KRS-One

Keep Right (Grit)

Mr. Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone isn't just any indie-label rapper. This 1986 new-school graduate has become certifiably old-school as he nears his 20th anniversary of MCing professionally. Having renounced the path of criminal-mindedness after his DJ, Scott La Rock, was senselessly murdered 17 years ago, KRS has blazed the trail of conscious hip-hop for longer than some of 50 Cent's fans have been alive. And while his warnings about the dangers of material love went unheeded by many (as he relates in "Phucked"), KRS-One has kept it realer than most, even as the art form he pioneered has become commercialized.

As Keep Right proves, he is one of the few survivors of hip-hop's Golden Age still worth listening to today. Sure, he's often didactic and self-referential (frequently sampling his own work), but Keep Right seems like more of a continuation than a comeback. True, his 13th release has a lot of generic song titles ("Are You Ready for This," "Feel This," "Here We Go"), but their choruses lend themselves well to the call-and-response chants of live performance. The knowledge is still omnipresent, but the lessons are delivered in quick sound bites ("Why the dopest MC always a dead rapper?"). Evidently more comfortable being an underground icon than a mainstream commodity, KRS rolls with the new better than most MCs of his day have, and not only is he still spittin', he's still relevant. -- Eric K. Arnold

 
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