Krs One – Life

Krs One - Life Artist: KRS One
Album: Life
Label: Image
Rating: 3.5/5



This week KRS-One drops Life.
This is his eighth release since 2001’s The Sneak Attack. This
type of pace oft results in patchy work, but KRS succeeds more often
than not. Life sees a continuation of classic KRS themes and
meditations on Hip Hop.

KRS,
of course, does not practice Hip-Hop, but is
Hip Hop. He preaches this message anew over the catchy ring of the western
themed “I am There.” The track sounds like a one-off production
between KRS and Sergio Leone. On “Mr. Percy,” KRS delivers
a deft meditation on the issue of homelessness over a stripped down
rock beat that bumps convincingly with reggae-inflected choruses. “F-ucked
Up” is a three-and-a-half minute moral warning flipped over a lush
beat that oddly compliments the content.

Aptly
titled “I’m on the Mic,” KRS uses the generality to spit on
a variety of topics: God, Hip Hop, and notably the under dog: “Visions
of President Jeb / Five storms hit Florida on it’s head and nobody said
/ ‘what’s the meaning of this?’ It’s like God is dead / in the minds
of people holding on to a thread.” The verbal dexterity flows
into the rapid fire “Gimmie da Gun,” in which the teacher
tries to convince guest emcee Raphi that violence is not the right means
to the end. Both emcees give admirable recitations over the militaristic
machine gun drum-and-bass.

My
biggest grievance with the record is the late-coming bhangra banger
“The Way we Live.” Despite some earnest lyrics on turning
speech into action within the Hip-Hop community, the track falls short.
It is the sort of middle-Eastern colored club track that was passé
as soon as Panjabi MC took his crack at it, but has – awkwardly – permeated
countless albums, as if emcees feel obligated to take a requisite pass
at the stilted fusion. A bhangra-beat is an inappropriate guise for
a song that seeks to “welcome” the listener “to Hip Hop
culture.”

Life
keeps the old-school new. The orchestral production sounds slick, but
gives brief nods to Marley Marl and Return of the Boom Bap, providing
a continuity with the old-school. KRS’ message has not changed a whole
lot, but neither have the over-riding themes of Hip-Hop: underdogs,
streetlife, temptation to walk the line with bling and gun and drugs
throwing you off balance. KRS makes his message new, even when he is
reciting the same histories he has preached before (see “My Life”
and then take a listen to The Sneak Attack’s
“Attendance” and Return of the Boom Bap’s
“Outta Here” ). The stories are the same, with different details
focused upon, and each is compelling, unique to its place and time.

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