In 1999, Kurupt & KRS-One Got Live On The Mic And Went Round For Round

Two decades ago this year, Kurupt released his second solo album, Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native had long since established himself as not only a West Coast MC but also resident. After signing with Death Row Records in the 1990s and founding the Dogg Pound Gangstaz (DPG) alongside Long Beach, California’s Daz Dillinger, Young Gotti became a mainstay on palm tree-lined boulevards. 1999 proved to be a watershed year for Kurupt; not only was he celebrating the success of his ambitious, two-disc 1998 debut Kuruption!, but November ’99 saw the arrival of both Tha Streetz and Dr. Dre’s 2001, on which he features prominently.

Like Kuruption!, where Disc Two played to his East Coast sensibilities and features spots from Buckshot, Noreaga and others,  Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha embraced Kurupt’s willingness to work alongside distinctly tri-state MCs. For “Live On the Mic,” he enlisted the help of KRS-One, a prolific rapper who already had more than a decade’s worth of recordings under his belt. As a pairing, it stands out from the album’s remaining collaborations: 213, Butch Cassidy, Crooked I, Daz, Dre, Jayo Felony, Snoop Dogg, Soopafly and Xzibit make this a West Coast Rap CD.

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Soopafly loaned his production style to “Live On the Mic,” but it plays much like an old-school cut born in the park or an Uptown club. For starters, Kurupt intros it as a “Kurupt and KRS-One freestyle,” and it features some classic “my raps are better than yours” bars that hearken back to Hip-Hop’s early days. The duo trade four-to-five brief verses each, keeping the momentum up and the room for bells and whistles sparse.

“My voice-box send shocks of adrenaline so you sweat again,” KRS spits on his opening verse. On his second verse, he shouts out his own Boogie Down but also shows love to Terror Squad and Flip Mode, a thoughtful reminder that unity in Hip-Hop is the standard. For his part, Kurupt goes round-for-round with his guest, saying in his first verse “My style’s out this universe / Words that serve all these MCs / They hear pre-verbs, I break them down to nouns and verbs” before inviting KRS to jump back in.

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Of interesting note is the sequencing of Tha Streetz‘s track listing, in particular the placement of “Live On the Mic” as the penultimate song, followed only by “Callin’ Out Names.” Whereas the former features one of New York’s most heralded spitters, the latter is a diss aimed at DMX, Foxy Brown, Ja Rule and others from the Big Apple.