To know KRS-ONE is to know Hiphop. With a capital 'H.'
A veteran of the culture, considered by many disciples to be the "human embodiment" of the form, KRS-ONE insists on that spelling. In 2001 he founded the Temple of Hiphop "to promote, preserve, and protect Hiphop as a strategy toward Health, Love, Awareness and Wealth for all who declare Hiphop their lifestyle."
Hiphop with a capital "H," according to KRS-ONE, refers to the collective consciousness of the culture, rather than the popular spelling hip-hop, which denotes a trend or style. Worshipers at the Temple are also careful to note that Hiphop is the sum of many elements: Breakin', Emceein', Graffiti Art, Deejayin', Beatboxin', Street Fashion, Street Language, Street Knowledge and Street Entrepreneurialism.
KRS, also known as Teacha Krist, continues to educate about the positive aspects of the music while maintaining his status as a battle rapper, and will bring both to Boulder's Fox Theatre this Sunday, Feb. 20.
KRS began his music career while he was homeless in the 1980s. He teamed up with a social worker known as Scott Sterling by day and Scott La Rock at night. The team, billed as Boogie Down Productions or BDP, burst onto the scene with "South Bronx" in 1986 and were an instant hit.
Scott La Rock was shot and killed in 1987, but KRS has continued with a music career, recording 15 albums in the past 20 years. He has emerged as a father figure in Hiphop, giving lectures at colleges around the country, and organizing summits of Hiphop's pioneers.
Bradley Nowell, now deceased lead singer of ska/reggae/punk band Sublime, honored him with these lyrics: "In school they never taught 'bout ... Elijah, Muhammed or the welfare state/ But I know/ And I know because of KRS-ONE ... Watch him, he'll take Hiphop to a higher ground."
KRS-ONE took an afternoon to speak with the Indy about his career and Hiphop.
Indy: What was your first exposure to Hiphop?
KRS: "Around 1972 [my family] moved to the Bronx where I was introduced to Hiphop. ... I lived at 1600 Sedgewick Avenue, and the building across from that was 1520 Sedgewick Avenue where Hiphop began. The whole culture, B-Boyin, Graff, all of it started right there in the west Bronx with a guy named Kool Herc. ...
And I was one of the little kids in the park listenin' to him, or trying to listen to him. We didn't know it was Hiphop, we had no idea what this was, it was just a guy out in the street playin' music."
Indy: What is Hiphop?
KRS: America is Hiphop. And you know what? We gonna take this country to where it's supposed to be, what it says it is. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal; they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights which are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. ' That's Hiphop. That's it ... that's all we tryin' to get.
Indy: Is Hiphop exclusive to a specific race or location?
KRS: We are no religion, no race, no ethnicity. We are Hiphop and we are building our culture, our community, our nation based on the principles we have been taught to live.
Indy: So, can anybody be Hiphop?
KRS: Yes, yes, but no. I would say that everyone is already Hiphop. It's like everyone is really a basketball player, really, everyone is really a cook, really. It's just how far you want to take it.
Indy: What else is Hiphop?
KRS: It's the ability to self-create. That's it. The ability to self-create, the drive to self-create, the ability to transform subjects and objects in an attempt to describe your consciousness is Hiphop. Now everyone has the ability to do that.
Hiphop as the consciousness, you know, Bill Gates is Hiphop. He dropped out of school. That's some straight Hiphop activity (laughing). And not just drop out of school, he dropped out of school and formed Microsoft ...
This is the underlying theme as to what it means to be Hiphop: Be you. Have the courage to be you. And if you don't have the courage to be you, you can't be Hiphop.
-- Sara Gallagher
KRS-ONE with special guests
Sunday, Feb. 20, 9 p.m.
Fox Theater, 1135 13th St., Boulder
Tickets: $15 advanced, $18 day of show
Call 303/443-3399 for more
I miss you, Lenny! My family and I thank you for all the special times…
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