KRS ONEAct­iv­ist, author and Hip Hop pion­eer, KRS-One (Know­ledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Every­one) per­formed at Elec­tric Brix­ton on 17th May 2019 as part of his ‘2019 UK, US and Europe Tour’ His thir­teenth and latest album ‘The World is Mind’, dropped in 2017. His most recent book ‘The ‘Gos­pel of Hip Hop’ was pub­lished in 2009.

KRS-One of Boo­gie Down Pro­duc­tions kicked off his solo career with the 1993 album, ‘Return of the Boom Bap’. The album fea­tured ‘Sound of Da Police’ which became his most icon­ic song (Bhangra heads NEED to hear the Dr. Das remix!). He also became a Hip Hop his­tori­ograph­er, edu­cat­or and social com­ment­at­or, start­ing ‘The Temple of Hip Hop’ pro­gramme in 1997 and pub­lish­ing his first book ‘Rumin­a­tions’ in 2003.

The sup­port acts on the night were TY, Black­t­wang and Shortee Blitz. Shortee Blitz kept the crowd rock­ing between sets with clas­sic Hip Hop joints and scratch­ing. All sup­port artists have col­lab­or­ated with each oth­er and it was a joy to see them appear onstage togeth­er at their finale, Blacktwang’s ‘So Rot­ton’. Giant let­ters KRS-ONE were then erec­ted on the stage and the appear­ance of DJ Pred­at­or Prime (KRS’ son) sig­nalled the head­liners immin­ent entrance.

KRS entered the stage free­styl­ing. He paused to inform the crowd that it was a sell-out show before resum­ing the free­style about being back in Brix­ton and some cur­rent affairs. He would return to these free­styles through­out the show. He then went into the open­ing num­bers, The Boogie Down Pro­duc­tions, clas­sic ‘South Bronx’ fol­lowed by the icon­ic ‘The Bridge is Over’. It was a hard-hit­ting intro that would have no doubt pleased his older fans and the main­stream crowd. At the cli­max of the track KRS showed exactly why he is called the ‘Blast Mas­ter’ ask­ing for the break to be turned up and stridently free­styl­ing again about cur­rent affairs, spe­cific­ally Trump’s treat­ment of Mex­ic­ans. This would be a recur­ring theme of the show.

 The next three songs were ‘Clas­sic’, ‘Step in to a world’ and ‘MC’s Act like they don’t know’.

“MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know” was pro­duced by DJ Premi­er and appeared on

KRS’ second and self-titled album ‘KRS-One’, which dropped in 1995. It was very much a fan favour­ite and got a great response from the crowd.

His third album, ‘I Got Next’ appeared in 1997 and fea­tured the single ‘Step in to a World’ which sampled the icon­ic ‘Rap­ture’ by Blon­die. The track was a “Pop hit” in KRS’ own words, which would lead to an infam­ous BBC Radio 1 inter­view where he cri­ti­cised the host Tim West­wood and BBC Radio 1 for only approach­ing him when the track became suc­cess­ful and ignor­ing his pre­vi­ous albums. The deep­er ques­tion would be why KRS-One released a song that would so obvi­ously be a pop hit and fea­tured Puff Daddy on the remix? Regard­less, the track was loved by the crowd and again fea­tured a free­style over the break. KRS’ deliv­ery was on point, he is a for­mid­able MC.

‘Outta Here’ was next. KRS called out the mem­bers of the crowd who couldn’t sing along to the refrain ‘No doubt BDP is old school, but we ain’t goin’ out!’, which had made the heads go crazy. The track paused for a free­style acapella, the sud­den silence mak­ing the lyr­ics all the more power­ful. KRS out­lined the set up for the even­ing, which also sums up his gen­er­al philo­sophy of real­ism and the ori­gins of Hip Hop, “Ori­gin­al MC and ori­gin­al DJ scratch­ing, mix­ing and cut­ting!”, adding “F*ck MTV!” and that it was time for Radio 1’s moth­er to be taken out. KRS really shines here, his polem­ics on the his­tory of Hip Hop are delivered like a fiery preach­er; but there is also a didact­ic at work, “I will inspire…KRS-ONE no liar!”.

I expec­ted the whole show to be a polit­ic­al rally but there was a sense of fun here. KRS would joke with the crowd and dance around stage. Maybe it was due to the archa­ic nature of his act and the demo­graph­ic of the crowd “Any­one here over 40?!”, but it makes his attack on ‘Flower Power’ Hip Hop includ­ing the 1993 alter­ca­tion with PM Dawn some­what hypo­crit­ic­al in ret­ro­spect.

KRS-One is no stranger to con­tro­versy. His com­ments on 911 and defence of Afrika Bam­baataa are two recent examples. His role as a his­tori­ograph­er is also now being chal­lenged, most not­ably in You­tube videos fea­tur­ing former Black Spades mem­bers and asso­ci­ates. Their claims counter the cent­ral ten­ets of KRS’ his­tory of Hip Hop and can be summed up as fol­lows;

1) Hip Hop was actu­ally ori­gin­ally about the dan­cers not the DJs

2) Afrika Bam­baataa didn’t unite the street gangs of Amer­ica and turn them to music (nor was he a founder of the Black Spades)

3) Grand­mas­ter Flash didn’t invent the cross­fader.

In his defence, KRS has men­tioned that his­tory is about mul­tiple per­spect­ives and that all voices are wel­come to the table to dis­cuss their recol­lec­tions. But com­ment­at­ors have men­tioned that KRS is profit­ing from a lie and that he is being unduly defens­ive of Afrika Bam­baataa in order to pro­tect the nar­rat­ive which he has cre­ated.

The Boo­gie Down Pro­duc­tions clas­sic ‘Stop the viol­ence’ was next, the crowd lov­ing the refrain of “1,2,3, the crew is called BDP”. The old school beat and chor­us brought a flood of nos­tal­gia over me, a hark back to sim­pler times before Hip Hop became academised and loaded with debates on his­tori­ography.

 We then came to the main event, ‘Sound of da police’ with KRS going acapella in the middle, again mak­ing his lyr­ics and deliv­ery more power­ful. He also marched around like a police officer. After the track, he pro­claimed that his music is about “Justice” with ref­er­ence to the Mex­ic­ans plight under Trump. KRS also gave an insight into what music means to him, stat­ing that “Hip Hop is the light.”. No doubt a ref­er­ence to KRS’ reli­gious philo­sophy of Hip Hop being a saviour and a source of enlight­en­ment.

 KRS then per­formed ‘The Invaders’, a 2013 song with the lyr­ics rel­ev­ant to the cur­rent situ­ation in Amer­ica. The song’s end fea­tured KRS stat­ing “No human being is illeg­al” to roars from the crowd. Cri­ti­cism of cur­rent fake rap­pers turned into the 1997 track ‘A Friend’.  It’s lyr­ics on ‘Super­stars’ and ‘Cruis­ing in a troop­er car’, becom­ing more per­tin­ent in a show that was filled with ref­er­ences to the fake nature of cur­rent hip hop and it’s dom­in­ance on the radio.

 An instru­ment­al then played, it was either a bluesy gui­tar or a flute with KRS stat­ing that it was the “ori­gin­al instru­ment of hip hop sound”, “The ori­gin­al music, get that radio sh*t off the mic.”. The track ‘Out for Fame’ then played. KRS con­tin­ued, “Hip Hop is heal­ing music.”, out­lining more of his music philo­sophy for the even­ing.

I can sum up KRS’ style by call­ing it first per­son storytelling, a didact­ic tool speak­ing out against oppres­sion and media con­trol and ask­ing people to reclaim their lives.

There was then more free­styl­ing with key lines being “Im not on TV because the revolu­tion will not be tele­vised” and “Our Pres­id­ent is endorsed by the clan” which received the biggest cheer of the night.

The final sec­tion of the even­ing star­ted with KRS stat­ing that he will now go into “strictly hard­core sh*t”. KRS went into anoth­er free­style where he named­ropped clas­sic lines from the his­tory of Hip Hop, the real heads knew them all. He then played the BDP title track ‘Crim­in­al Minded’ and a power­ful rendi­tion of ‘9mm goes bang’

KRS stated that his music is about empower­ment and that he wants to edu­cate and inspire people to mani­fest their dreams, he then threw signed ten­nis balls into the crowd which sent every­one, present writer included, into a frenzy to catch a ball.

The 1990 BDP track “Loves gonna get cha” then played, with KRS paus­ing to state  “wait they don’t know this…” draw­ing laughter from the hard­core fans in attend­ance.

DJ Pred­at­or Prime then played an 80s drum beat, with KRS lament­ing that “Todays rap­pers are a joke.”

 It was a great gig and I applaud KRS for his power­ful stage pres­ence, freestlyes and vocal deliv­ery, and the respect for his long term fans. The show was very heavy with BDP tracks.

The finale was the 1988 BDP single ‘My philo­sophy’, which sent the crowd crazy. The song ended with a magis­teri­al clas­sic piece with KRS out­lining his rais­on d’être in a free­style;

“Truth shall set you free”, “keep your eyes open and don’t let the broth­ers get you.”.

A joint by DJ ISURU #2

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.


DJ Isuru is a music journ­al­ist and broad­caster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series fea­tur­ing the best in Asi­an Under­ground.


DJ Isuru is a music journalist and broadcaster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series featuring the best in Asian Underground.