January 31, 2002

Not the One

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I can’t really say much about KRS-One’s Spiritual Minded, mainly because I really don’t enjoy it, and I don’t really know how to say why.

KRS-One is supposed to be a great rapper, and he’s had an amazing life, a true rags to riches story, and I understand that this CD is basically a reaction to the events of September 11. However, I still don’t think that justifies the lack of dance-worthy beats and mind stretching lyrics that I’ve come to expect from KRS-One.

If you like gospel music, you may like this CD. There’s a lot of great self-affirming lyrics on it, as KRS-One vows to clean up hip-hop and turn it into something positive.

Reading the track list, one gets the impression that KRS-One should have written a self help book as opposed to a hip-hop record. Some examples: “Take Your Tyme,” “Take It To God,” and “Never Give Up.”

Anyway, I remember when Sublime first came out with their ode, “KRS-One.” It was one of the most beautiful songs I’d heard at the time, and I picked up KRS-One’s self-titled album. His arrangements, the way he mixed the tracks and rhythms … it was different. He was truly an exceptional rapper, and his lyrics had a point. There are still hints of this lyrical brilliance on the songs “T Bone Speaks” and “The Conscious Rapper.”

Then there’s the lyrics that aren’t so brilliant. On the song “Temple of Hip Hop” KRS-One repeats, over and over, “Your spirit ain’t ready/ Your temple ain’t ready/ Your bishop ain’t ready for the temple of hip hop.” But what he lacks in ingenuity he certainly makes up for in some exciting self-righteousness. His letter in the CD jacket addresses the listener: “Too often we hear people cry out for morality and maturity in music, yet it is clear by what they purchase that these same people are addicted to sex and trapped by violence. Your purchase of this album proves your pursuit of the truth.” I like CDs with lots of sex and violence, or rather, I like CDs with a little passion. CDs that dare to provoke you, that dare you to listen to them.

On the song “Dayz Ahead,” KRS-One raps, “We mourn for the dead but we must still kill for them … I know that the days ahead look dark to you/ but you must let the light shine that’s inside of you.” You can take from that what you will. The song does contain some interesting rhythm changes. The background beat counters the commentary of KRS-One and B.B. Jay, but it still made me sigh. Ten times faster, some more rhythm changes and screaming, and we might have had a little punk on our hands.

I wonder what Bradley Nowell (of Sublime) would think of this new album. I wonder if he would still write, “I know because of KRS-One/ Because we don’t want to hear nobody now singing those same old sounds/ watching Will take hip hop to a higher ground.” It seems that is what KRS-One wants to do: elevate rap music to some upper escilon it has not yet reached.

All else aside, I think KRS-One is a talented rapper. His voice is easy to listen to and he talks slowly enough for me to understand him. Does that make a good rapper?

Ultimately, I didn’t like this CD because it bored me, whereas others might find it inspiring. If you’re into positive, Christian rap then this is definitely the CD for you. Maybe even if you’re not, and you hear this driving in a souped up mercedes over the gorges with your bitches, you’ll think life is great. Remember, never give up the dream.

Archived article by Paula Neudorf