Things, Noel and The Passion of the ’88: The Rapture

Thursday, October 27, 2005

There’s a new Here’s the Thing… up in which I give some insight to this website and some advice about your own. It sort of spawned from Matt’s latest Small Presser article where he gives an artist’s perspective on how a writer should go about looking for an artist. Good article, good discussion – you should check them both out.

Noel sent me the first five pages of Elk’s Run #6 and they’re the strongest pages I’ve seen from him yet. I would share some of them but they contain a good amount of spoilers. I think issue 6 is going to be the best of the series so far, no doubt. But first comes 4 and 5 so keep harassing your retailer about ordering those and the Bumper Edition. Here’s a hand-dandy order form for you, just fill it out and drop it off.

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KRS-One breaks my heart. After Edutainment, which had mixed reviews and a lackluster reception (although I personally love it), he sort of started drifting away from the mainstream. This was one of the pioneers of hip-hop and arguably one of my favorite acts of all time.

When KRS-One stormed P.M. Dawn’s New York concert in 1992 and physically threw the front man off the stage and played his own set, claiming he was offended by hip-hop’s attempts to crossover, I thought it was the coolest fucking thing of all time. He got a lot of shit for it, though, because it went against his whole “Stop the Violence” philosophy. His album sales slumped even more and BDP broke up eventually. Like I said, couldn’t catch a break.

In 1997 I felt alive with hip-hop again. Dr. Octagon forced me to go back and get some of the albums I missed and research the albums that are coming out. Because of this resurgence of hip-hop love, the Tibetan Freedom Concert (which I already had tickets to) took on a whole new meaning for me – KRS-One was going to be there. If Kool Herc was the god of hip-hop, KRS-One was at least King David in my mind. And despite the negative press and the declining sales I was crazy elated by the fact that I got to see him in concert when I was excited about the music I grew up with again.

This was a concert that featured Radiohead, Porno for Pyros, U2 (I actually saw U2 three times that summer), Foo Fighters and more of the top acts of that year and all I cared about was KRS-One.

Between each set people walked around, bought stuff, had some food, smoked some dope. Before the KRS-One set I made my way to the front of the stage and waited. The place started filing in and by the time KRS-One was supposed to come on there was a good sized crowd.

Then, about ten minutes late, one of hip-hop’s greatest pioneers walks onto the stage: Biz Markie.

Biz Markie (who I believe was set to play on day two), in usual mildly-retarded fashion, tells us that KRS-One is running late and he’s going to take over for a little bit. If it was anyone else I would have felt let down but the chance to see the Biz and KRS-One on the same day was quite the treat.

Biz was old. He put on this fake afro and sort of air-guitared his rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner. Then he started doing “You Got What I Need” and kept running out of breath, sitting on a speaker and making fun of people in the audience. He didn’t really try to do any other songs, he beat-boxed occasionally and told some jokes. On the whole, that elated feeling I had was quickly deflated as I was reminded of how run-down and old the hip-hop acts I loved have become.

About ten, fifteen minutes into it Biz just sort of walks off the stage with a quick “peace”. Doesn’t say anything else. The whole place was just sort of cold to the entire set. I didn’t even think KRS-One would show up.

Then I heard it for the first time. The opening to Rapture’s Delight. You need to really hear it to appreciate how amped that song managed to get the crowd, so here’s an illegal sample (now buy the album).

The haunting Deborah Harry inspired vocals came over the speakers. When the beat kicked in KRS-One came onto the stage followed by about ten break-dancers and an entourage of people with microphones getting the crowd live. KRS-One starts pegging autographed tennis balls at the audience – these shits were bouncing off of people’s heads and flying every which way. Then he starts rapping and the place exploded – nobody can rhyme like KRS-One.

After the song he explains the milk-crate filled with autographed tennis balls. He tells us that these balls represent the world and all we have to do is grab hold of it and it’s ours. This was my first time seeing KRS-One in concert and I’m instantly aware of why people used to call him The Teacher. He cares. He cares about hip-hop, he cares about the community.

This was a guy that left home to start a hip-hop career at 16. He was battle-rapping in homeless shelters when he met DJ Scott La Rock (who was also in the shelter system). They cut an album, the first album (that I know off) to feature a rapper holding a gun on the cover. Scott gets shot and killed and KRS-One turns around and says violence is wrong, starts promoting peace when everyone else was touting gun violence. And despite everything he did, the hip-hop community eventually spit him out. The P.M. Dawn thing was his way of saying that these new acts don’t get it – they don’t know where they come from and they don’t know what rap has the power to do. But no-one listened. He didn’t stop trying, he started the Temple of Hip-Hop in 1999 which was designed to be a means to promote social responsibility to today’s rappers. But the Temple was laughed at. KRS-One’s entire life has been motivated towards not just creating good hip-hop, but making it matter.

KRS-One is just a guy that was trying to get the world to listen. He realized that hip-hop was a form of music created by and for the city. That every time a rapper spit lyrics, they had the ear of kids that needed direction. He realized that other acts disregarded this responsibility and because of that, hip-hop became a force for negativity.

It was a great set. The break-dancers were there the whole time, many a tennis ball was pegged, much knowledge was spread and KRS-One sounded exactly how he sounded back when I bought Criminal Minded back in 1987. By this time I fully realized that hip-hop would never go back to the music I fell in love with, I was ready to move on, but it was nice to have this one last moment.

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