Knowledge Reigns Supreme, KRS, KRS-One, simply one of the most compelling, legit and uncompromised performances you’ll ever have the honour of bearing witness to, honestly.
The hundred or so acts I’ve happened upon in my life give me some bragging rights, but more than anything they give me a benchmark, be it Skinnyman at a beach front bar in Brighton or Kanye on main stage at Glasto, there are levels, and they are not often met.
The first thing that hits you is a booming freestyle, a huge presence commandeering the stage and a fierce grip turning the microphone into a truth-channeling device. The soundman can’t keep up, literally, whilst the off-the-dome-35-years-in-the-making freestyle let’s the crowd know we’re in business. From start to finish the show was high octane, not in an unbearable way, but a righteous rebel with a message kind of way. His son spun the decks, protégé and testament to the teacher’s precision. The venue made it intimate; we crowded in tightly to hear the sermon, and we all left faithful.
KRS constantly reminded the crowd that we’re not fans, but family. His wife brought down a cake for his son, his son smiled out to the audience, the Jazz café was transformed into a homely kitchen, it was a family affair and uncle KRS was out to school us on this momentous occasion, beats, bars and big lessons.
“We’re about anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-ageism, let the people see this… Fuck colonialism!” KRS-One (Jazz Café, Camden, Aug 9th 2015)
Earlier in the day I’d been at a black lives matter anniversary protest in central London, we commemorated the life of Michael Brown, but also of Mark Duggan gunned down by police in Tottenham, of Sean Rigg strangled out by police in Brixton and the 1514 others since 1990. My voice was cut up from chanting and my spirit was ground down by ceaseless police brutality.
KRS was never one to shy away from the reality of the day, he takes on the police, the corporations, the politicians, every-one who stand against people power is firmly in his scopes, and he didn’t forget to let people know what he thinks of the BBC. I felt I had the power to keep resisting. ‘No-one is illegal!’ he roared across the room, KRS’s way to introduce a track was to chant its chorus acapella a few times, warming it up and then drop the track hard – I’d only seen that on the screen before, in person, it works a treat.
The Invaders was the standout track for me, it stirred my soul, deeply, this track with its eerie South American pipes and threats to the United States, was timely and tight. Only days before I was at a detention centre for women migrants, chanting for their freedom, and against their torture, KRS’s performance invoked the same spirit of those brave freedom fighters.
“All these rapper have corporations behind them, they’re all corporate, and I’m not signing anything unless my family is with me.” KRS-One (Jazz Café, Camden, Aug 9th 2015)
KRS is all about knowledge and learning, he spoke of how education is a joke, he told the crowd how as soon as his son could read and write he snatched him out of school and put him in home schooling. The performance was as much an insight into KRS’s philosophy as it was a demonstration of his catalogue. We were reminded about the ‘nation of Hip-Hop’, about how the culture informs us, and we inform the culture.
I left the show full of life, full of reasons and full of respect for one of the last remaining legends in the Hip-Hop world. KRS-One, a real Hip-Hop don.
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