KRS-One Explains Making Hits From The Underground, Without Music Videos

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KRS-One is widely revered as one of Hip-Hop’s greatest MCs of all time. The front-man for Boogie Down Productions has released more than 20 albums—including solo work, group LPs, and collaborative efforts. However in a career that spans over 30 years, he has never had a Top 40 hit, a #1 album, or many of the decorations enjoyed by today’s MC. In a recent discussion with Brad Simmons’ S.O.U.L. Society (as filmed by Hip-Hop Vibe), Kris explained why he is the archetypal underground Hip-Hop artist, without even music videos to many of his most significant songs.

“I was coming from Phife [Dawg’s] memorial. I stopped at the gas station; [a] Black woman jumped out her car—she had some drop-top Jaguar, crazy. She’s blasting ‘Black Cop’,” recounted KRS-One, of this past April. “I pulled up to the gas station; she [just happened to be] playing it. I jump out [of my car]. She starts screaming—because she’s playing the record.”

Self-produced, “Black Cop” appeared on 1993’s Return Of The Boom-Bap, the first LP KRS-One released under his solo name. Previously, he had released four albums (and additional compilations) with Boogie Down Productions, following the 1987 murder of co-founder Scott La Rock. B.D.P. would grow to include additional members and affiliates including D-Nice and DJ Kenny Parker.

The Bronx, New York representative used the serendipitous occurrence to illustrate his point. “‘Black Cop’ never was even a video.” KRS deduced, “My greatest songs—the songs that the community says, ‘Yo, this is the one, right here’: ‘You Must Learn,’ ‘Why Is That?,’ ‘South Bronx’ even, no videos. These are all underground records.” That list includes B.D.P. material. KRS-One compares himself to modern mixtape artists. In his era, thanks to DJs like Bronx native Kid Capri, these mixed records were dubbed to cassette tape—further preventing chart evaluation. “This all mixtape [material]. This is all [underground], no big thing. But now, 10, 20, 30 years later, this is it! I hit the right 100 people in 1989. Now it’s 2017.”
KRS-One’s Return Of The Boom-Bap 20 Years Later (Food For Thought)

In 1997, KRS-One’s I Got Next would debut at #3 on the charts. It would be his final LP with Jive/RCA Records.

Elsewhere in the interview, KRS-One recalled the tepid response from the Rap community to H.E.A.L.’s “Stop The Violence.”

Writer’s Note: Boogie Down Productions did release a video to “You Must Learn” (below). “Jack Of Spades,” another single from Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip-Hop did not have a music video.

Last year, KRS-One released his latest album, Now Hear This.