Knowledge Reins Supreme- Over Nearly Everybody

With over eighteen years of experience in the rap game, and thirteen albums to his name, South Bronx native KRS-One no longer has anything to prove to anyone. The question at this point is if he can continue to put out relevant music that will reach the ears of a new generation of hip-hop fans.

KRS’ latest effort, Keep Right, proves that he still plenty of gas in the tank, and can continuously put out quality rap music. True to his alias of “The Teacher” KRS-One tries to kick knowledge. He has a positive message and always attempts to give listeners a few words of wisdom. KRS does not just focus on what he is saying; he concentrates on how he says it.

The rhythmic and hypnotic quality of KRS’ delivery as he repeats sounds and phrases throughout his rhymes serves to draw the listener into each track. He’s always finding new ways to deliver his lyrics, which keeps the twenty-three track album from getting repetitive. KRS is a master at switching up his flow. At times he rhymes fast, at times he rhymes slow. He also varies his intonation, energy level, and timing. On some tracks he brings the fire as he barks out high-energy lyrics, on other songs he goes as far as to take on a Jamaican accent while delivering some more mellow raps.

Keep Right opens with KRS giving a shout-out to all his favorite clubs, starting with the 9:30 club in Washington, D.C. The album then transitions into “Are You Ready For This,” a high-energy, almost militant sounding, fist-pumping track. KRS tells listeners “Knowledge Reigns Supreme” and takes on the role of a hip-hop philosopher as he teaches a lesson or two while reworking his delivery to rhyme a little slower, but right to the beat.

Even if you think you are not familiar with any of KRS-One’s work, chances are you have heard another artist reference or remix one of his songs. Memphis Bleek and Geda K’s “9MM” from the album M.A.D.E., Young Gunz “Criminal Background” from Chain Gang Vol. 2, Nas’s “The Bridge is Over” from Stillmatic, and C-N-N group-member Noreaga’s “Cocaine Business” are all remixes of songs from KRS-One’s classic 1987 release Criminal Minded.

On Keep Right KRS attempts to try his hand at this game by doing a song called “Illegal Business Remix 2004.”

This track is probably the worst song on the album, and is especially terrible when compared to the original. KRS seems lost when he rhymes over the fast and overly complicated beat. He rhymes too fast and his delivery meshes with the beat only minimally. When listening to “Illegal Business Remix 2004” the listener gets the sensation that KRS is simply rapping over the beat instead of kicking his rhymes to it.

The disappointment brought by the “Illegal Business” remix is alleviated when KRS comes back strong on “You Gon Go?” as he reminds listeners of the emcee’s original occupation of Moving the Crowd. Over a simple beat, KRS-One reflects on what it means to be a live rapper and how he can hold his own with “no video, no radio, just a live show.” KRS keeps it moving on the following track, “Phucked,” as he delivers a somewhat preachy and pretentious message over a dope, melodic, head-nod inducing beat with a nice old-school vibe.

KRS keeps things consistent over the next few solid tracks, which have tight scratches and samples, good rhymes and KRS’ trademark flow that has the hypnotic appeal of the vocal patterns of an oral storyteller. One of the real gems of the record is “Feel This,” a dope track on which KRS speeds his flow up over a very original sounding beat which has a pulsating trombone-like bass-line that is backed up by an eclectic ensemble of African instruments. For once, KRS speeds up his flow and still rides the beat perfectly.

Overall, Keep Right is a good album, although I am not sure that it lives up to the standard that KRS-One set for himself with Criminal Minded. Nevertheless, it is impressive that after thirteen albums KRS still has enough material to put out such a creative and ambitious album. Keep Right has a lot of good songs on it, but the sermon-like interludes and preachy message sometimes take away from the overall quality of the record. Despite the odd infusion of religion into hip-hop, KRS has succeeded in making an album which has the potential to appeal to a generation of fans that probably was not even born when he first started rhyming. As good as the album is, I still think that KRS’ intensity and energy can only be truly appreciated at a live show.

So, pick up Keep Right at Pure Pop Records in downtown Burlington. While you’re at it, buy Criminal Minded and introduce yourself to a true hip-hop classic. KRS-One is a hip-hop icon, and Keep Right is a pretty decent album. But, if you really want to see KRS in action, catch him at 9:00 pm at Nectar’s in downtown Burlington on October 10th.

Local hip-hop group Three the Hard Way are the opening act, and tickets are still available. Tickets are $20 on the day of the show and are available at 8:00 pm at the door. There will be a limited number of eighteen plus tickets available at the door, so if you’re under twenty-one and want to catch KRS-One live, get there early. Check out www.liveatnectars.com for more info. To get to Nectar’s, go straight down Main Street and Keep Right if you don’t want to get left out.