Review of KRS One Gig at Jazz Cafe, London
There are names that stand out in the Hip Hop Hall of Fame. Chuck D, Dr Dre, Grandmaster Flash, Rakim, Slick Rick, Biggie, Tupac, Q Tip and Wu Tang among many others. But up there and potentially right at the top is KRS One.
KRS One may not be a household name to today’s rap/grime/hip hop fan, but without KRS One, it is unlikely the genre would have progressed to the extent it has. KRS One inspired a generation around him with tight flows, rhymes with real meaning and expertly produced tracks that stay true to the real roots of Hip Hop. What really makes KRS One stand out is that he is a true MC. To further back this real Hip Hop feel, KRS One wrote his first lyrics while struggling in a homeless shelter, since then he hasn’t looked back.
He hasn’t targeted mass commercial success that the likes of Dre, Snoop and latterly Jay Z have hungered for. He hasn’t diversified into other areas such as films, technology, water (yes look up 50 Cent) or streaming services. KRS One is first and foremost an artist on the mic. He has never compromised that and has never been distracted. While that enviable approached has undoubtedly starved him of millions of dollars, he still remains a genuine Hip Hop legend.
All that being said, how could I turn down the chance to see the master in action. With such a build up and with KRS One knocking on a bit (he is 49 now) could he recapture those golden years in a hyped live set.
So as he entered the stage in his normal unassuming way, no glitz, no white suits, no ensemble of 100 dancers or backing singers, just him in his leather jacket and wooden hat. Keeping it even more real he also has his son on the decks as his chief selector. But does he still cut it?
What a stupid question. KRS One was fire. The man dominated proceedings, expertly laying down his skills and setting the benchmark as the best MC in the business. Helped with a unrivalled back catalogue of genuine bangers, the crowd were proper hyped. Step in to the World got such a reaction that I genuinely felt a chill and hairs standing on end, something I don’t think I have ever experienced in a Hip Hop gig.
Similar responses greeted South Bronx which again sets a perfect back drop to KRS One as an artist. Black Cop and one of my all-time favourite tracks Sound of Da Police were played together effortlessly by the young offspring who did dad proud all night. I pretty much lost it at this stage and almost broke my neck from banging my head. The medley felt timely in the wake of the recent shootings by police in the US.
KRS One rolled out some new material which was warmly greeted and showed that he can still be current. KRS One has out lived all of his contemporaries and that his due to his credibility and the fact he based his material on his real life. It wasn’t about ho’s, pimps and money. This show played true to all of what makes KRS One a legend, the show was the best gig I have seen all year.
Other “emcees act like they don’t know” but KRS One is still the master of Hip Hop.