KRS-One was born Lawrence Krisna Parker on August 20, 1965, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, USA of Nigerian and Jamaican descent. The rapper left home at the age of 14 to play basketball and read books, free of his authorities, his mother and the New York City public school system. He landed in a homeless shelter in the South Bronx, where he was dubbed Krishna by residents because of his interest in the Hare Krishna spirituality of some of the antipoverty workers.
By the time Krishna met youth counselor Scott Sterling, a.k.a. DJ Scott La Rock, he was also writing graffiti under the alias of KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone). A partnership that would, in the near future, create Boogie Down Productions, releasing their landmark debut album, Criminal Minded, in 1987.
In the summer of 1984, KRS-One hit the music scene with a rap group called "Scott La rock and the Celebrity Three" with a record called "Advance". And that was, in a time when most rappers rhymed about cars, jewelry, alcohol, and the latest dance, KRS-One was rhyming about nuclear war prevention. Scott La Rock and the Celebrity Three was comprised of Scott La Rock, Levi167,MC Quality, and KRS-One. After legal problems with the head of the label, Scott La Rock and the Celebrity Three were released from their contract. In the winter of 1984, KRS-One wrote a song called "Stop The Violence" although by this time The Celebrity Three had broken up and only KRS-One and Scott La Rock remained. Both realized they had to change the name of the group and they did: the new group was called The Boogie Down Crew.
In 1985, Scott La Rock was asked to do an already written and produced record for Sleeping Bag Records. Of course Kris and Scott wanted to concentrate on their own Boogie Down Crew but first they had to go through this. For this project they were paid nothing and had no rights or claims to anything. It was this project that educated Kris and Scott as to the importance of being producers of their music, as well as the artists, so at this point they decided to change the name of their own Boogie Down Crew to Boogie Down Productions.
The group went on to release their debut album Criminal Minded in 1987. The album is often credited with setting the template for all subsequent Hardcore and Gangsta Rap. Released on March 3rd, 1987, the album sampled records from James Brown and AC/DC, and also flaunted a reggae influence. The songs, “South Bronx” & “The Bridge is Over” (a reference to the Queensbridge Housing Projects) ignited a famous rivalry with the Queens-bred rapper MC Shan. The album is also credited with providing a prototype for East Coast gangster rap to develop from. For instance, the cover, which showcases KRS-One and Scott La Rock surrounded by an arsenal of weapons, was hip-hop’s first major release to feature members brandishing firearms. The album also contained several seminal hardcore songs such as “9mm Goes Bang”, which was one of the first rap songs to be based around a first-person crime narrative, and "P Is Free", a track which details an encounter with a drug-abusing prostitute for the first time on record. Criminal Minded has been notoriously hard to find, falling in and out of print every few years, surfacing with a different distributor every time. Currently, the Boston-based independent label Landspeed Records has landed the distribution rights to Criminal Minded, hence the latest re-release in 2002. An expanded re-release, The Best of B-Boy Records: Boogie Down Productions, includes several 12" singles that didn't make Criminal Minded's original pressing.
Initially, the album sold at least several hundred thousand copies; however, the relationship between the group and B-Boy Records quickly deteriorated when B-Boy Records were allegedly slow to pay royalties. A lawsuit was launched, which was eventually settled out-of-court. Having left B-Boy Records, new friend Ice-T introduced them to a Warner Bros A&R; exec, who promptly signed them to a new record deal. The deal was short-lived, however. Things would turn even worse soon after as Sterling (Scott La rock), had befriended a neighborhood teenager, Derek ‘D-Nice’ Jones, who did a human beatbox routine for the group. One evening, Jones was assaulted by some local hoodlums and he later called Sterling to intervene. The next day, Sterling and a group of others went where the offending parties lived. Sterling’s intention was to try and mediate things, but one of the hoods pulled out a gun and began shooting at random. In the resulting confusion, Sterling was caught by a bullet in the neck and critically wounded, he died several days later in a hospital, leaving behind an infant son.
Sterlings death shocked the hip hop communitity and as a result rap and violence became a topic in the mainstream press. The rap community thought Boogie Down Productions was over but this only led to new plans for KRS-One.
In 1988, KRS-One left B. Boy Records to sign with Jive Records and the album "By All Means Necessary" was released. Rap music was under the mainstream microscope and KRS-One now was able to release what he and Scott La Rock had always dreamed about, an album that gave rap a different image. His first video on Jive Records was for "My Philosophy", a song that re-established his presence in the rap world.
In order to understand KRS-One, it is imperative that you either understand hip hop as opposed to rap or open your mind to the reality of what is going on around you. KRS-One is not a bullshit artist. KRS-One was and still is known for his furiously political and socially conscious raps, which is the source of his nickname, "The Teacher" or "Teacha", aswell as him having lectured at Harvard, Yale, Vassar, Columbia, N.Y.U. and Stanford.
The groups next release "Edutainment" was released on July 17th, 1990. The albums beats are rooted in the old school hip hop style with DJ's performing many scratches. Around the time of the albums release BDP's audience began to slip as many fans thought his raps were becoming preachy. Despite this the album was still certified Gold by the RIAA on October 10, 1990. As a reaction to the groups audience slipping away, KRS-One began to re-establish his street credibility with harder, sparer beats and raps. 1992's Sex and Violence was the first sign that he was taking a harder approach, one that wasn't nearly as concerned with teaching. However this would be the last album released by Boogie Down Productions, afterwards Parker moved on to performing under his current rap name, KRS-One.
KRS-One released his first solo album, "Return of the Boom Bap", on September 28, 1993 through Jive Records. On the album KRS-One worked together with producers DJ Premier (Gang Starr), Showbiz and Kid Capri. The catchy yet hardcore track "Sound of da Police" is featured on this album. It peaked on the Billboard 200 charts at position 37 on October 16, 1993, and in 1998 the album was selected as one of The Source Magazine's 100 Best Rap Albums. "Return of the Boom Bap" was an extension of the more direct approach of BDP's earlier "Sex and Violence", yet it didn't halt his commercial decline. Still, KRS forged on with a high-quality self-titled (KRS-One) 1995 effort. KRS-One featured Channel Live on the track "Free Mumia", a political protest song about Mumia Abu-Jamal, an African-American and Black Panther member who a vocal group of activists on the political left claim is innocent of the murder of a police officer for which he was convicted. Other prominent guest artists on KRS One included Mad Lion, Busta Rhymes, Das EFX and Fat Joe. The album charted at #2 on the Top R&B;/Hip Hop Albums, and broke into the top 20 of the Billboard 200 chart. In 1996 KRS-One shocked fans again with "Battle for Rap Supremacy", a joint effort with his old rival, MC Shan.
In 1997, KRS-One surprised many with his release of the album "I Got Next". The record included a remix of the single "Step into a World" which featured a sample from the 1970s rock group Blondie by commercial rap icon Puff Daddy. "Heartbeat", featuring Angie Martinez and Redman, was based on the old school classic "Feel the Heartbeat" by the Treacherous Three. These collaborations with notably mainstream artists took many fans and observers of the vehemently anti-mainstream KRS-One by surprise. However, in August 1997, Parker appeared on Tim Westwood's BBC Radio 1 show in the UK and vociferously denounced both the DJ and the radio station, accusing them of ignoring his style of hip hop in favour of commercial artists such as Puff Daddy. Overall the album did well reaching #3 on the Billboard 200 chart position, and #2 on the R&B;/Hip-Hop chart.
After 1997's "I Got Next", KRS put his solo career on hold for several years, but in 1999 there were tentative plans to release an album called "Maximum Strength" and a lead single "5 Boroughs", which was released on "The Corruptor" movie soundtrack. However, KRS apparently decided to abort the album's planned release, as he had just secured a position as a Vice-President of A&R; at Reprise Records. He moved to southern California, stayed there for two years, and then ended his relationship with Jive Records with "A Retrospective" in 2000. "A Retrospective" is a compilation album from KRS featuring many songs that were originally released under the Boogie Down Productions title, and some songs released under the KRS-One title. It is composed of previously released material except the track "Essays On BDP-Ism" which was the last track ever produced by KRS's deceased partner Scott La Rock.
The next year saw KRS resign from his position at Reprise and in 2001 he released his forth solo effort, in the form of "The Sneak Attack", released on Koch Records. He then followed that up when he released a gospel music-rap album, "Spiritual Minded", on January 22, 2002, surprising many longtime fans as KRS had once denounced Christianity as a "slavemaster religion", which African-Americans should not follow.
Later in 2002 KRS founded the Temple of Hiphop, which is an organization with the goal of maintaining and promoting the hip hop culture. Temple of Hip Hop maintains that hip hop is a genuine political movement and culture, as it has been accepted by the United Nations as a culture. The Temple of Hip Hop calls on all hip hop fans to celebrate Hip Hop Appreciation Week, occurring in mid-May. It encourages DJs and MCs to teach people about the culture of Hip Hop, to write more socially conscious songs, and radio stations to play more socially conscious hip hop. Hip Hop Appreciation Week is celebrated on the third week of May each year. November of each year is celebrated as Hip Hop History Month.
August 27, 2002 saw KRS drop his sixth solo album, KRS-One: The Mixtape. The album is quite short with four interludes making up the 13 tracks. It is known for the song "Ova Here" which disses Nelly for being commercial and previously disrespecting KRS-One (read more about his beef between Nelly and KRS-One in our beef section by clicking here). He quickly followed up on The Mix Tape with "Kristyles" released on April 22, 2003, via Koch Records to moderate success. In the summer of 2004 (July 13, 2004) he released Keep Right, and for a short time the album was bundled with a free DVD.
Later on in 2004, KRS caused controversy when he was quoted in a panel discussion hosted by The New Yorker magazine as saying that "we cheered when 9/11 happened". The comment drew criticism from many sources, including the New York Daily News that called KRS an "anarchist" and said that "If Osama bin Laden ever buys a rap album, he'll probably start with a CD by KRS-One." In late 2005, KRS released a remix of the song "Bin Laden", which blames U.S. conservatives, the Reagan Doctrine and U.S. President George W. Bush for the September 11, 2001 attacks. The song was originally released by Immortal Technique and DJ Green Lantern in Summer 2005.
KRS then responded to the controversy surrounding his comments with an editorial written for the AllHipHop website. In the article KRS stated: "it does not affect us (Hip Hop), or at least we don’t perceive that it affects us, 9/11 happened to them". KRS continued to argue his point correctly saying "9/11 affected them down the block; the rich, the powerful those that are oppressing us as a culture. Sony, RCA or BMG, Universal, the radio stations, BET and MTV, those are our oppressors, those are the people that we're trying to overcome in hiphop everyday, this is a daily thing. We cheered when 9/11 happened in New York and say that proudly here. Because when we were down at the trade center we were getting hit over the head by cops, told that we can’t come in this building, hustled down to the train station because of the way we dressed and talked, we were racially profiled.”
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On June 13, 2006 KRS released what fans is percieved as been his last solo album, "My Life". For his next albums of new material, KRS-One has confirmed that he will be working with Marley Marl. The album, titled Hip-Hop Lives, was released in May 2007 with Marley Marl as the executive producer. This is a historical hip hop album in the sense that 20 years ago, KRS and Marl were once bitter rivals involved in the legendary Bridge Wars. It all happened with one phone call," Marley Marl told during a March 2006 interview. "They called me and he jumped on the phone and told me it would be spectacular for Hip Hop...My reason for doing this is to show these kids that Hip Hop beefs are not that serious." Read more about KRS-One's envlovement in the Bridge Wars in our beef section by clicking here. "Kill A Rapper", a track from the album focuses on the unsolved murders of several of rap's biggest stars and asks why no one has ever been brought to justice.