Throughout a career that spans almost twenty years now, KRS-One has undoubtedly paid his dues, delivering countless classic albums and classic singles, from “Criminal Minded” to “Step Into A World”. However, as the years go on, new generations of hip-hop fans emerge, many not even knowing who KRS-One is, or what the letters “B.D.P.” stand for. After his major label recording contract with Jive ended, Kris was forced to go independent, with smaller companies such as Koch and Caroline now handling his distribution. While these new forged alliances (or lack there of) have made it harder for Kris to compete with major label conglomerates such as UMG, and BMG, it has also pushed him out of the spotlight. So without seeing his mug on television in 2004, the question remains, does KRS-One still matter?
Absolutely, no question! With his latest album, Keep Right, Kris carries to torch for his holy hip-hop crusade, split amongst 20+ tracks, shared among a variety of new producers. While the absence of tough-as-nails beatmakers such as DJ Premier, Showbiz, and Kenny Parker will leave longtime listeners a bit disappointed, some of the new jacks still come through, carving a classic Kris track here and there. Most notably is, Ten, who delivers two back-to-back bangers with both “You Gon Go” and “Phucked”. On “You Gon Go”, Kris suggests to frustrated fans to come to his live shows if they are sick of hearing the pre-programmed radio garbage, while “Phucked” examines the long-term effects of being a flash-in-the-pan, overnight rap celebrity. Soul Supreme also comes through for KRS with “Everybody Rise”, a live, Busta Rhymes propelled anthem that features Kris trading mics with Boston’s L Da Headtoucha (who doesn’t have trouble keeping up with Kris at all). L gets further time to shine on “Still Spittin”, along with Akbar, Illin’ P, and Supastition, making this a much better posse cut than “5 Boroughs” ever was. Who says Boston can’t get down?
Never one to be outdone in terms of style, KRS’s continual evolution lets him try on different rhyme schemes for size, however each one doesn’t fit as well as some others. While the message of “Me Man” is true and clear, a whole song built off of these two words gets old rather quickly. Same can be said for “Illegal Business 2004″, an overly aggressive club rocker that ends each line with “Ya nah see it,” with equally repetitive results. Further more, “My Mind Is Racing” again attempts to do something different, however the vocal sound effects in the hook just don’t seem to work. Furthermore, with so many different producers on this album, finding a unified sound is quite difficult. It’s understandable, and with today’s hip-hop audience being so widely spread out, pleasing all of the people all of the time is quite difficult. Fans that want to hear more commercialized production on tracks like “Illegal Business” and “Stop Skeemin’”, might not be feeling the rugged production of Ten or Soul Supreme, and vice versa.
So in essence, what we get with Keep Right is an otherwise decent album that is all over the place, in terms of sonic backdrops. However, Kris Parker’s message still remains clear as day. While in places it’s taken a bit of a stranger turn since his spiritual awakening (“The I”, “The Prayer of Afrika Bambaataa”), for the most point, Kris’s views of hip-hop have remained on point, and they are more important and relevant than ever. But while this old fan has been spoiled by his countless classics, it’s not to say that this album doesn’t hold up, but it is safe to say there are others in his catalog that hold up stronger. For the younger fans however, that have no idea who KRS-One is, or what he represents, Keep Right is as good a place as any to learn from The Teacha.
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