The legendary emcee KRS-One gives WHO?MAG an exclusive interview.  Formerly of Boogie Down Productions, the Teacher talks to us about some of his hit songs, his rap/reggae movement, and about how he feels about mainstream radio.


Interview conducted by Will Hernandez of


WHO?MAG: Tell me about “Rappaz R. N. Dainja”.
KRS-One: Actually it was one of the easiest records I ever did.  I did it in just one take.  I came in the studio, DJ Premier had the beat up, and I just did it.  It was a nobrainer.  It wasn’t like a “Love’s Gonna Get’cha”, “Sound of Da Police”, or “You Must Learn”.  I had to think on those records.  “Rappaz R. N. Dainja” was easy.  It’s like the beat was there.  What else could you say?  Jive Records felt it was a single to put out so that’s what it became.  But that was 1995.  That was an era where you can just think about your art and just put it out and then people would then judge it.  It’s not like to day where you have to go through all types of levels and politics and this and that and the executive is more important that the artist and all of that.  Back in the 90’s, we didn’t have problems like that, so we could get records like “Rappaz R. N. Dainja” played.  To tell you the truth, the whole Loud Records roster with Mad Lion, Big Pun, everybody, they would never exist in today’s environment.  Imagine, there are no independent labels anymore, so all of the thought, everything that we call “rap” music is coming out of the corporate.  And that’s messed up.  That’s like wow!   You can see why Nas declared hip-hop dead.

WHO?MAG:  How was it working with “Mad Lion”?
KRS-One: In 1992, we were trying to put out a concept called “hip-hop/reggae”.  I produced Ziggy Marley’s album, Sly & Robbie’s album, Shelly Thunder, another group called Skadanks, but I didn’t really hit what I was trying to do because the artist wanted to be more authenticity in reggae than in hip-hop.  So I was up in Brooklyn around that time at a record store called “Super Power Records” and I met Mad Lion there.  I asked him if he was really ready to do this because he was like just a regular reggae artist doing his thing.  So I asked if he was ready to spit his reggae lyrics over some hard hip-hop.  Nobody really wanted to do it because they thought it was sacrilegious or something, but he said he would do it.  I produced this beat.  The first one was actually “Black Cop”, but he did a record called “Shoot to Kill”.  That came out and was a big hit.  Then we did “Take It Easy” and that really is what took him over the top.  This was on Nervous Records back in the days.  When “Take It Easy” came out, it really helped him and other artists like Snow, who was produced by MC Shan ironically, and others started coming out like Buju, Shabba Ranks, Beenie Man, and Terror Fabulous.  Hip-hop/Reggae still continues today.  To see anything really authentic, you need to turn the TV and the radio off and really go outside and visit shows, talk to people, go to conferences, and don’t get stuck by the screen.

WHO?MAG:  Tell me your thoughts on why you never went mainstream.
KRS-One: I don’t want to be sick.  If you don’t want to be sick, you don’t eat the wrong things.  If you see someone coughing over there, you move away.  You use antibacterial soap.  I don’t want corporate.  If the radio ever played my music, I would sue them.  And they know it, which is why they don’t play my music.  If you play KRS, I’ll sue you.  Straight up.  I don’t even want my music on mainstream radio.  They don’t deserve it.  They destroy careers.  Here’s a secret.  I’m going to drop a jewel on you right now.  Less is more!  Small is big!  Marketing and promotion is sh*t.  Physics, mathematics, and cosmology.Why do we breathe?  What is oxygen?  This is the truth!  I only want the truth.  I existed before the mainstream.  Why would I join them?  I watched the mainstream come up and now I’m watching it collapse.  I don’t want to be a part of that.  I was born in hip-hop.  That’s all I ever needed.  That’s it.  As long as I do that, the devil can’t get me on any angle.  I’m faster than the devil.  Always!  Now, how do you know?  You have to go to hell first.  You cant just say your better than the devil just out your mouth.  No, face the devil face to face and tell him “God has arrived!  Now here’s what you are going to do!” and you direct the devil.  Only if you’re God though.  What does that mean?  Jive Records dropped everybody in 1999, A Tribe Called Quest, DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince, everybody.  They signed Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, and N’Sync and got rid of their entire rap roster.  I went to Warner Brothers. I asked God what I should do?  He said “go to California”.  I went to California.  I linked up with my man who was A&R of another label in Cali who I met at Columbia.  He quit Columbia and went to Warner Brother.  I went to Warner Brothers.  He made me Head of A&R for Warner Brothers, actually of Reprise Records, but since it was Warner Brothers, the whole label bugged out.

WHO?MAG: Tell me about Hip-Hop Appreciation Week
KRS-One:  1973-2013.  Now Hip-Hop Appreciate Week is May 20-26th and that’s when we are really going to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Hip-Hop.  40 is a mystical number.  Anyone who is into the Kabbalah, my Jewish brothers out there, will know this, that you don’t even get to teach until your 40.  You do not become spiritually enlightened until your 40.  In the Bible, there are many references to 40 days and 40 nights.  The profit goes away and stays away for 40 days or something happens within a 40-day period.  The number 4 is very important.  It’s the number of the sides of a square.  It’s the number of justice.  It’s the builder’s number.  They build on 4’s of a square.  So hip-hop making it to 40 is amazing based on everything it was faced.  “It never should have existed/it’s just a fad/blah blah blah”.  Here we are at 40, which means we have another 40 years to go and most of the founders of the culture are still walking around.  Now we just sent Chris Kelly of Kriss Kross to the other side.  Not sure how many people remember Kriss Kross – (singing) “Daddy Mac will make you Jump Jump”!  It was a huge song which was totally hip-hop.  They were considered young when they came out.  How is Chris Kelly dying before me? Or Herc?  Or Bam?  So in a way, when your number is called, your number is called, but we have to think about the suddenness with that.  They say they just found him in his apartment deceased, but what happened?  Did he give up on life?  Was he depressed?  So this is part of the celebration, healing the hip-hop family. Also, paying attention from hip-hop speaking from heaven.  We have an army of angels, and yet we are still praising Michael and Phillip.  Pray to Tupac.  He is alive and well.  If you know anything about death, there is no death.  Biggie and all of them, we should have a sainthood for them.  They are quicker to answer your prayers than ANY of the saints out the Vatican.  Pray to our saints.  This is what we should be doing.  So celebrate the 40th anniversary with a picture of Saint Pun or Saint Tupac or Saint Scott La Rock, Saint Trouble T-Roy, Saint Proof, Saint Eazy E.  Pray to these people because they are alive.  I advise everybody to go to a medium, not these fake ones on the corner who say “oh I can see the future”.  A real medium doesn’t want to tell you anything.  You have to fight them to give you information because they know the law.  The law is you don’t throw pearl to swine.  You don’t give diamonds to dogs.  Not to say people are dogs or swine, but the bible is specific with this.  If you have higher knowledge, don’t give it to people who do not have the capacity to understand it.  What a lot of people are doing is giving the higher knowledge for money.  That’s the worse spiritual crime.  That’s like going to a doctor and you tell him you have a sickness and he just gives you any drug like “here take this and you’ll be alright” and you give up the money of course.  You have to know the soul of a person to advise them spiritually.  You can’t advise 5,000 people in a mega church, that makes no sense what so ever.  You have to be able to match the soul of a person and that’s done through empathy or a oneness of being.  It’s done through love.  You have to love the person you are talking to in order to truly advise them and that means you have to come to their level, not yours.  A higher being can become a lower being, but a lower being cannot be a higher being.