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It was reportedly a few years ago that KRS-One and Bumpy Knuckles a.k.a. Freddie Foxxx got together in the studio and made Royalty Check, but although we’re just getting access to the album now, it doesn’t sound dated. In fact, it’s the first thing KRS has done in some time that feels fresh. And the in-person collaboration comes through on the record, too, as the two veteran MCs have the chemistry of old friends.

There is almost a bromantic quality to the way these two throw it back and forth with ease and comfort, and KRS frequently taking asides to compliment the talents of Freddie Foxxx (“ya’ll cats don’t know, Foxxx is playing the bass right now”), who did much of Royalty Check’s production. It’s a straight-forward “boom-bap” sound that feels more like a breath of fresh air than a harkening back to the glory days (i.e. Bumpy’s famous collaboration with KRS’ Boogie Down Productions on “Ruff Ruff” in ’92).

Of course, these two have been around forever and there is an element of old fogies sitting around complaining about today’s young punks and how the world has gone to hell in a hand-basket. But at least they’re not trying to be something they’re not and the fact is, especially side-by-side, complementing each other, KRS and Freddie can still hold it down on the mic. Their flows have held up remarkably well over the years. As Freddie says, “Bottom line, if you real, you relevant.”

On “I’m a Be Back” they pay homage to their own work in the game over a deep piano loop with KRS talking about his time on the road and Freddie shutting things down (“I walk into the room and it’s quiet/listen/all that thug ambition/missin’.”)

KRS, ever the Teacha, gets political on “Street Poison,” actually doing a creative rhyme rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.” His views are a bit all over the place (doesn’t want to hear about the health care debate or immigration reform, but is concerned about funding for wildlife conservation), but Freddie’s world-weary viewpoint is the perfect counterbalance (“It’s all bullshit, stop me for a taillight/and wanna throw me in jail for a whole night/I hate the fact that you can cuss me the fuck out/ ‘Hands out the window, n***a, get the fuck out.’ ”)

On “Hip Hop We Love You,” a song title that really goes without saying, KRS gets into his past some, but also his present in a revealing statement on the Great Recession’s effect on hip-hop legends: “I don’t plan to work forever, but the 401K, the social security, pension, retirement, all of that’s gone/These days you better know how to rap, in case your degree don’t work you got something to fall back on.”

And Foxxx, one of hip-hop’s ultimate cleanup hitters, is razor sharp all over Royalty Check with minimalist, ear-catching lines, like on “Who Is It,” where he spits, with perfect flow, “MC from the element/stomp like an elephant/Bottom line, if you real, you relevant/Gunslingers really don’t rhyme/there’s a only a few/I’m one of them, the other’s not you.”

For some reason, this album has been billed as having some sort of a rock-tinged flavor, and there is an occasional electric guitar thrown in, but thankfully it’s about as pure as hip-hop gets. It’s hard rhymes over hard beats (“Change Gears”), call and response hooks (“Stand Up”), and two dudes who have no problem running up on you if the situation calls for it.

Particularly for old-school heads, it’s hard to see this not being an extremely satisfying release. Tracks like “Flowing With the Vets” deliver exactly what you would expect from two true professional rappers. When you think about it, it’s a wonder these two haven’t done an album together until now, but they prove it’s never too late to drop a jewel.

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13 Responses to "KRS-One + Bumpy Knuckles – "Royalty Check" – @@@@"
  • EddieBrock says:

    DOPE! Great album from beginning to end. BOOM BAP HOPHOP!.

  • A/DC/B says:

    I just listened to some samples and a lot of the beats seem to knock IMO. I’ll have to wait on a hard copy to know for sure. I wonder if we’re going to get that Boom Bip joint though? We’re getting projects that either were announced after or not announced at all instead.

  • McNulty says:

    This might make me a bad rap fan…. but I’ve never really enjoyed a KRS album. His self titled one was ok i guess

  • TomL says:

    KRS is better live than in the studio… no doubt

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