KRS-One Explains Why Drake Is “Underrated” & Says Some The Best MCs Have Writers (Audio)
KRS-One is the latest guest on N.O.R.E. & DJ EFN’s Drink Champs Podcast. There, the iconic Boogie Down Productions MC sipped hand-crafted mai tai’s and discussed a litany of topics, at incredible length. Known for lecturing at some of the most prestigious universities around the globe, publishing books, and educating students, this is a different setting for the New York Hip-Hop vet.
Within, KRS kicks things off discussing his relationship with the city of Miami, Florida—where the podcast tapes. Near the 10:00 mark, the topical and timely journey begins. KRS-One weighs in on a growing discussion—which he was part of—surrounding Hip-Hop’s pioneers. N.O.R.E. plays a phone conversation he had with DJ Kool Herc, who refuted the “godfather” title, and asserted that he is in fact, Hip-Hop’s sole father. Noreaga seeks explanation as Kris sees it. Then, in mentioning Afrika Bambaataa, the Capone-N-Noreaga co-founder asks Blastmasta for guidance through the recent multiple allegations (and subsequent rebuttal) of sexual abuse of three men done by Afrika Bambaataa years ago.
“First of all, controversy is not truth,” begins KRS. “For me, if you keep it Hip-Hop, nothing can be taken away from Afrika Bambaataa. Nothing. Just keepin’ [it] Hip-Hop. But if you want to dig into dude’s personal life and accusations that’s being made and so on, personally—me personally—I don’t give a fuck. Personally. Look, if somebody was harmed or whatever—y’all gotta deal with that shit. Deal with it. That don’t stop Hip-Hop. That don’t stop what you did for Hip-Hop. It don’t take away none of it—history is history. But deal with that. That’s personal. I don’t even know what to say past the [basics]. A person like me, I deal with dudes that are questionable all the time—not just if the accusation is rape, I know dudes that are dealing with [all kinds of accusations], you know what I’m sayin’? If you know anybody from prison, if you know anybody from the shelter, if you know anybody—if you live, really in the hood, you know shooters, you know dudes runnin’ from the cops, you know your man might have an open warrant on him right now! Like, right now! I’m not judgin’ these mothafuckas, man! That’s my nigga right here, yo. That’s it! Now what you do, and your crime, and your bullshit, and your shit, and whatever you’re doing, that’s on you. That’s you, my G.” KRS-One reminds people that he previously worked with gangsta rapper Just-Ice, and seemingly alludes to another 1980s affiliate, Steady B, appearing on America’s Most Wanted for a murder of which he was later convicted.
(16:00) N.O.R.E. asks KRS-One what are his thoughts on Drake and Meek Mill’s 2015 battle. “I think it gave both of them credibility.” Elaborating, he says, “For me as an MC, when people say ‘Top 5’—everybody got they Top 5. But if you ain’t battled, if you ain’t did tours, if you ain’t got hits out, if you ain’t put somebody else on, or came from a legacy that was wild, you ain’t even nowhere near the Top 5. I’m lookin’ for young dudes today to really rise to the criteria. First, where’s your battle? You say you dope, bring it right now. ‘Cause there’s niggas like me out here, straight up. I stay hungry!” “So with Drake and [Meek Mill], to me, it gave them the credibility that they needed for even me to look at them as real MCs. I like both of they lyrics, by the way. Drake, I think, is underrated. Maybe, it’s ’cause he’s on the Pop thing or whatever. But his lyrics is still dope from an MC perspective.”
N.O.R.E. then alludes to Quentin Miller, and Drake using writers. “That doesn’t disturb me at all. It diminishes him in front of those who write their own lyrics. Okay, now those of us who spit the raw [words] from our own heart, you really gotta step up and come to the plate on that level. But we’re talking about MC’ing as a whole art. We’re talking about Rap as a whole art. No, if you’ve got a dope writer than can make you sound like somethin’, g’head and get with dude. The issue is writing. This is the issue: writing dope rhymes! I don’t give a fuck where it comes from—a writer, whoever. Some of the dopest dudes—and I’m not gonna call no names [used writers]. There’s secrets in Hip-Hop, okay? [Laughs] The dopest dudes had [another] dude write for them. That’s not a problem.”
However, KRS-One adamantly distances himself from that class of MCs. “Now me, I never had the privilege of anyone ever writing for me. Listen to me, [because] if Rakim came to me with a rhyme, I’d say that shit.” He says that he holds very few MCs to the standard at which he has held himself. “That’s our lane, our category, that’s a level of excellence that you have to get to.” KRS adds that the real crime is using writers for rhymes that are still deemed “wack.” “If you got a real shooter with you, dude is writing raw shit, make sure you pay the brother [and use his rhymes]. Say that shit. Say that dope shit! Hip-Hop needs dope lyrics. We don’t need dope MCs. Understand, we need dope lyrics. I don’t care where it comes from; your moms could write you dope shit. Say that shit.” “If you get really down to it, I don’t write my own lyrics—God writes my lyrics.”
At the 32:00 mark, N.O.R.E. and EFN ask KRS about the famous early 1990s incident with group P.M. Dawn. At a Manhattan club Sound Factory, the B.D.P. Posse front man led a charge that threw the gold-certified Gee Street Records MC/producer known as Prince Be from the stage. Kris Parker gave a rare insiders look at what prompted him to assault his peer, just years after the Stop The Violence campaign.
“This was ’92, a time when knowledge was just hittin’ Hip-Hop with some ignorant-ass shit.” He continues, “This is the time when I had just put out ‘You Must Learn,’ the ‘Stop The Violence’ [song], ‘Why Is That?’ […] In his Details magazine [interview, P.M. Dawn’s Prince Be] had said somethin’ [to the effect of] N.W.A. is nothing, Chuck D is making mountains out of molehills, and KRS-One wants to be a teacher, but a teacher of what? For me, it mattered for me at the time. But Chuck was receiving death threats for [Public Enemy band-mates Professor Griff’s [antisemitic remarks]. So Public Enemy was under real heat in America. [P.M. Dawn was having a successful year] sellin’ records. He’s just mouthin’ off, like, ‘It’s our time now!'”
KRS-One says that this compounded with disses by X-Clan and Da Lench Mob towards his movement at the time. Moreover, P.M. Dawn kept speaking this opinion in interviews. “We just finished [beef] with X-Clan [squashed by Afrika Bambaataa]. Da Lench Mob and Ice Cube had made a [lyrical] statement, ‘self-destruction don’t pay the fuckin’ rent.’ So for some reason, they thought it was soft in my corner!” KRS-One says he only wanted to battle the P.M. Dawn MC. Choosing between a tour stop and a Manhattan birthday party for Yo! MTV Raps co-host T-Money, Kris says he liked the latter. “We chose Manhattan because the industry is there.”
Blastmasta details just how thick his posse was for the storied moment, documented in a famous A.L. Dre Source magazine cartoon. “When I got there, we were so amped! When I say ‘we’ [the team] was me, it was Just-Ice, it was Queen Latifah. Latifah had her [Flavor Unit] crew, Naughty By Nature [and] Naughty had their crew.” KRS says once in the venue, the crew was calculated. “No talk. I just waited for him to get on stage […] I’m here to battle; it wasn’t to throw nobody off the stage.”
Prepared to battle, just as he had with MC Shan and Grandmaster Melle Mel in the decade prior, KRS-One took the stage. “When we jumped on stage, I remember Super Cat [wanted to go on]. Cat went on and did his thing. Then P.M. Dawn went on. He went on, we let him do one song, and then we all jumped on stage. ‘Yo, let’s battle. Let’s get it poppin’, right now.’ The whole crowd [erupted]. But somethin’ happened. His man—somebody jumped out like, ‘Fuck [you].'” KRS insinuates that someone in P.M. Dawn’s entourage threatened he and others with violence—which caused the situation to get physical. “We’re all shooters, my nigga. ‘Fuck that?’ [We] threw them niggas off the stage. That’s what it was.”
Elsewhere in the two-hour conversation, KRS-One expounds on his 2016 battle with MC Shan. Around the 50:00 mark, Kris explains the 1980s “Bridge Wars” battles, and why Shan is upset with him 30 years later. He does profess at 1:23:00, “Let me say this, if [MC] Shan never answered [‘South Bronx’], I would not have a career.” “We had one hit. We had no other shot.” “Shan is the reason I exist, so the least I could do is bust his ass [in 2016]. Somebody should write for Shan, back to your [ghostwriting and Drake] question.”
The interview closes with discussion on police brutality and bridging the age gaps in Hip-Hop.