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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
KRS-ONE
LIFE
Antagonist

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


July 25, 2006
When he proved hip-hop was a way for people to unite and exchange guns for lyrics, the industry turned violent. When he established the idea that true success came from using intellectual wealth to improve the life of others, hip-hop became an Italian sports car advertisement. Like a rebellious son, hip-hop has contradicted everything that the paternal rap philosopher king KRS ONE has preached.

As an advocate of America's destitute, he has seen little accomplished on a political level to decease poverty and increase education, health and welfare. No one is surprised that the restless MC will have plenty of ammunition for his twentieth album, LIFE.

As expected, KRS delivers powerfully and clear on all the aforementioned topics with his latest effort. Beyond his hard-voiced diction, he displays varying styles in unique and memorable ways. The first track, "Bling Blung," exhibits KRS rhyming in sequence to the sound of a bell. On "Gimme Da Gun" KRS shows his skills comparable to the Gift of Gab (Blackalicious) on breaking rap-speed records over ridiculously chaotic and nervous guitars and drums. It was his production team The Resistance (Dax Reynosa and Dert) that set standards in production versatility, and this fact is evident while reaching beyond the plane of hip-hop in the Eastern Oriental boom-bap of "The Way We Live" or in borrowing the creepy base riffs of Tool in "I Ain't Leavin." Clearly, KRS made a veteran move by teaming up with The Resistance.

Although I do not want to focus attention away from the musical aspect of LIFE, which was cleverly composed by KRS and his production team, by the end of the album I felt like I just endured a tongue lashing for something I didn't do.

Some may view LIFE as a giant lecture to a troubled child who refuses to listen. While I completely agree with his arguments, I felt overwhelmed. I found myself frantically taking notes like a truant freshman one day before the midterm. In the Jamaican retake of "Have Mercy Mr. Percy" he redundantly yells statistics of the US. homeless population to a monotone hook.

Some may wonder whether the leader of the positive intellectual rap movement might be ignoring his followers and fading away in fit of senility. And it might be true he has lost touch with one of the main principles of the positive intellectual underground, which seemed more optimistic. Contrary to what KRS ONE may imply, this is not the end of hip-hop.

Looking beyond the one-hour lecture helped me figure out the life affirming inspiration in his album: The thesis that the rapper/college professor centers on is under the radar. Not only is he a clear believer of social welfare, he is a product of it.

It was in 1985 when 20-year-old homeless "skinny cat, young cat with a knapsack strapped to my back" Krist Parker met the Bronx shelter social worker Scott Sterling, AKA DJ Scott La Rock, to form Boogie Down Productions; an impressive feat for someone who was destined to become a statistic. In the conclusion song "My Life", he retells stories of drug dealers and hustlers embracing him while simultaneously encouraging him to keep straight in the interest of their community - a powerful example of social change if ever there was one. He was "handed twenty books while some were handed twenty year bids." The message I have taken away from LIFE is that, given the right tools (compassion, education, welfare), even the most hopeless can rise up and influence others the way Krist did. Consider every track an influential statement to provide what he has been provided.

While LIFE is an obvious reflection of his life and his continual intent to influence others, I feel like he might not be aware of the impact he has had on hip-hop and society. When can he finally praise himself for all the successful underground MC's who modeled themselves in his shadow? When is he going to acknowledge his efforts of drawing thousand of students at college campuses that look up to him with more respect than the leader of the free world? Can he ignore Top 40 Hip-Pop and neo-conservative politics which are on the verge of imploding and see what success the underground has achieved?

There is little doubt that he needs fuel for his fire. My impression is he will take a step back and reflect on his influence when he no longer rhymes. Clearly, if he continues to produce solid music, I am grateful we still have issues he can criticize. It seems his frustrations has not affected his longevity, but has given him a reason to continue agelessly as shown in the lyrics of "Life Interlude."

"Every single breath I ingest, I am given, a smidgen to make life changing decisions... my perpetual mission to position our children by the millions, start building our culture for the billions…every single breath I choose life."

Reviewed by Ted Nixon
A contributing writer based in Oakland, California, Ted Nixon covers hip-hop releases for LAS.

See other reviews by Ted Nixon

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