While he answers to many aliases—“Blasmaster” and “The Teacha” to name a few—people generally recognize KRS-One by his Rap name and occasionally by his given name of Kris Parker. All of the above are fine, except Kris is not his given name. It’s Lawrence. In one of the many viral outtakes from Ice-T’s Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap, KRS breaks down how an encounter with the Hare Krishnas led to his name change.
“When I went into the street, I was hanging with the Hare Krishnas,” KRS explained to Ice-T. “They used to come into the shelter and feed the homeless. They used to say, ‘If anyone wants to help us feed the homeless, we’ll give you a free Bhaktivedanta.’ My little philosophical self said, ‘Yeah, I’ll help you feed the homeless.’ And I got my Bhaktivedanta.’”
KRS said he developed an appreciation for a story about Lord Krishna instructing Arjuna on the battlefield. However upon returning to the shelter, the man then known as Larry Parker was uniformly teased by everyone he knew.
“They started calling me Krishna, and I’m like, ‘Yo. Stop calling me Krishna. My name’s Larry. Stop calling me Krishna…that’s the name of their god. That’s like calling somebody Jesus or Muhammad if you’re not down with that.’”
Parker was removed from the shelter due to failing to meet the minimum age requirements. However, due to a clerical error by the Bureau of Child Welfare Services, all of his paperwork said Krishna Parker instead of Lawrence. Krishna was shortened to Kris, and when graffiti bombing became popular, Kris’ tag was shortened to K-R-S. Faced with the prospect of separating himself from the rest of the bombers named K-R-S, Parker changed his tag to KRS-One.
You can ponder how the trajectory of Hip Hop history may or may not have been changed if MC Shan was battling Larry Parker instead of KRS-One, or simply watch the full video below. Ice-T’s Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap releases in theaters Friday, June 15th.