I have an affinity for legends who continue their careers beyond their primes. I liked it when Jordan came back in his forties. I’m glad Favre is going to play another year. Shaq’s not what he used to be, but he’s still worth having around. The thing is when a legend plays until he’s entirely washed up, then at least you know you’re not missing anything.
With two releases in 2008, Maximum Strength and Adventures in Emceein’, KRS-One is certainly hanging around. For all he’s given hip hop as one of the most influential and some would say greatest MCs ever, why not? Maybe he’s got one last great run in him.
Maximum Strength, which features at least some unreleased tracks recorded a while back, is not that effort.
It gets off to a good start. The Teacher is in all his authoritative glory on “Beware” and “Pick It Up,” railing against street crime, inequality and police brutality. It’s a bit preachy, but this is KRS, and at least he’s got something to say besides the typical rapper’s laundry list of jewelry, weaponry, clothing and women. And he can still rip up a track better than 90% of MCs when he’s got some solid production backing him up.
On “All My Men,” though, KRS breaks into his Jamaican-style routine, and continues preaching about respecting women and what it takes to be a real man. “Me is a man/understan/not a passin’ trend…all my men that be holding their house down/all my men holding they spouse down…”
The middle portion of the album devolves into cliché, with your requisite shout-outs to old school icons (“The Kool Herc,” “Busy Bee Shout Out”), your ode to New York (“New York”), and of course the standard “hip hop, you’re the love of my life” track (“Hip Hop”), where KRS declares, “don’t think Common won’t punch you in your face/and don’t think Talib won’t hold the heat….Fat Joe’s a leader/Busta Rhymes a preacher.” You’re going to get these types of tracks with most east coast MCs, but these are just particularly uninspired.
Suffice to say, but on songs like “Rockin’ ‘Till the Morning” and “Let Me Know” the Blastmaster’s flow is so frantic and spastic, it’s almost annoying.
His best days may be behind him, as they are for all aging legends, and Maximum Strength is nothing great, but it’s nice to still have him around. You can’t really expect too much from an artist who has been around as long as KRS.
On the final track, “Heat,” he shows that in a short burst, he can still bring it: “So we can continue to go down the menu/I send you my poetry that critiques the evil that men do/You better attend to the AC/When I MC/I’m bringing heat lately/Now fade me/No if, ands, buts or maybes, I’m not crazy/God made me speak with the….” -Stefan Schumacher
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