KRS-One’s Return Of The Boom-Bap 20 Years Later (Food For Thought)

This weekend, the first KRS-One album to not be billed as Boogie Down Productions turns 20 years old. On September 28, 1993, Jive Records and Kris Parker teamed to release Return Of The Boom-Bap. The album was exactly one decade removed from the arrival of Run-DMC, the “boom-bap” was a call to the bass and hi-hat style of Hip-Hop heard throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1993, Hip-Hop was toying with melody out West, care of Dr. Dre, Above The Law, and DJ Quik. In New York, acts like Digable Planets, Us3 and De La Soul were implementing Jazz in a new way—with The Pharcyde, Souls Of Mischief. Poison Clan, Scarface, 5th Ward Boyz and 8Ball & MJG were expressing new techniques coming from the Southeast and Houston.

In classic KRS “take by force” method, the Teacha aimed to put back the style of music he helped popularize and innovate in the ’80s. Interestingly enough, in doing so, the Bronx, New Yorker broke from the B.D.P. umbrella. Although since Scott La Rock’s murder, KRS-One had always been the driving force of Boogie Down Productions, the ensemble cast included notables like D-Nice, DJ Kenny Parker, Ivan “Doc” Rodriguez, and plenty of others (see “I’m Still #1”). This time, KRS waived his own flag in what would kick off a five-year stronghold on being a mainstream voice from the underground.

A year before Illmatic, Kris deflected a bulk of the production duties (odd at the time, given the fact that KRS-One is a boom-bap production master). Instead, he enlisted Gang Starr’s DJ Premier, Showbiz & A.G.’s Show, and mixtape/party legend Kid Capri. On ’92’s final B.D.P. LP, Sex & Violence, Kris worked extensively with De La’s producer Prince Paul as well as his brother Kenny—but failing to meet the critical and commercial acclaim B.D.P. cemented on albums prior.

The results would lead hits like “Black Cop,” “Outta Here,” “Sound Of Da Police,” and “I Can’t Wake Up.” Removed from the Bridge Wars, Kris got especially social, and found radio-play, giving him the Top 40 debut that S&V lacked. Perhaps more paramount, Kris joined Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage and Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu (which had not yet released), in challenging the changing sound of Rap music.

Artistically, Return Of The Boom-Bap is KRS-One’s most cohesive, most original, and most definitive album of the 1990s. Twenty years later, it still rattles in trunks, and has abrasive messages that uphold the pioneering paradigm.

Related: KRS-One Playlist