Flanked by banners bearing pronouncements such as “rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live,” and rhyming street wisdoms like “I don’t write songs for cash, I write songs that last”, late-80s hip-hop old-schooler KRS One is the Mr Miyagi of MCs.
KRS-One | O2 ABC2, Glasgow | Rating ***
Not that you’d ever catch the wise old warrior out of the The Karate Kid advertising a DVD at the merch stall teaching you how to teach his mystical craft, as this Bronx, New York native AKA Lawrence Kris Parker did.
Backed by two young MCs and his son DJ Predator Prime on the decks, Parker holds a dim view of much modern hip-hop, as evidenced by his disses of corporatised rap (“an MC may become a rapper,” he explained, “but a rapper will never ever become an MC”) and his pantomime call-and-response inquiries to the crowd as to where he might find “real hip-hop”. Put Lil Wayne in a freestyle battle with this lightning-tongued improviser, a man with a rhyme for every eventuality – including, bizarrely, a guy down the front waving his passport at him – and he’d no doubt show you why.
There was in fact probably more that this show had in common with contemporary hip-hop gigs than Parker might prefer to acknowledge, loud, boastful and chaotic as it was. Between iconic cuts like Stop The Violence, I’m Still #1 and Sound of the Police, his words and his politics remain fiercely relevant.
However hokey some pronouncements may have been – “find the beat in every sound in nature”, “be authentic, be original” – they were a welcome reminder that good life lessons in hip-hop needn’t always be eclipsed by bad.