A Biography from Boogie Down Productions
(Lawrence Parker) has been speaking on behalf of Hiphop's preservation
for more than a decade. Although Hiphop has had other voices for
change and cultural unity, it has been KRS-ONE (Knowledge Reigns
Supreme Over Nearly Everyone) that has remained the loudest voice
for Hiphop's philosophical and spiritual awareness.
Leaving home at the
age of 14 to pursue general philosophy, world religion and a career
in Rap music, young Lawrence found himself part of the homeless
population of New York for more than five years. Living on the
subways, the cold benches of Central Park, and frequenting the
group homes and men's shelters of New York City, Lawrence would
educate himself in the public libraries. While homeless, Lawrence
would volunteer to give out food with the Hare Krishnas who would
teach him the secrets of thier Hindu religion. When Lawrence would
return to the shelter, cynnical security guards would tease him
about his affiliation with the Hare Krishnas. In teasing him,
they would call him "KRSNA," a title that would officially
become his nickname throughout the shelter system.
Later, in 1984, at
the Lacomb Avenue group home on Soundview Avenue in the Bronx,
Lawrence met a Graffiti artist named "Zore." Zore would
teach Lawrence the fundamentals of Graffiti Art. Lawrence would
then change his name to KRS (an abbreviated version of KRSNA).
Together they would visit the 4, 5, and 6 train "layups"
to perfect their craft with Lawrence now "tagging" the
name KRS! It wouldn't be long before other Graffiti artists would
begin writing similar names which forced KRS to add a more identifying
element to his "tag." Thus KRS "ONE" was born.
Sometime around 1985,
while residing at the 166th St. and Boston Road men's shelter
armory in the Bronx, KRS-ONE met a young social worker by the
name of Scott Sterling. After an argument over subway tokens,
the two became friends when they realized they shared a mutual
friendship with a young producer named "Ced-G" (Ultra-Magnetic
MC's). In addition to this mutual friendship, KRS learned that
his social worker (Scott Sterling) was really DJ Scott La Rock
of Club Broadway International. It was Scott La Rock who would
introduce KRS to the thriving club scene of New York and together
they decided to form a Rap group called "Boogie Down Productions."
Known to many as the
"Teacha," KRS-ONE began "edutaining" Hip-Hop
culture with his very first hit record "The South Bronx,"
published in 1986 for B-Boy Records. Athough "The South Bronx"
was an Emcee battle record, KRS-ONE (at that time the frontman
for Rap group Boogie Down Productions with DJ Scott La Rock),
used this platform to teach Hip-Hop history and propel the conscious
Rap movement into the heart of "undaground" Hip-Hop.
In 1987, KRS-ONE and
DJ Scott La Rock (BDP) recorded and published, the now classic
Rap album, "Criminal Minded." In August of this same
year, while enjoying an overwhelmingly positive street response
to their album, Scott La Rock was fatally shot while trying to
break up a dispute. KRS-ONE, now a solo artist, experienced first
hand the hardships of losing a close friend while growing up in
the harsh realities of New York's street-life. It was around this
same time that KRS realized he was being "ripped off "
by his record label, B-Boy Records, and began to pursue a better
recording relationship elsewhere.
In November of 1987,
KRS-ONE secured an eight album recording contract with Jive Records.
After purchasing Scott La Rock's half of Boogie Down Productions
and settling other financial obligations, KRS-ONE began the recording
of his second album "By All Means Necessary." This album
continued KRS-ONE's relentless campaign to uplift the consciousness
and moral responsibility of Hip-Hop culture. Featuring such songs
as "Stop the Violence," "My Philosophy," and
"J-I-M-M-Y," KRS-ONE tackled such topics as: violence
prevention, the state of the recording industry, and safe sex.
Keep in mind, these topics were not regularly entertained in the
lyrics of KRS's contemporaries at the time. "By All Means
Necessary" sold over 500,000 copies and put KRS-ONE on the
In 1989 KRS-ONE was
approached by Ann (Tokyo Rose) Carli, the A&R of Jive Records
at the time. She expressed her remorse over a young man that was
stabbed for his gold chain at a Rap concert. She introduced the
idea of a "Stop the Violence Movement" inspired by KRS's
"Stop the Violence" song. KRS agreed, and began to rally
together most of Hip-Hop's major recording artists. Ann Carli
would then contact, author and columnist, Nelson George to help
spearhead the project. In the end, the "Stop the Violence
Movement" was a huge success. Selling over 500,000 12 inch
singles of the song "Self Destruction," this song proved
the potential for Rap music as a tool for social justice. Proceeds
from this song were donated to the National Urban League.
During 1989, KRS recorded
and published his third album "Ghetto Music - The Blueprint
of Hip-Hop." This album became an immediate cultural success
when KRS questioned the ethnicity of many of the Prophets of the
Holy Bible, and challenged the validity of the American Educational
System as it related to Black (African) history. "Ghetto
Music - The Blueprint of Hip-Hop" sold over 500,00 copies.
In 1990, KRS began
focusing more upon Hip-Hop as a legitimate culture, as opposed
to putting most of his focus into the selling of his records.
KRS realized that social change is impossible for those who do
not own and control the fruits of thier creative intelligence.
Many people pleaded with KRS to "...keep his mouth shut"
and simply be content with his superstar status. However, KRS
felt the compelling need to follow his true calling of establishing
Hip-Hop as a legitimate culture and raising the self worth of
all who would listen. Going against the wishes of his friends,
associates and peers, KRS recorded and published his fourth album
"Edutainment." This album sold over 500,000 copies.
In 1991, KRS became
increasingly frustrated with the way in which Hip-Hop culture
was being depicted in Rap music. As a result, he abandoned his
highly successful recording career and called upon Rap music's
biggest stars to form an organization called, "Human Education
Against Lies." Joined by his friend and study partner, Dr.
Zizwe Mtafuta Ukweli (Professor Z), KRS would record a special
side album entitled "Civilization vs. Technology." However,
when KRS recorded this album, times had changed in the Rap music
industry. The so-called "Gangsta Rap" era had just begun
and KRS found himself having to make a choice. The choice was
- go back to his first album concept which helped to influence
the "Gangsta Rap" era, or stay faithful to his vision
of a unified Hip-Hop culture of peace and prosperity. Of course,
KRS chose to stay faithful to his vision, even though his record
sales began to drop.
By 1992, KRS-ONE (Krist
Parker) was one of the most sought after collegiate speakers in
the country. Visiting over 200 universities including: Clark,
Yale, Moorehouse, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Temple, Howard,
Spellman, and UCLA, KRS presented his message of attaining Health,
Love, Awareness and Wealth through various unorthodox methods
commonly found in Hip-Hop culture. In this same year, KRS would
record and publish his fifth album "Sex and Violence."
This album warned against negative effects of irresponsible sex
and violence, and urged Hip-Hoppers to consider Hip-Hop's political
and spiritual potential. This album sold over 250,000 copies.
In 1993, KRS declared
himself an "undaground Hip-Hop Emcee," where his representation
of Hip-Hop culture would become more important to him than the
selling of records. Some felt that KRS had no choice because of
his waining record sales. However, KRS explained over and over
again that, "...its not about a salary, its all about reality."
And the reality was that Hip-Hop, the culture, was being exploited
as "hip-hop" the product. KRS felt, and publicly expressed
that, "...it is of critical importance that Hip-Hop as a
culture be preserved and properly documented for the empowerment
of our children."
During this same time,
many of Hip-Hop's pioneers were being totally disrespected by
those Rappers that were ignorant of Hip-Hop's history. Many of
Hip-Hop's pioneers who paved the way for others, and created the
very techniques now used in Rap music production, were being ignored
and trampled over by a new Rap music mentality that only cared
about making more and more money for themselves. KRS felt that
this was inherently wrong!
In 1994, KRS recorded
and published his sixth album "Return of the Boom Bap,"
and focused primarily upon establishing Hip-Hop's common spirit.
This album sold over 300,000 copies. During this same year KRS
was recognized by the entire Hip-Hop commuity as the "Best
Live Performer of All Time." Some argued that he was the
best live emcee of all time, but throughout these criticisms,
KRS remained focused upon establishing Hip-Hop as a legitimate
culture of peace and prosperity. In this same year, KRS was approached
by "Media Assasin" Harry Allen to organize a Hip-Hop
summit at the Alfonse Schomberg Center for Black Studies in Harlem
for the purpose of announcing a Hip-Hop archive called "Rhythm
Cultural Institute." KRS agreed and brought together most
of Hip-Hop's pioneers, organizations, and artists to discuss the
formation of such a project.
Most of Hip-Hop's
pioneers, organizations, and artists agreed on the need for Hip-Hop's
proper documentation, but no one could agree on how such documentation
was to be acheived. Looking beyond all the "in-fighting,"
jealousy, and lack of vision present within Hip-Hop at the time,
KRS began to think about the creation of a Hip-Hop preservation
society that would secretly commit to the preservation of Hip-Hop
as a culture. With his long time friend and study partner, Professor
Z, KRS would begin discussing the creation of the Temple of Hiphop.
In 1995, KRS-ONE recorded
and published his seventh album "KRS-ONE," which established
KRS as a Hip-Hop spiritual leader with the song "Ah-Yeah."
"KRS-ONE," the album, sold over 300,000 copies. Having
been in the recording industry now for nine years, touring all
over the world, influencing and producing numerous artists, KRS-ONE
found himself the most influential Hip-Hopper in Hip-Hop's history.
Enjoying a worldwide street respect, matched by none, KRS-ONE
continued his campaign to establish Hip-Hop as an international
culture of peace and prosperity. It was during this time that
KRS coined the phrase "...Rap is something you do, Hip-Hop
is something you live!"
In 1996 KRS-ONE took
a break from recording, and published the first "how-to"
book on Rap music entitled "The Science of Rap." This
book explained in detail the techniques for longevity in a continuously
evolving Rap music industry. It was during this time that KRS
announced the birth of the Temple of Hiphop and began expressing
to the Hip-Hop community "...I am Hip-Hop!" Many Rappers
and journalists took offense to KRS saying "...I am Hiphop!"
But KRS would explain, "we are all Hip-Hop, it's just that
I may have been the first person to have realized it." KRS
would go on to say that, "Hip-Hop is not over there somewhere,
external of self; Hip-Hop is our ceative intelligence originating
from God within self. To say, `I am Hip-Hop`, means I am the strategy
for my own self improvement. We must eliminate the distance between
what we think and what we do."
In 1997, KRS-ONE was
still being criticized for not selling a million records, which
had become the norm for Rappers of his stature. KRS would respond
again by saying "...haven't we learned the lesson that, no
matter how rich or famous you become as a Rap artist, if the culture
of Hip-Hop is not your primary focus, all success gained by way
of corporate validation is temporary and of no use to your real
life as an adult." Many would respond by saying, "...if
you are the Teacha, you should also have success in your recording
Knowing that these
critics would never see KRS's true vision and commitment to the
culture of Hip-Hop, he used his knowledge of the industry's "hit-making"
methodology to show that platinum and gold albums are the results
of standard marketing and promotion formulas. These formulas often
contradict the principles of true Hip-Hop culture. Wanting to
prove his point and not wanting to abandon his vision, KRS masterfully
recorded and published his eighth album "I Got Next."
This album sold over 500,000 copies proving his point and "shutting
up" his loudest critics.
KRS also noticed that
the Rap music industry was not hiring Graffiti Artists to do various
graphic art work like album covers, touring backdrops, T-Shirts,
jackets etc.. He also noticed that B-Boys and B-Girls were not
prevalent in so-called "Hip-Hop videos." To KRS-ONE,
Hip-Hop was more than Rap music and should be presented in it's
KRS went on a hunt
to find a B-Boy crew (Breakdancers) worthy of sharing the stage
with him. One day while visiting the National Black Theatre, KRS
was amazed to see a group of B-Boys astonishing the crowd with
Breakin' moves that captivated the attention of all in attendance.
After their performance, KRS met the B-Boys and learned that they
were Breakin' (Breakdancing) on the streets of New York City regularly.
The leader of the
group, Nasty Nyce, explained to KRS that he focused primarily
upon a style he called "the concrete style." Different
from other styles of Breakin', Poppin', Lockin, and Uprockin',
which required a cardboard mat to perform upon; "the concrete
style" focused upon one's strength, and the ability to perform
on concrete street surfaces without damaging one's body. KRS was
impressed and invited Nyce and his Breakin' crew, "The Breeze
Team" to tour with him.
In 1998, totally engulfed
in the peservation of Hip-Hop culture, KRS began to seek more
political ways of empowering true Hip-Hoppers and Hip-Hop's pioneers.
In this same year, KRS was offered an executive position as Vice-President
of A&R for Reprise/Warner Records. He accepted this position
and moved to Los Angeles. During this time, KRS established an
L.A. Temple of Hiphop membership, a radio show every Sunday night
on the old 92.3 The Beat, entitled the Temple of Hiphop; and as
A&R, signed various artists including Kool DJ Herc, Kool Moe
Dee and Mad Lion among others.
In 1999 while still
an A&R executive, KRS was touring, lecturing, building the
Temple of Hiphop's worldwide membership and extensively studying
world religions and general philosophy with an emphasis on Metaphysics.
He also published another side album entitled, "Criminal
Justice - From Darkness to Light," by the Temple of Hiphop.
Due to Warner Records' inability to promote Rap music, this album
never made it past its promotional stage.
In 2000, KRS realized
that the corporate structure of the music business was destructive
to his soul as a Hip-Hop philosopher. He also realized that in
the position of being Vice President of A&R, such a position
attracted people that were only interested in money and what KRS
could do for them. Everywhere KRS looked for loyalty to his vision
of a unified Hip-Hop culture of peace and prosperity, he found
only greed, immaturity and backstabbing. Subsequently, he resigned
from his executive position and returned to New York City.
In 2001, KRS realized
that the unification of Hip-Hop culture was not going to happen
within Hip-Hop, nor with mainstream Rappers. He also realized
that Hip-Hop, as an international culture for peace and prosperity,
had to be presented to governments, organizations and world thinkers,
capable of perceiving Hip-Hop on this level. Looking beyong the
constant criticism and lack of support from the Hip-Hop community,
KRS approached the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) to begin the work of establishing Hip-Hop
as an international culture of peace and prosperity among the
governments of the world.
During the 4th annual
Hiphop Appreciation Week (May 14th-21st, 2001) KRS and others
introduced the Hiphop Declaration of Peace at the United Nations
Headquarters in New York City on May 16th, 2001. During this same
period, KRS liberated himself from a 14 year recording relationship
with Jive records and published his ninth album entitled "The
Sneak Attack" for Front Page/In The Paint/KOCH joint venture.
This album sold over 200,000 copies.
is teaching and lecturing at the Temple of Hiphop in Atlanta,
Georgia on the spiritual principles of Hiphop as a strategy toward
Health, Love, Awareness and Wealth. His 10th album entitled "Spiritual
Minded" and his spoken word lecture album entitled "The
Fundamentals of Hiphop" are scheduled to be published in
2002. As you can see, by supporting KRS-ONE, you are contributing
to the total preservation of true Hiphop Kulture.