KRS One made a stop down in Delray Beach, Florida last night. I had the pleasure of speaking with The Teacha. Check out the audio of the interview.
SKOPE: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.
KRS: You know there’s no me without you. I know that sounds corny but it’s the truth.
SKOPE: What drives you to make music?
KRS: It’s this, it’s the people. I don’t write from my point of view. In my early days there were some records, some songs that I did that was my point of view going to the people. There are some. But really most of my work especially now has to do with becoming the consciousness of the people I’m speaking to. So it’s really about what do you want to say but you can’t say because you don’t have the mic. This is what inspires me to write. It’s like I think people want to say this, or they want to say that or I think they are inspired by hearing this. Maybe someday in the future I’ll do an album that is my point of view. I don’t know what will happen to it but so far I’ve been enjoying a great success in a time where rap music and really the whole music industry is in collapse. I’ve been enjoying a certain success becoming the people through lyrics. I say that as advice to other emcees and songwriters in general because art is not usually the view of the people. Most artists say I am expressing my soul, I am baring my soul and that’s art there’s a place for that. But for some reason when it comes to hip hop, and especially when it comes to the emcee its scarcely about you its about what your people think and if you can say what people think they are inspired. And you’re them. You are them.
SKOPE: How do you think your perspectives changed since the early days of Boogie Down Production?
KRS: You know I got a little calmer I think but wilder [laughs]. Back in the days I guess I was rhyming calmer but my attitude was wilder. Today my attitude is calmer but I rhyme wilder. That’s pretty much the difference. It’s sort of like as I get older I get better.
SKOPE: What do you think about the state of hip hop right now?
KRS: That’s a trick question. The state of hip hop is great. The state of rap is terrible. I’ll give you example. Satellite radio, those are my friends over there, satellite radio. They just united with XM satellite, Sirius satellite just united with XM satellite but seems like when you turn on the hip hop station. Shade 45 is getting much better and I gotta give it up to Eminem. If he has anything to do with the programming there it’s getting better. But the hip hop when you punch up your satellite and it says hip hop what they playing is not… and on top of that and I’m not trying to criticize but you’re paying for satellite radio so you don’t hear what’s on commercial radio. They sound the same. And when you say the state of hip hop, if we can talk about hip hop lowercase h-i-p lower case h-o-p. As in product, hip hop as in rap music product that’s falling apart. We got to point where we started doing only for money it become a job, and that’s why I say even like today I really don’t even care. Now is the best time to practice hip hop. Now is the time, the country is falling apart the economy is circling the toilet bowl. Now’s the time for everyone… you know when you lose your job you find your work. It’s now time top put those jobs aside and get where your passion is. It’s the best time for it now. Right now our whole industry to over.
SKOPE: In the wake of that do you think conscious rap is making a resurgence?
KRS: Well yeah. Sad to say when ever people worry they want answers. You know for ten years when everyone was… you know in the nineties when everyone… the stock market was going crazy, everyone is getting money. These companies are winning — no one really wanted to hear the conscious message. We were balling and everyone was iced up and in diamond. We were in bliss, and ignorance and so on. But I say this, our message it constant though whether the economy is up or down the message is constant. Live a simple life, live within your means. This is the discipline. If you can get more don’t. Okay you can turn you volume up a little bit. If you see us a ten and are living at five alright go up to six. But you go up to six, squeeze yourself at seven. But its balance man it really is. Now the economy is falling apart and the American people are falling apart.
SKOPE: Why are we falling apart, getting too greedy?
KRS: No American is built on greed that’s what makes this country so great. You can just eat and eat and eat and eat until you fall out. That’s why the world is here but here is the problem we lost faith. It all started really back with Nixon. We don’t remember it but there used to be a time when the American people, everybody even if you had been with racism and prejudice so you were fighting for civil rights or women’s rights or gay rights you still believed in your country. You still believed the president was an upstanding dude. Go to the pope, you went to your church, you believed in your man of God. Oh boy did we get ooooh.
SKOPE: Why can’t we learn from our mistakes?
KRS: Well we are, we are learning from our mistakes right now. This is how you learn. We hate this time. This is the sad part. American’s are fighters, you got to bring the fight to them in order for them to learn something. That’s what the whole point is we’re fighters that’s just the bottom line with this country. You cant just bring a message to us, please stop the violence we got to see Columbine. Don’t you want peace? No we got to see Virginia Tech. This is America. We got to see the extreme. Should we be fighting other countries, yeah let’s bomb ‘em. George bush gave it right to us, right on a sliver platter. Y’all been preaching this y’all been talking this now I’m gonna give it to you, just like you asked for. Like all the movies, all the … look where we at right now. So the bottom line is this, the bottom line is we are gonna get better. I am very optimist about this. First of all I’ve lived long enough to know this, I’ve been through it. When I was young we were here. I went through the gas thing. The Shah of Iran was [inaudible] OPEC was pulling that nonsense. We went through that, the last number of your driver’s license so you could go get gas. All of that, we’ve been through that. We’re just coming out, technically, philosophically we’re still there.
SKOPE: Do you thinks it’s your responsibility to project a positive message? Do you think that is something that every artist should do?
KRS: I wouldn’t put this burden on every artist. You need to be extremely strong to do what I do or what Chuck D does, or what Poor Righteous Teachers does, or Guru, Guru all day. The list goes on and on. You gotta have strength and by no means am I standing here like superman but when you have truth in your heart, and you love what you do that’s the strength that’s the meaning of it that’s where you get it from. Most artists just want to spit their rhyme, sing their song and go back to sleep. That’s entertainment and that’s fine.
SKOPE: What about new guys coming up that inspire you?
KRS: Yes. Yes. I listen to mix tapes so I’m kind of going through the mix tapes right now. To be honest with you there are lot of dudes out their right now that are not on the top of my head because their not really known. I’m a loss for words right now,
SKOPE: What about your own projects, you working on something with Buckshot right now?
KRS: Yeah I gotta a lot of stuff. I did an album for Freddie Foxx I did an album for Buckshot, I’m working on something with Premiere called Return of the Boom Bip. We got a Stop the Violence album coming up called Self Construction. I gotta a blues album that I did a few years ago with acoustic guitar, my man Harold English and I got together and he pulled out a guitar and I wouldn’t stop rhyming. I got a classical album coming out I did a little bit of it today. I did some big band music, Dizzy Gillespie stuff. I want to branch out. I gotta about five project coming out in 2009 and I also what to do a You Tube album. You can’t buy it technically; I just perform the whole album on camera
SKOPE: A lot of artists are bringing it to the Internet like Radiohead offering their album for whatever you want to pay. What you think about that?
KRS: I’ll take it one step further. Download KRS One for free and sell it yourself. I got 16 albums okay in my catalog y’all have bought up everything I got. My 17th album can be for free. Ain’t nothing wrong with the 17th joint. That’s what I urge people all the time, even on the bootleg level I can only say it once all of KRS One’s stuff you can download and sell it if you need to, I only say it once [laughs].
SKOPE: How do you think your faiths figures into your creative output?
KRS: Let me be careful with that because Christians will say that he’s not speaking a Christian message [laughs]. I would call myself more of a Christ-tian then a Christian and that’s what real Christians are today. There’s an underground church, there’s a church community across the board that’s sick of their own church, tired of the nonsense that’s going on within Christianity. They’re not in power yet, yet. Why is there politics in the church? It makes absolutely no sense. This is why from my point of view when you finally meet Christ you have no choice but to pick up that cross and that’s what it is. Sell everything you got, pick up the cross and follow me. That’s where I’m at right now, I got the cross on my back that’s what it is, I’m carrying my own cross – and what is my cross? People have denigrated the name of the Jesus the Christ; they’ve thrown it to the floor in exchange. I’m not gonna say his name because its disrespectful. In Texas, in Dallas one of biggest black preachers in the world, I went to his church, when I walked to his church on the side of the church I see Bank Of America on the church. I got nauseous… me and my wife we was there and we were like let’s check homeboy out and see what’s going on, just rolling up. It wasn’t even on a Sunday it was the middle of the week and we were just rolling up there and lets go to the gift shop and see what’s going on. Bank of America on the side of the church! This is what led me to what you may call a Christian message/ I cant just critique I gotta have a solution so if I am gonna point the finger and say I think this is wrong, I think that is wrong then I should equally say this is where I think we should be going, this is where we should be. I put a record out called Spiritually Minded, which I took and leap of faith [laughs] because I knew I was between two places. Hip hoppers were like what the hell is Kris doing has he now gone Christian, is he now born again. But the Christians didn’t expect it either. I did the Stellar Awards I went there and played the game and I came in four in the gospel charts above K-Ci and JoJo. Okay. They hated it, okay, I got there and was trying to say this is a good album and y’all have to hear this album. You got to pay us just like everyone else, what’s your marking budget, what’s your publicity budget, how many records your sell. And I’m like yo, what a minute it’s the same thing. You got the Stellar awards and look like the worst of the Grammy’s. I not going to call any artists names but you know what it is flick on the world network. There’s no difference.
SKOPE: Now we got a black president do you think that will help with racial equality in this country?
KRS: Yes I do. Matter of fact it already helped because if all the black people in this country voted for Barack Obama he wouldn’t be president. He’s in office because young whites, young Latino’s, young native Americas, young Asians and young blacks got together and said this is the dude we want to see not because of him because of who he was running against. Is there were two young blacks or young white, young Latinos Barack would have had a problem like a real serious problem. If they had let Ron Paul run. Ron Paul would have given him a run for his money. The Republican Party themselves dissed Ron Paul. See. See. And Republicans… this is where I get hung up with myself because I feel like a conservative like a feel like it. I would never claim it because I don’t really like… the team ..like what that looks like I don’t really know if that’s me really. For instance I’m with the second amendment errrr, I’m, holding onto my Bible errr, I believe in less government eeerr, check, check, check. Damn I hang out with Democrats they assume KRS One is down with them too sure because I want to help people, I think their isn’t justice in society, I think government should play some role if we’re gonna pay taxes.
Interview By: Shaun Flagg
Thanks to Steve Rullman at The Honeycomb and CLOSER Magazine for making this happen. If you’re local to Florida make sure to check out the next issue of CLOSER for my feature on KRS One.