I’m not gonna tell them “Oh, it was this guy over here. He did it”. No, it was me. I’ll take full responsibility. This is not a “No Snitching” campaign – this is a military campaign, and the general is usually the one who takes responsibility. So for years, I took the responsibility, I apologized to PM Dawn and tried to make amends with them, and no one probably will ever know…well maybe now they’ll know, those who do their homework or listen to you or your articles or whatever you’ve presented – they will know, but for the rest of the mainstream world? They don’t need to know. Let ‘em have the image in their mind that if you spit that wack shit, KRS is gonna step on your stage and toss your ass off the stage! That’s what hip-hop needs to hear and know.
True. But there was a huge fall-out as far as the media jumping on you with all this ying-yang about “It’s hypocritical”. I don’t agree with that, because BDP was always about knockin’ out suckers as well as teaching…but is it fair to say that you lost a lot of fans as a result of that incident?
Yeah, but that’s actually two questions. The quick answer to the last one – did I lose fans? Fans disappeared quickly. Half my sales disappeared. It was funny – before the PM Dawn incident, Edutainment sold 600,000 copies. The very next album, was Sex and Violence, sold 250 [thousand].
And Sex and Violence was a stronger album to me.
It was a stronger album but no, people were not feeling that. But the other side, to answer the other part about the press coming down on KRS, – this was really what the press was supposed to do. I commend the press of the 1990’s. I don’t like the press of the 1990’s for other reasons – their lack of scholarship – but in terms of what they were supposed to do…they were not supposed to applaud that. They couldn’t take the stance that KRS assaulted another guy and this is good for hip-hop. I would not have taken that stance! I would have wrote something that said “You dumb motherfuckers! Look at y’all again! Sensationalizing shit! This is not good for hip-hop!” But they took the right stance, and this is where the balance is supposed to come from. The written word. I think they were harsh on me because they didn’t mention that I’m the guy who put out Criminal Minded. I’m the guy who said “I’m the type of guy to lead a crew/ Right up to your face and diss you”. They didn’t mention none of that. They didn’t mention the fact that I had already made it clear how I was gonna stop the violence – I’m not stoppin’ the violence with a flower, or a protest, or a rally. No, I got a baseball bat in my hand. That’s how I’m stopping violence! Love has to come stronger than hate. Peace has to be stronger than war! That was my stances then. I’ve modified my views since then, but that was my view and it was clear! So I don’t see the contradiction. Me personally, or even professionally, I don’t see the contradiction.
But I do commend the press for printing what they did: “He’s contradicting himself, he’s a hypocrite! He wants everyone to just follow his version of hip-hop!” That was good. The press needed to put that out, because that’s what we don’t want. And if it means that I have to lose fans and lose credibility amongst the hip-hop intellectual community? Then so be it. Because me – I’m Mohammad Ali in this. I’m not a fly-by-night dude, so I’m not worried about it. In fact, KRS is the guy that the press should be the hardest on. Because I think the most, out of the culture. I would say that arrogantly. I think the most, I’m the loudest voice for the movement of hip-hop’s preservation. I speak on behalf of Afrika Bambatta, I speak on behalf of Kool Herc. I have my own movement – The Temple of Hip-Hop – we’re exploring the spirituality, the divinity in hip-hop. Yeah, you better fuckin’ be on this guy’s back! If you’re not, I may turn into a cult leader! I may turn into a dictator! I may do something stupid! I don’t know – but I know I need my people. I need people to check me on certain areas. Even if I disagree.
Just in case you turn into some L. Ron Hubbard figure!
Yeah man! Some manipulative shit! We ain’t dealing with that! I don’t even want that for hip-hop. I want a free exchange of ideas. But know it works the other way – see, there’s a flip-side to that. The flip-side is, if I prove myself – you know, PM Dawn got tossed off the stage, OK – but if three years later it turns out that he was a child molestor? Which he was – he was convicted for child molestation. He was caught in the bed with his younger cousin.
Wasn’t that his DJ?
I don’t remember. I don’t even like repeatin’ it! [chuckles] I’m just sayin’….I’ll give you another example. I said “Basketball is the Revolution” and I did a commercial for Nike, and everybody said “What the fuck? What is KRS doing?” Two or three years later, the basketball teams had a strike, and one of their slogans was “Basketball is the Revolution”. And everybody was quiet! As the basketball players were striking for better money and this kind of thing – it’s a few years back. See the issue is, if you have a cultural teacher…all cultures produce their teachers, philosophers, prophets – even their presidents, kings, queens – all cultures and societies grow up into this. But if you keep killing your prophets and not heading their voice, and not giving them a chance to speak, then your really playing yourself on the other side.
I consider myself one of hip-hop’s teachers…I consider myself one of hip-hop’s prophets, really. But for me to say that, and acknowledge that I come with a word from God for hip-hop – I gotta be willing to hear somebody say “Well prove it, then! You claim you from God? Well prove it then!” And that’s when I go to work, right there. Or we’re at a lecture or I’m on television or somebody wants to challenge hip-hop, and I’m like “No. It goes down like this” and I give a defense of hip-hop that is honest and strong – then the people gotta support that. You can diss me all day, no doubt – I’m strong enough for it – but when I’m out in the public, and they dissin’ me in the public and you know these people ain’t hip-hop? Nah, my people are supposed to rally around me. I coulda murdered somebody in another community – my community is supposed to rally around me and say: “We still don’t believe he did it!” There could be blood on my hands – I could have the goods in my bag – my community is supposed to say “Nuh-uh, he belongs to us and we’ll deal with him. Y’all go ahead”
On the new album, “I Was There” makes mention of hip-hop historians that weren’t first-hand witnesses to what happened. Was that inspired by anything in a particular book or just general reading of websites and magazines?
It wasn’t one particular book – it was most of the hip-hop books that I’m reading are not dealing with scholarship. They’re dealing with the folklore and the mythology of hip-hop. They are being politically correct according to what rappers have said hip-hop’s history is, but they are not doing the full scholarship that it takes to write down history or to document any piece of it. So I mention a whole lotta events and places that I was actually at. It doesn’t mean that you’re not an authentic hip-hop historian if you weren’t at these places – not at all. But it does mean that if you have not interviewed KRS-One, you cannot call yourself a hip-hop historian. If you have not interviewed Afrika Bambatta or Kool Herc, while they’re alive, you cannot call yourself a hip-hop historian. Grandmaster Flash, Crazy Legs – same way. Even bringing it up to people like Harry Allen and Ernie Paniccioli and Chris Lighty from Violator – these are scholars of the culture. These are not record-makers, these are people who’ve been there from the beginning and can tell you – with documentation – how this whole thing came together. They’re not even being discussed in these books.
One book that comes to mind as I speak: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop – Jeff Chang. Jeff Chang, I would say cultural friend; I’ve been interviewed by him on several occasions. When I read Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop I didn’t see the scholarship. I saw Kool Herc thrown at the front of the book for his own credibility – and the foreword was wack – then he goes on to explain hip-hop, obliviously from a Def Jam-slanted point of view – because that’s where he worked, mostly – and then he gets around to the Stop The Violence movement and totally down-plays the movement, destroys any kind of hope we have for leadership in our culture, and just breezes over with inaccurate information about the Stop The Violence movement, about even the song “Stop The Violence” that appears on By All Means Necessary – just wrong information. I wouldn’t call it a lie, ‘cause I know he’s not trying to lie about these things, it’s just inaccurate information! He didn’t do his homework! Then of course there are books that are scholarly magnificent, like That’s The Joint. That record is calling for writers to step-up on their history. Don’t get caught-up in the records, assuming that “South Bronx” is hip-hop’s history. It’s not. Hip-hop did not start in the South Bronx – it started in the West Bronx. But at the time I was repping the South Bronx, and the people I mentioned were from South Bronx, West Bronx, Northern Bronx, East Bronx – but my song was “South Bronx” ‘cause that’s where I was from. But we have journalists posing as scholars that are listening to a record and saying “OK, because KRS said in a record that this is the history, we’re gonna write it in a book” and we need to get away from that.
You mentioned before that everything between you and Marley is good now, but have you spoken to Mr. Magic, since he really set it all off when he dissed your record?
I haven’t spoken to Magic for this whole project. He’s been on the low, Magic’s doing his thing- he’s a hustler. He knows what it is. Marley’s obviously in touch with everyone, and Marley kinda brushed everyone away and said “Give me this time to be alone with KRS to finish the project, and then we can get kissy kissy and huggy huggy and lovey lovey later”. So I haven’t really spoken to Magic or Shan or Shante. When I go back to New York I have a meeting with Shante, I’m going to her medical practice. You know Shante is a practicing psychoanalyst and I’m gonna go to her practice in Queens and lay on her couch and get my head twisted by Roxanne Shante…
[I burst out laughing]
…that’s gonna be dope. Now that the album has just come out, now I can shake hands and kiss babies.
Did Marley ever address you on the stolen drum reel incident? I think he implied that DJ Doc taken his drum sounds in the 80s.
I already confessed that we would sample Marley’s drum sounds from off his records. The “Bridge Is Over” sounds is Eric B. and Rakim’s drum sounds, sampled.
Which is “Impeach The President”…
Yeah, crazy right?
That’s the same thing that Kanye West does with Pete Rock 12”s.
See! And I think that’s good. We need that sound. We need that Pete Rock sound real quick.
(Australian Bonus Tracks):
KRS-One & Marley Marl – U Thug [Hip-Hop Lives, KOCH, 2007]
KRS-One & Marley Marl – On Top Of My Game [Hip-Hop Lives, KOCH, 2007]
BDP “Duck Down” 1992
KRS-One & Marley Marl “Hip-Hop Lives” 2007
KRS-One & Marley Marl – Rap City Freestyle
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