Friday, June 1, 2007

Reviews:: KRS-One & Marley Marl - Hip Hop Lives

I've always thought of Marley Marl as a nice man. He's been producing the best of hip hop beats since before I even knew rap existed, he pulled LL's career off the scrap heap, he was generous enough to give the Lords of the Underground a career, and he does that funny voice like on The Symphony and Boomin' System. But as nice as he may be, I have to think Marley had a sizable hate on for KRS-one after Kris essentially dismantled his Juice Crew posse. One minute you're producing MC Shan and a stable of the hottest new MC's in the biz, and the next you're forced to answer diss records from some kid living in a Shelter in the South Bronx.

Oh well, things happen as they do for a reason. The most celebrated beef in rap history launched the career of one of the best MC's in hip hop history, (KRS himself admits that if Shan & Marley had simply ignored him, BDP might've never blown up) and it certainly didn't hurt Marley's platinum producing career. As for Shan, wasn't all bad I guess, he did end up on that Informer song with Scarborough's whitest reggae star. But all that is in the past as Marley and KRS have teamed up to release Hip Hop Lives, an album intended to prove that even the biggest beefs in hip hop can be reconciled with ease (one phone call is all it took according to Marley), while also confirming that hip hop is eternal, regardless of what Nasir Jones might be metaphorically saying.

Imagine if KRS and Marley had teamed up in let's say '88? It would've been as incredible as it would've been improbable, but I have to say, the '07 combo is actually pretty damn good. KRS has always been a little wacky with his many theories, strategies, hip hop temples and the like, but that was a part of his charm. His personality was so forceful that I would pretty much believe anything he put in a song. I'll be honest and say that I haven't been checking for his albums since he released Spiritual Minded, which was described, perhaps unfairly, as "Gospel Rap". It seemed to me that KRS was perhaps going a little too wacky, but considering I didn't actually listen to the album, I couldn't really say. I am happy to say that Hip Hop Lives finds KRS in fine form. When he's focused on a particular topic that he knows well, there are few MC's that can match the science dropped by the teacha, and there is certainly no subject he knows better than hip hop.

School is in session from the get go, as KRS opens Hip Hop Lives with this:

Hip means to know, it's a form of intelligence / To be hip is to be update and relevant
Hop is a form of movement / You can't just observe a hop, you gotta hop up and do it

If I heard this from any other MC, I'm sure I would be thinking to myself "what is this nonsense?". But when KRS drops it over Marley's room-rattling drums, it makes perfect sense to me. In fact, the whole song is full of KRS hip hop sciencey goodness. Also interesting to notice the Shan sample scratched on the track. Speaking of drums, the bass on I Was There will also knock pictures off your walls. On I Was There KRS wants you to know he is hip hop, thus he was there when all the important events in hip hop history went down - "When YO! MTV Raps started I was there, when The Source magazine started, I was there". It doesn't really rhyme, but it's a cool song.

Musika is notable for two reasons, the LOTUG-eque beat which features some excellent mariachi-style horns and the fact that it features a cameo from someone named Magic Juan. Rising To The Top is, in my opinion, tremendous. KRS breaks down the origins of his beef with Shan and Marley over more hypnotic drums and some renaissance fair flute. If you're at all interested in the history of hip hop, this is a must listen.

Perhaps one of the most poignant tracks on the album, Kill A Rapper finds KRS again in top teacha form discussing the many unsolved unsolved killings in the hip hop industry. This isn't the first song to address the murders of Biggie, 2Pac, Big L, or JMJ, but none have approached it in this honest and frank a manner. This track also attains must listen status I think. The Victory features DJ Premier on the 1's & 2's as well as a guest verse from ex-Screwball MC Blaq Poet. Anyone that thinks KRS might be an old timer or washed up gets put on blast by the, uhhh, Blastmaster on All Skool. Marley's legendary studio gets a tribute on the appropriately named House Of Hits, which features a cameo by the Chief Rocker Busy Bee.

After a few listening to this album, I'm happy to say the title is really quite fitting. It isn't groundbreaking, but it's hip hop as it should be. There are no flossy club songs on this album, no 20 guest MC's who can't rap, and no wack singing on the hooks. In fact Marley's production was a lot more rugged than I was expecting. I don't know if he tailored it to KRS specifically or if that's his current steez, but whatever, it matches KRS perfectly. I've said this before, but I love seeing the legends come back and put out relevant albums. It's often said that wisdom comes with age, and that must be why we need "old school" MC's to come back and show us how it should be done. I hope many people buy this album, and even more people hear it.

mp3::Rising To The Top

mp3::Kill A Rapper

video:: Hip Hop Lives

Posted at 9:14 PM by naedoo :: 1 comments

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At 3:59 PM, Blogger Hero did sayeth:

When KRS stops the nonsense, he is all good. Rising to the Top is what hip hop is all about.


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