Lessons From the Teacha KRS-ONE Educates

Lessons From the Teacha <b>KRS-ONE</b> Educates
Any discussion about the greatest rappers of all time must include KRS-One. To deny him that would earn you his scorn and reflect poorly on your knowledge of hip-hop. For close to two decades, his long and storied contributions have been the stuff of legend. As he himself might tell you, "I am hip-hop.” This year he turns 42, so hip-hop is getting old. Few rap pioneers of his calibre have continue to produce well into their 40s. He brought battle MCing to the forefront, upped the lyrical quotient and questioned everything about society. His personal growth has seen him cast off hardened philosophies like they were frivolous fashion fads, which have left many questioning his teaching. It could be argued that no MC has contradicted himself on wax or in the media as much as Blastmaster KRS-One. And through it all, he remains unapologetic. Like the music he claims to embody, he is forever a product of his environment. Knowledge may not be what the hip-hop community wants, but so long as he remains on the microphone it is what they will get.

1965 to 1969
Just one year after the historic Civil Rights Act ended racial discrimination against African-Americans in voting, employment and public services, real estate agent Jacqueline Jones gives birth to a son named Lawrence, on August 20, 1965. Lawrence is born in Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York, a neighbourhood whose name originates from its bordering location on the western slope of Prospect Park. Jones later gives birth to another boy, Kenny. Their father is Trinidadian handyman Sheffield Brown, who for unknown reasons is deported to his native country.

1970 to 1977
Jones remarries a United Nations bodyguard. Both brothers adopt their stepfather's surname Parker. Domestic violence forces Jones, her children in tow, to flee her new husband after little more than two years. She later gives birth to a daughter, in 1975, after meeting another man, but their relationship fizzles. The family shuffles from Brooklyn to the Bronx before landing back in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, a new music — transplanted from Kingston, Jamaica — is taking root in the bleak conditions of the concrete jungle. Hip-hop begins with Clive Campbell aka DJ Kool Herc at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx. Its primary instruments: two turntables and a microphone. Poverty promotes innovation at inner-city block parties, where DJs and their crews draw power for their travelling sound systems by siphoning it from streetlights. Herc discovers the dancers at the block parties he plays will wait for the instrumental break to get down. He takes two copies of the same record and loops the beat to make it last several minutes. Soon, Herc and his successors abandon everything but the breaks. As the dancers danced, Herc and members of his crew would add their vocals live, sending shout-outs to the DJ, rhythmically chanting their stories to keep the crowd satisfied.

1978 to 1983
Their family poor and often relying on welfare, Lawrence and Kenny ponder what they'd do with $1,000. A ninth grader attending H.S. 620 William E. Grady High School in Brooklyn, 6-foot-2 Lawrence has a crush on what some are calling hip-hop and says he would make a record if the money was in his hands, prompting his younger brother to call him crazy. Hip-hop meets the mainstream world in October 1979, when the Sugarhill Gang record "Rapper's Delight,” a massive hit. Seemingly hardwired for rebellion, 13-year-old Lawrence is acting out in high school. After preparing a dish of flavoured rice one day while their mother is at work, the pair eats it all before she arrives home. A furious Jones throws them out of the house when she learns of their selfishness. Only Kenny returns. Lawrence decides to chase his hip-hop dream. Homeless shelters, park benches, occasionally the World Trade Center and public libraries provide Parker with a home for the next seven years of his life. He often finds himself in the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, not far from where he often slept in Prospect Park. A high-school dropout, he teaches himself and continues to hone his skills as an MC. Security guards and shelter residents nickname him Krishna, and later Kris, after he takes a shine to the Hare Krishnas, whose anti-poverty actions include providing vegetarian meals to the poor.

Springing up on inner-city walls and wrapping itself around subway cars, bridges and buildings like colourful foliage is the ghetto's own graffiti. Parker meets graf artist Zore of the Down To Bomb crew while living at a group home on Soundview Ave. in the Bronx. Zore introduces Parker to graffiti: part art, "part reinvention of the self as a brand." With a paint can in his hand, Lawrence Parker selects as his moniker KRS, a short form of Krishna. He would add the "One" only when others lay claim his brand name. When he's not practising his lyrics, he works odd jobs. According to a too-outlandish-to-be-true-but-never-disproved story that would appear in the pages of The Source magazine, KRS-One takes a job as a marijuana courier. He transports garbage bags full of weed, using a bread delivery truck as cover. Police try to stop KRS-One and another man one fateful afternoon. The paranoid driver leads police on a miles-long chase before wrecking the truck. KRS learns in court that the cops had not intended to search the car, but merely wanted to inquire why a commercial vehicle had regular license plates. KRS spends a brief time in jail before being sent to a juvenile home after claiming to be a ward of the state.

Parker makes his new home at Franklin Armory Men's Shelter in the Bronx. There he and 22-year-old social worker Scott Sterling butt heads over subway tokens. The two men later discover they have a mutual friend, Ced Gee of the Ultramagnetic MC's. Sterling — to KRS-One's delight — is a DJ whose stage name is Scott La Rock. Sterling and Parker form a bond, then a band: Scott La Rock and the Celebrity Three. Rappers Levi167 and MC Quality round out the squad. Forever chained to the teenaged male stereotype of raging hormones, hip-hop cares mainly for instant gratification: sex, partying and rebellion raps dominate. KRS-One's verse on the twelve-inch single "Advance" concerns the harms of nuclear proliferation. Stardom refuses to answer their calls and legal conflicts see the label owners sour on the group, releasing them from their contract. Levi167 and MC Quality quit. Unwilling to divorce their dream, the duo christen their new group the Boogie Down Crew, borrowing the "Boogie Down" from the Bronx borough where hip-hop originated. Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records approach Sterling with an offer to produce a single, which is recorded under the name 12:41. The duo take "Success Is The Word" to black-owned radio station 107.5 FM WBLS and play it for host Mr. Magic. Magic says it's wack and refuses to play it. Feeling slighted, the crew move on. Both friends worked on the single; neither gets paid. Change prompts a name change. Boogie Down Productions is chosen to convey that they are producers, not just rappers. Across the East River — in the borough of Queens — the Juice Crew's MC Shan and Mr. Magic's co-host and DJ/producer Marley Marl release "The Bridge." Hearing the song angers BDP, who claim the crew have no right to claim their neighbourhood as the birthplace of hip-hop.

Rejected by nearly every record label in town, La Rock and KRS-One head to Manhattan to meet with Tommy Boy Records. Denied once more, they must walk home to the Bronx because they don't have enough money for the subway. La Rock finds an ad for entertainment company Rock Candy Records and Filmworks just as the duo are crossing the Willis Avenue Bridge. A phone call is placed and as La Rock takes down the directions, KRS-One furiously sketches a breakdancer holding a radio. The owners, who are rumoured to be a front for a pornography operation, agree to let the pair start the label. B-Boy Records is born. Crack cocaine has transformed the already crumbling inner city into a war zone; the music and its musicians reflect the new reality. As First Lady Nancy Reagan triumphs her "Just Say No" doctrine, BDP does the same on their first single, "Say No Brother (Crack Don't Do It)." BDP's next single, "South Bronx," strikes a blow against their Queens rivals. The track will spark one of hip-hop's most enduring battles. KRS-One delivers a hip-hop history lesson, while verbal chastising Shan and Marley. The barren yet bombastic beats provide the blueprint for an aggressive KRS-One to declare his lyrical superiority. His style is slower and his enunciation crisp. Reggae's tones and inflections seep into his sound courtesy of his heritage and the Caribbean influence of Jamaican dancehall reggae artists such as Super Cat. He'll often infuse his rhymes with the verbal ticks of Jamaican patois, an African interpretation of the British language.

MC Shan returns fire with "Kill That Noise" on his album Down By Law. Marley Marl insists Shan never said hip-hop started in Queens. BDP answer with "The Bridge Is Over," referring to the Queensbridge housing project where Juice Crew members live. KRS-One draws two Juice Crew affiliates — Roxanne Shante and Mr. Magic — into the battle by saying Shante is only good for fucking and includes a homophobic jab that Mr. Magic's mouth is only used for sucking. Some suggest that the battle's real motivation is Mr. Magic's diss of "Success Is The Word." B-Boy Records releases Criminal Minded, BDP's full-length debut album on March 3. Swerving sharply away from the popular party raps, it focuses on a sort of conscious ghetto journalism. It earns the duo street credibility that will pay off in the boardroom. Brandishing a small arsenal of weapons, the pair strike a defiant gangster pose — sunglasses on, guns drawn, ready to roll — on the album's cover. Buried below their thuggish facade, however, are lessons about how to survive. In addition to "South Bronx" and "The Bridge is Over," hits include "9mm Goes Bang," with its deadpan rhymes about crack, marijuana and murder: "Me knew a crack dealer by the name of Peter/Had to buck him down with my nine millimeter." Success summons the group to Jive/RCA, where they sign a deal and begin work on their second album. Scott La Rock is shot and killed on August 27 while trying a settle a dispute involving BDP affiliate D-Nice. La Rock's death shakes KRS-One to his core, prompting him to consider — maybe for the first time — his role in hip-hop. Jive/RCA plans to drop the group. Only with KRS-One's pleading does the label relent. KRS-One would later tell People magazine that, "If I was to quit, Scott would really be dead." Out of respect for Scott La Rock, BDP and the Juice Crew press pause on their battle, though it would spill over into other rapper’s songs. KRS-One marries Ramona Scott aka rapper Ms. Melodie. Around this time, KRS-One reverse engineers his rap name to mean Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone. His other pseudonym is the Blastmaster KRS-One.

Africa medallions, Malcolm X T-shirts, and former Black Panther Stokley Carmichael — now known as Kwame Toure — define KRS-One's transformation into The Teacha. Armed with a new deal from Jive/RCA, KRS-One releases By All Means Necessary on May 10. His brother Kenny assumes La Rock's place above the turntables and his wife, Ms. Melodie, and D-Nice offer contributions to the group but KRS is the true face of BDP. Class begins with the cover art. KRS conjures the imagery of a famous Life magazine photo depicting black activist Malcolm X peering out of his window holding an M-1 Carbine assault rifle. The album title references Malcolm X's black liberation "by any means necessary" speech. Modern times call for modern weapons. Instead of the M-1, KRS holds a Mini-Uzi. Any means becomes all means. While outwardly violent, it reflects growth because Malcolm's stance was one of self-protection. The photo was taken after he received death threats. The lyrical content changed. Here KRS-One was calling for an end to violence. Songs about promiscuous sex now urge condom use, and through it all KRS-One slashes at stereotypes and is rabidly anti-corporate. No song reinforces his new direction more than the opening lecture of "My Philosophy." The record peaks at 75 on the Billboard 200 chart and attracts a new following with its social consciousness. Violence erupts during a Boogie Down Productions/Public Enemy concert in Long Island, N.Y., leaving a young concertgoer dead. Hip-hop's growing popularity raises its profile to the national stage. Its increasingly misogynistic and violent lyrics make it a prime target for opportunistic critics who use the death to denounce the music and call for widespread censorship. Keenyan Ivory Wayan's I'm Gonna Get You Sucka, a parody of ‘70s blaxploitation films, features KRS and Boogie Down Productions members walking behind the lead character Jack Spade, played by Wayans, singing the theme song "Jack of Spades."

KRS-One helps found the Stop The Violence Movement in response to the death, rounding up an all-star cast including Public Enemy's Chuck D, MC Lyte, Heavy D and others to denounce black-on-black crime with an all-star cast on "Self-Destruction." By some estimates the movement nets anywhere from $150,000 to $500,000 for the National Urban League, a group that seeks to rub out illiteracy. KRS-One would later question where the money went in Rap Pages magazine. Boogie Down Productions' third album, Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop furthers the previously established themes. The New York Times asks KRS-One to write an editorial on the city's public school curriculum after the album's release. Seeing a more legitimate pulpit and the potential to reach a larger audience before him, KRS-One — who has earned his high-school equivalency degree — agrees. He attempts to validate hip-hop, arguing that it could be an instrument of change in the ghetto and announces that the gold-chain dangling, self-destructive lifestyle must end. His words echo through the halls of academia; Ivy League schools Harvard and Yale invite him to speak. The Teacha tours 40 U.S. cities just as West coast gangsta hip-hop — championed by N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton — is on the rise.

By now a darling of the intellectual world, KRS-One drops BDP's next album. Edutainment cements his status as modern-day Malcolm X, but his lecturing provides the first brick in a wall that will sprout up between him and his audience. His message continues to slam into the community like a gunshot, but many in his audience begin to wear bulletproof vests. Sales of this album fall well below that of his gangsta rap contemporaries, who enjoy unprecedented success. A certified superstar, many in his camp want him to return to his pre-Teacha days, but he seems unable to comply. Rappers too are tiring of KRS-One's preachy rhetoric. Ice Cube uses "Rolling Wit Tha Lench Mob" to announce, "Some rappers are heaven sent/but Self Destruction don't pay the fuckin' rent!"

At the end of the March 17 episode of Fox's sketch comedy show, In Living Colour, host Keenan Ivory Wayans welcomes KRS to stage to perform "The Bridge Is Over." KRS forms not-for-profit group Human Education Against Lies (H.E.A.L) along with his friend, Professor Zizwe Mtafuta-Ukweli, to blunt the negative impact of self-interested political, educational and religious systems. Still Afrocentric, KRS flips his philosophy to humanism. No longer content to preach to the black community, he shifts his focus to uplifting humankind. He compiles an album, Civilization Vs. Technology, on his Edutainer record label. All the usual suspects are recruited: Queen Latifah, Big Daddy Kane and L.L. Cool J. But for the first time he reaches beyond hip-hop borders, enlisting folk rocker Billy Bragg, reggae's Ziggy Marley and rock's R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe. Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme shoots a video. A book is written and intended to be included with purchase of the album but, according to Professor Z, "Pimp record companies and multinational business wasn't havin' it." Appearing on R.E.M.'s "Radio Song," KRS takes a swipe at commercial radio, accusing them of being of pawns for corporate America. BDP is one of the first hip-hop acts to record and release a live album, Live Hardcore Worldwide.

Bradley Nowell of garage punk band Sublime records "KRS-One" for their debut album, 40oz. to Freedom. An enlightened Nowell sings: "In school they never taught 'bout hamburgers or steak, Elijah Muhammad or the welfare state/But I know. And I know because of KRS-One." KRS had felt for some time that he was bearing the brunt of MCs’ attacks. It reaches its critical point in January, when after hearing from an interviewer that quasi-hippy rapper Prince Be of P.M. Dawn criticised him: "KRS wants to be a teacher, but a teacher of what?" Members of BDP make plans to attend an MTV concert at New York City's Sound Factory, where the rapper will interrupt the show to confront his critic. According to brother Kenny, when KRS sympathisers at the show — which includes performances by Leaders of the New School, Nice & Smooth and Supercat — hear the plan the small group balloons to a posse. When P.M. Dawn's "Setting Adrift A Memory Bliss" comes on, the posse rush the stage and wrest control from the DJ. Flinging aside his non-violent rhetoric, KRS — according to conflicting accounts — punches Prince Be then throws him off the stage before uttering, "BDP is in the mothafuckin' house," performing "Still #1" and improvising the chorus of his infamous Queensbridge diss to say "The Dawn is Over." This is also the year KRS is nominated for a NACA Harry Chapman Humanitarian Award. Both parties would later call off the beef, videotaping their explanations. BDP's fifth album, Sex and Violence, sees KRS return his voice to the sparse sonic template authored by Scott La Rock, but some consider the lyrics morally ambiguous. KRS tells crack dealers to invest in the community, tars high ranking black officials (including U.S. Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas) with the Uncle Tom epithet and on "13 and Good," the Teacha tells a first-person rhyme about statutory rape with a 13-year-old. Fictional cautionary tale or not, Entertainment Weekly says it’s "tacky" and "inept." KRS tells a correspondent for the New York Daily News that Sex and Violence was the album his fans wanted and that he wasn't contradicting himself because he never claimed to be a one-dimensional rapper. KRS divorces Ms. Melodie after five years of marriage.

KRS sheds the Boogie Down Productions moniker and most of its satellite crew to go solo. His once iron-fisted grip on hip-hop made limp by years of preaching, KRS drops his solo record, Return of the Boom Bap to an audience in the palms of a new generation of rappers. "Sound of the Police" makes waves with its swirling-siren chant of "whoop, whoop" and its anti-police rhetoric. DJ Premier of Gangstarr and Kid Capri help KRS step towards the mainstream by producing tracks on the album. Seemingly abandoning mainstream hip-hop, KRS dubs himself an "undaground emcee," invoking his own "It's not about a salary/It's all about reality" lyric from 1988's "My Philosophy."

Hip-hop activist and writer Harry Allen approaches KRS with an ambitious plan: archive the culture of hip-hop under the auspices of the Rhythm Cultural Institute (RCI). A lack of vision and inability to address infighting among hip-hop's originators dooms the project from the beginning, but the idea sticks with KRS.

With a lead foot and his bullhorn of mouth not getting any quieter, KRS refuses to slow down and drops a self-titled album to critical acclaim. Sales fail to match that of other successful artists. RCI's demise only emboldens KRS, who sees hip-hop as a cultural movement. He coins the phrase "Rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live." The Juice Crew/BDP beef long dead, MC Shan and KRS-One appear in TV commercial for Sprite's urban-themed Obey Your Thirst campaign. The two MCs trade lyrical jabs in a boxing ring, evoking an old rivalry that's history is likely lost on a great many viewers. Cries of sell-out greet KRS upon the ad's release. His next move only serves to pump up the volume of the voices: he strips poet/proto-rapper Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" of its incendiary lyrics about freedom and liberation for blacks to sell basketball shoes in a Nike TV spot.

His rap contemporaries discarded by both their record labels and fans, KRS writes a book about longevity in the rap game. The Science of Rap is part philosophy, part how-to survival handbook. With the support of Kool DJ Herc, Professor Z, Big Daddy Kane, Chuck D and others, KRS announces plans to build the Temple of Hip-hop. The realization of Harry Allen's archive will focus on teaching the meaning, purpose and proper use of hip-hop and its many elements, including DJing, breakdancing, graffiti and MCing. Many are excited and subsequently dismayed when KRS promotes the Temple by using the phrase "I Am Hip-Hop." Fangs drawn, rappers and journalists pounce on the Teacha. Ever battle-ready, he fires back: "We are all hip-hop; it's just that I may have been the first person to have realised it." Needless to say it doesn't exactly force his critics to retract their claws.

Six days after Christopher Wallace aka the Notorious B.I.G. is shot dead on March 9, speakers are once again rattling to KRS-One's "Step Into A World (Rapture's Delight)," which liberates its hook from ‘70s punk band Blondie. Thirty-one year-old KRS-One releases his third solo album, I Got Next, a day before Biggie would have turned 25. Naysayers and fans are struck by the record's mainstream appeal, especially the inclusion of a Puff Daddy remix. Buoyed by positive press and radio rotation of its singles, the album soars to No. 3 — his highest-ever achievement — on the Billboard 200 chart on June 7. It peaks at No. 13 in Canada. An August appearance on BBC Radio 1 finds KRS lobbing an attack at the station and DJ Tim Westwood for ignoring his album for Puff Daddy's more commercially viable music. KRS's relationship with the Jive, his record label of nine years, shows signs of stress.

KRS plays the Tibetan Freedom Concert in Washington, D.C. The Temple of Hip Hop announces that every third week of May will be known as Hip-hop Appreciation Week. Left weak after an intense battle with LL Cool J, the rapper Canibus finds himself a target of KRS. Appearing on Sway and King Tech Wake-up Show, KRS says he has penned a rhyme to cut short the career of every new MC since 1994. Though he has been vocal critic of major labels, KRS is offered a job as vice-president A&R and Reprise Records, a Warner Bros. subsidiary. Apparently disillusioned with hip-hop and planning to put his career on hold, he negotiates his departure from Jive, accepts the offer, packs up his family and moves to Los Angeles.

MTV reports in February that KRS is at work on an album to be called Maximum Strength. The rapper boasts of having production work by Wyclef and Puffy. "For all those heads out there that were aggravated with the last album because of Puffy's appearance," he says, "we figured we'd really take it to the Tylenol level and have two tracks by Puffy." KRS reaches across New York's five biggest 'hoods to assemble a posse cut called "Five Boroughs" for the lead single. It appears on The Corruptor soundtrack and features Buckshot, Cam'Ron, Keith Murray, Killah Priest, Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Redman, Run of Run D.M.C. and Vigilante. Unknown factors cause KRS to abort the album.

Jive/RCA release a best of KRS album entitled A Retrospective to end its contractual obligations. During his time at Reprise, none of the artists under his wing take flight. His two major artists are dancehall reggae/rapper Mad Lion (known for the song "Take It Easy") and Lady Red. He resigns and heads back in New York to work with 12- to 16-year-old boys at Riverside Church. Independent label Koch Records distributes The Sneak Attack, his first album in four years, but few pay it much attention. An angry KRS-One objects to Nelly co-opting the No. 1 title after the song "No. 1" appears on the Training Day soundtrack in 2001. Apparently KRS feels no one — especially not a rapper who wears a band-aid as fashion accessory — can stake a claim on a title he has owned since 1988's "I'm Still #1." A new beef is born.

His philosopher's quest having delivered him to the pews of a Christian church, KRS records Spiritual Minded. Its gospel theme stings of heresy, especially for those who recall his earlier platitudes. From 1992's "The Real Holy Place": "If your slave master wasn't a Christian you wouldn't be a Christian/your whole culture is missin'." His actions in the months to follow will show he isn't quite ready to turn the other cheek. Underground record label Official Jointz readies The Difference, a 12-song compilation that features KRS railing against pop MCs who enjoy the road to success that he and others paved. St. Louis rapper Nelly listens and sees — right or wrong — KRS's finger pointed at him. Hoping to cash in on the feud for increased exposure and sales, the label feeds the alleged beef to the hype machine. A press release claims the MC is indeed aiming at Nelly. KRS reaches out to Nelly's camp in an effort to quash the beef. Nelly doesn't wave the white flag. On Beanie Sigel's "Roc The Mic" remix, Nelly claims KRS is a geriatric MC desperate for a hit; KRS responds with the a scorcher called "Ova Here." It calls for a boycott of Nelly's next album, uses Nelly's work with NSync to belittle the rapper's sound and labels him a sell-out, and appears on KRS-One's The Mix Tape. Nelly will say that KRS, too, sold out by making the Sprite ads. By year's end, Nellyville has been certified five times platinum. KRS-One's ode to God fails to go gold.

2003 KRS takes his record label, Koch, to court to keep fans from buying his next album. High on his pile of complaints is Koch's "devious" decision to release what he calls an "incomplete" version of record ahead of schedule. Other qualms include changing the album name from The Kristyle to Kristyles and discarding songs — including, according to KRS, a tribute to Run DMC's Jam Master Jay, who was shot dead in October 2002. He wins a court injunction on June 23, a day before the bumped-up release date, but it has already shipped to some stores. Eager for his version to see the light of day, KRS considers selling it via a toll-free number or making it available on peer-to-peer file-sharing service KaZaA. A promotional tour is planned to coincide with the release of his second book of philosophy, Ruminations, which one reviewer sums up as KRS-One's aim "to ease suffering and promote peace in a society he deems fundamentally driven by egoism, consumerism and individualism." In July, the rapper and Koch settle their differences. KRS issues a statement: "There is no personal beef between us, and I am pleased that we were able to work this situation out." A revamped album does surface around Aug. 26, but it is titled How Bad Do You Want It. Koch and KRS call it quits. His next album lands on an unlikely label. In November, D.I.G.I.T.A.L. appears on Cleopatra, a company whose early success was spawned from Goth, techno and industrial tribute albums of artists such as The Cure, AC/DC, the Smashing Pumpkins and others.

Another year sees KRS produce Keep Right. Lesser known album Strictly for da Breakdancers and Emceez (1996) is re-released. Years spent dissecting American's racist past and questionable domestic policies and could not prepare KRS for his most-publicised beef with America. Gossip columnists Rush & Molloy brand KRS an Al Qaeda sympathiser and predict that he could be Osama Bin Laden's MC of choice in the New York Daily News. At the centre of the controversy are comments the Teacha made on Oct. 2 during a panel discussion at The New Yorker Festival. "We [African-Americans] cheered when 9/11 happened. I say that proudly. When the planes hit the building, we were like 'Mmmm justice.'" Already on shaky ground, he went on to liken the position to an oppressed people seeing their bully (corporate America and its government stooges) bullied. He added that wherever on earth America had wronged people, those people saw 9/11 as the chickens having come home to roost. Then he went further, saying America must commit suicide to set the world right. This goads panellist and former Nirvana bassist Krist Novelic — his own opinion bloodstained by history — to shout: "That's wrong man. Suicide is not the answer." With its roots in New York, the wave of outrage soon roars across America. KRS issues a long-winded editorial first published at allhiphop.com to clear the air. KRS says he too was saddened by 9/11, that he didn't literally "cheer,” that he was cut off before he had a chance to say that it hurt African-Americans as well and that as a poet his poetic style of speech allowed the comments to be torn from their true context. Speaking on behalf of his community — at whose appointment? — he dangles an argument as flimsy as Christian evangelist Jerry Falwell's claim that pagans, homosexuality, feminism and abortion caused 9/11, using perceived racial profiling by WTC security to justify his community's claim that this should be America's wake-up call to how they treat their own and others around the world.

DJ Green Lantern produces a twelve-inch vinyl for Immortal Technique, who plays connect-the-conspiracy dots on "Bin Laden." KRS-One and Chuck D appear on the remix. KRS-One chats with hip-hop journalist Davey D on the eve of his 40th birthday. With the verve of grumpy old men with firmly entrenched beliefs, they debate hip-hop, their role in shaping it and KRS's chameleon-like ability to change with the times.

Even in an off year, KRS manages to release another album, this one called Life. Nas draws the ire of rappers and fans when he releases Hip-Hop is Dead, providing KRS with a creative jolt.

Nike commissions a remix of the song "Classic" to promote the 25th anniversary of the Air Force 1, a shoe with a history that weaves its way through basketball and hip-hop. DJ Premier produces the track, which features upstart MC Kanye West, rap legends Rakim, Nas and, of course, KRS-One. Nelly's album, the one KRS told people to boycott, also had an ode to "Air Force Ones." KRS-One and foe-turned-friend Marley Marl record a song to pay tribute to Nas before announcing they will release a CD. KRS's former label, Koch, will distribute it. Learning from past lessons in how not to provoke a battle, they also issue a press release that states their record is in no way a diss of the hip-hop legend, rather a continuation of a theme. Syndicated shock jock Don Imus says members of the largely black Rutgers women's basketball team resemble "some nappy-headed hos." The controversy sucks in any and all black rappers who use the word ho, bitch or nigga in their music without protest from the community. Hip-hop, much as it did in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, reverts to a defensive stance as frenzied media organizations tear apart their rolodexes in search of MCs who object to the word's use. Ignorant to KRS's past use of the word — most notably on "Super Hoe" or "The P Is Free" — Fox News host Sean Hannity books the rapper, who has "a song about not using the ho word" and "doesn't use the N-word that much." The Teacher appears on the April 29 segment of Hannity's Hot Seat. He says it's unfair to attack Imus when "Black Entertainment Television continues to put the programming it puts out." (Either ignorant of the 2002 KRS/Nelly beef or else blissfully aware of it, Fox producers allow KRS-One to briefly share a split-screen with Nelly's "Country Grammar" video.) Hannity shifts the focus to KRS-One's 9/11 comments, which he calls "offensive" to both him and the victims' families, just over two minutes into the almost nine-minute interview and never looks back. After appearing on Oprah, hip-hop magnate Russell Simmons calls for a ban offensive terms. KRS asserts that he has been making similar cries only to see them fall on deaf ears. KRS-One's 13th solo album, HIP HOP LIVES, lands in stores on May 22 to coincide with Hip-Hop Appreciation Week.