fickle world of Hip Hop, careers can end before they start, with more than a
few lasting only one album. Meanwhile, KRS-One
continues to defy this and other trends currently prevalent in Hip Hop with the
release of Life, his 15th
studio album. Those familiar with previous efforts will probably not find
themselves surprised by the range of thought provoking topics; from the
desperation of poverty, street life, politics, Hip Hop as a culture (both
positive and negative), to just plain ol' being a dope emcee. The same powerful
voice that fronted Boogie Down
Productions some 20 years ago is back with more food for
thought, served fresh to the anorexic minds that abound in today's society.
For his first album on Antagonist Records, The Blastmaster taps The Resistence (Dax Reynosa and Dert), who provide pretty consistent production for the most part. There are a few misses, such as "Gimme the Gun," which finds KRS trading double time verses with Raphi (of Footsoldiers) over an extremely busy, rock-influenced beat. Not to worry though, the aforementioned low points are more than made up for by joints like "Bling Blung" where the man known as Kris experiments with the potentially tricky science of vocal inflection. Once combined with the violin laced boom-bap of the track, the results are nothing short of success. Later, he goes on to demonstrate how brilliant writing and simple language are not mutually exclusive on the truly poignant "Life Interlude," waxing philosophical about the interconnectivity of - you guessed it - life. Other notable joints include "On the Mic," an almost battle sounding song featuring a scathing, but short, tirade against Jeb Bush over a dope little piano loop, and Freedom, as KRS proclaims "I'm talkin', walkin', working', exertin' energy for certain, not an average person." I think most would find this statement hard to contest. The album's 4 guest shots are provided by members of The Footsoldiers, a relatively unknown crew that does their thing without bringing down the overall quality of the album. Triune manages to deliver the best guest verse by far on "Have Mercy, Mr. Percy," absolutely setting the track ablaze by opening with "You'll get choked for the dough, stabbed for the stash, my axe is brass, ya'll rap for grabbin' the cash / they search for Blackwards faces, so no need checking your ethnicity on application," while KRS makes his own inquiry into the rampant unemployment many are facing.
All in all, The Teacher delivers on expectations for this record. Relevant topics abound, as collection of dope, but not overpowering, soundscapes play the background. Heads are left with plenty to think about with strangely juxtaposed questions like "How's America great when Iraq had no nukes? Oops. Whatever happened to samples and loops?" For the uninitiated KRS even throws in an extremely detailed autobiographical rhyme, "My Life," tracing his story from drinking Olde English and being homeless, to the fateful meeting with Scott LaRock, to his current endeavors in the underground world of indie rap. Making an album that pleases old school fans and just-catching-up heads alike, all while maintaining some sort of cohesiveness seems like a very difficult undertaking, yet it's pulled off nearly flawlessly here. In KRS-One's own words "whatever you perceive as live, KRS is as live as that."