The many names of KRS-One illustrate the energy and message that Krs-One represents. Known as 'The Teacher' for his educational, political and knowledgeable sentiment and known as the 'The Blastmaster' for his powerful delivery and heavyweight freestyles it was clear Leeds was in for a Hip Hop treat! KRS One has been to Leeds on numerous occasions throughout his illustrious and long lasting career so it was great for Kris Parker also known as 'The Philosopher' to make a grand return to a truly eager crowd during Black History month.
For me this was a 'must be at' gig as it was a first time experience. I've wanted to see 'The Teacher' for a long time and finally had my opportunity so I wasn't going to miss it! His discography is extraordinary from 'Criminal Minded' to 'Spiritual Minded' to 'Return Of The Boom Bap' to 'Hip Hop Lives' all tell a story of hip hop consciousness that has manifested into the Temple Of Hip Hop that he founded and was involved in the Hip Hop Declaration, a manifesto that aims to keep Hip Hop philosophy firmly into the minds youthful consciousness forever. One could rightly be impressed with an artist with such a wealth of significant releases and a long lasting career as a lyricist and producer in such a fickle industry, however the source of inspiration that is clearly spoken in KRS One's music provides the influence that he himself is living example of Hip Hop Kulture and what it represents. KRS is proof that what you see and believe in yourself is what you can achieve and as long as you hold to your principles, you will maintain and expand the true representation of Hip Hop.
Indeed this was clear to see on the night of the gig. KRS One was supported by Supernatural, one of the greatest freestylers on the planet, whose performance of 'Three MC's' and lyrical skills is a marvel to see. It was truly a family affair with D Kenny Parker on the decks, Kris' son and Donald D all in the spotlight showing us how it's done.
Kris was last in Leeds four years ago and he clearly showed love for a town that has always had a strong identity for Hip Hop Kulture. He was pleased to be back and everyone from back in the day, who have supported the scene for so long, were back for this one! The words of KRS One don't seem quite as intimidating now for some or perhaps the spirit of unity consciousness has grown to bring togetherness. You can't deny the truth.
Right from the first track KRS One set the tone. No way was this not going to be a serious gig. No way was this going to be a 'let's get paid, go home, thanks very much' gig! No way! As the founder and voice for many for the 'real' Hip Hop, he would stop the music if the vibe wasn't right and speak to the crowd. If the participation wasn't on, he'd breakdown into a freestyle and the lecture was on! When the sound man wasn't delivering on point, the sound check was on, there and then, in front of the crowd! There was no specific set list it seemed except to show Hip Hop Kultures' viewpoint, under any adverse condition, to leave an impression of the real Hip Hop and never to lose one's integrity, at whatever cost. It's too easy to go to gigs these days and be easily satisfied and I'm sure there were many students who have never seen an act quite so uncompromising as this before, but that was the beauty of it, allowing the audience to be educated and to be elevated. It showed a confidence to maintain one's principles, that very few artist do, and a courage to sustain the excellence and standard in order to allow credibility and expansion of the Kulture.
As you'd expect music throughout the gig showcased some of great tunes KRS One is famous for like 'Sound Of The Police', 'Hip Hop Lives', 'Emcees Act Like They Don't Know' and 'Classic' however they weren't necessarily performed in an obvious way. In fact Kris would chop it up to keep it fresh and for the real Hip Hop heads it kept us guessing all night long. In fact he busted into an ode with snippets of lyrics from all time classic rap tracks and watched to see the crowd's reaction, to test who was listening and how deep this crowd was. Even the skits on the classical music drop, that I've heard KRS One has done before during his live shows, was once again highlighting that at any show the emcee can perform on any cut and at any level. The trademark 'Zungazung' style was in full effect and the strength of delivery was certainly a lesson to all budding emcees.
For me what was brilliant was the encouragement of B-Boys and emcees to come on stage and battle or perform. Not many artists would be willing to allow the stage for others and the spotlight not on them, but this show was about improving the movement, not the ego. Kris's participation with the crowd was first class, even signing T-Shirts at the end and Supernatural, D Kenny Parker and Donald D all mingling at the end of the night.
KRS-One was a great addition to Black History Month. It's reassuring to think that the young minds of today are going to KRS One for the source of their Hip Hop experience and it's clear to me that Hip Hop in the UK is alive and well, as long as we keep to the integrity of 'The Blastmaster'. Big Up!