When the term “Gospel Rap” is mentioned, images of Reverend Run, Ma$e, and Hammer pop into your mind, usually with negative conotations. Why? Most likely because hip-hop is, for the most part, a hardcore music artform born in the streets, which directly contradicts the sound that each of these artists have embraced after their careers went sour. It was no surprise that each of these artists careers crashed and burned even worse after they “found God”, so with the announcement of KRS-ONE releasing a gospel album, longtime fans are shook. We’re talking about perhaps the greatest emcee of all time here, trading in thumping in your jeep for thumping a Bible. Going from “The Teacha” to “The Preacha”. From hardcore to “Godcore”.
Depending on how religious you consider yourself, will depend on how much you enjoy Kris’s new album. If you are the type to say “fraud bless you” when someone sneezes in line at the supermarket, the album will do nothing but anger you. If you have any background of Christianity, wether it be moderate or extreme, you’ll find nothing wrong with it, you might even enjoy it. Personally, it’s a bit surreal hearing Kris rhyme about “J to the E to the S the to the U to the S” (actual quote) after watching him bumrush Prince Be offstage, but then again, it’s as easy as shutting out any 5% references you may have disagreed with on records from Wu-Tang Clan and Brand Nubian.
But how does the album hold up? By no means is it Criminal Minded or Return Of The Boom Bap, and compared to those albums, it is a big disappointment. Like The Sneak Attack, the main problem with the album is the production and song structure. The hooks on tracks like “Never Give Up” & “The Struggle” are just plain strange, while tracks like “Tears” and “Goodbye” will be a little too slickly produced for any longtime fans of Boogie Down Productions, complete with Sunday choir hooks, suitable for live performances at your local chapel. Nonetheless, despite some looming gospel influenced hooks, the beats bang like that ol’ boom bap, and when the tracks are broken down to the bare bones, as on “South Bronx 2002″, sucka emees better duck down.
At surface value, every follower of Kris will say things like “the new KRS-One album sucks” or “KRS-One has fallen off pumping that Bible rap”. But a closer listen to the album will reveal to you that this is still the god of hip-hop that we are listening to (whether he belives he is or not), and as far as his ability to rock the mic and crush any wack emcees in the processs, he doesn’t skip a beat. While the production still lacks on the album, Kris is still such an incedible emcee to this day, and when he talks you listen. His undeniable lyrical skill carries you through every track, even when the beats fail to do so, which in most cases would get the fast forward button. Religious or not, the album is filled with the hundreds of lines that will make you think about how live your life (“People holding you up to higher standards, but they don’t live them”), or how entirely screwed up the music industry is (“See how they shuttin’ out KRS-One? Cuz I’m not sexy, thuggin’, or dumb!”).
But the line that sums up the entire project, and really makes you step back and take a second listen to the album is “Many say they’d like to see a better day, but when the concious album drops they all jet away”. In an age when major labels only support what sells - which primarilly is hip-hop that promotes sex & violence - KRS-One is still needed. Perhaps now more than ever.
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