“This is rebellious music, not gangster music.”
KRS-One: The Teacha
Hip-hop artists are known for being the mainstream, for being the kind that attends party after party in pricey clothes, swigging even pricier booze. KRS-One, however, would be the antithesis to the label-wearing, Patron-drinking stereotype. With his humble roots and fiercely anti-mainstream, anti-establishment stance, he's one artist that's more interested in getting his message straight than impressing others or making friends.
Born Lawrence Parker in Brooklyn, New York on August 20, 1965, he did much of his growing up in South Bronx. His mother's music collection introduced him to rap with the likes of Grandmaster Flash and the Treacherous Three. He ran away from home at 13 and began practicing his rapping at the homeless centers where he would stay for the night.
KRS-One: Independent from the Start
It was in one such Bronx institution – the Franklin Armory Shelter – that he met Scott Sterling: social worker by day, DJ Scott LaRock by night. The two clicked and decided to form Boogie Down Productions (BDP), which released its indie debut Criminal Minded in 1987. The album is credited as a precursor of modern gangsta rap. The partnership was short-lived, however; Sterling was shot dead August that year.
Parker, meanwhile, carried on. He released By All Means Necessary in 1988 with the help of Kenny, Sterling's brother, beatboxer D-Nice and MC Ms. Melodie, who would be his wife until 1992. It was a pioneering record. By All Means was the first to use Jamaican themes in American music, as well as politically charged lyrics of all Parker's songs.
KRS-One on a New Road
After releasing Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip-Hop (1989), Edutainment (1990), Live Hardcore Worldwide (1991) and Sex and Violence (1992) as BDP, KRS-One chose to go his own way. His solo debut was Return of the Boom Bap in 1993, which was then followed up by a self-titled release in 1995.
I Got Next, his 1997 album, shocked fans because Parker began associating with more mainstream genres and acts, despite being outspoken against it at all other times. 2000's A Retrospective – his last release with Jive Records – was less eventful. After taking a short break in California, he came back with The Sneak Attack from Koch Records in 2001.
Fans were once again surprised in 2002 when he released rap-gospel album Spiritual Minded. Subsequent releases Kristyles (2003), D.I.G.I.T.A.L. (2003), Keep Right (2004) and Life (2006) followed a more standard template.
Parker has been kept busy by more than just his music. He started the Stop the Violence Movement in 1988 to try and curb violence of black against black. Reprise Records took him on as an A&R exec in 1999, a position which he quit not long after. He also founded the organization Temple of Hiphop for promoting the 'hiphop kulture'.
Did you know that...
- ...KRS-One is more than just a stage name? Although it was a contraction of 'Kris,' an old nickname, it now means Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone.
- ...he's a vegetarian? It's a practice that he has maintained since youth.
- ...rapping wasn't the only thing he did on the street? When he wasn't practicing his rhyming at the shelters, he was studying in the public libraries. It helped him earn his GED at age 17.