KRS-One :: The Sneak Attack
Label: Koch Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
The East coast hip-hop veterans have been busting back on to the
scene in record numbers within the last six months. Yes, people who you
might have once scratched your head and asked, "Whatever happened to..?"
all have new music again. Ed O.G., MC Shan, Run-D.M.C., Kool G. Rap, and
KRS-One. Yes, hip-hop's self-proclaimed "teacher" and "blastmaster"
is back at long last in 2001 with his long-awaited and much anticipated
brand new album "The Sneak Attack."
There are few artists who have KRS-One's long track record in hip-hop.
So long in fact that it would take too long to explain in this review.
Suffice it to say that very few rap artists can claim to have had hits
in each of the last three decades other than him. KRS-One doesn't just
make records though - he goes on lecture tours and speaks out advocating
positivity, self-awareness, and hip-hop unity. Clearly, he is one of
the elder statesmen of hip-hop, and also one of the most respected.
When KRS-One first came on the rap scene, he was a breath of fresh air
in a world made stagnant by too much materialism and negativity. With
songs like the Domingo produced "Krush Them"
he still is - critiquing a money-grubbing music industry where
MC actually stands for "Most Confused." These kind of songs are not only
expected from "the t'cha" they are most welcome in a hip-hop world that
has again become obsessed with ostentatious displays of wealth and very
little regard for true art or lyrical skills. His surprising attack on
DJ's with "HipHop Knowledge" also
clearly points out they are just as responsible for rampant materialism
and makes a good case that in many cases where he was called "contradictory"
his name was exploited by writers just looking to get paid.
In the past though, KRS-One has had excellent musical production to
back up his exemplary flow and highly crafted lyrics. With the help of
his brother Kenny Parker and hip-hop music superstars like DJ Premier,
he's crafted hit after hit. The lead single "Hot"
definitely lives up to it's name with production by Grand
Daddy I.U. and Jazzy Jeff, but a lot of this album fails to shine.
Self-produced songs like "The Mind" and
guest-produced songs like
"What Kinda World" by Domingo both fail to generate the lead single's
heat. The man who invented the term "Breath Control" in rap has no
problem flowing to these beats - but who wants to hear them? They
don't have the foot-tapping, head-nodding, mind-blowing feel of past
KRS-One hits like "Step in a World" or "My Philosophy" or "MC's Act
Like They Don't Know." Those songs, heard once, stick in your head
for a lifetime; unfortunately, these don't.
What seems to be the most peverse is that the songs with exemplary
beats are too short or feature elements that drag them into mediocrity.
The Kenny Parker produced "I Will Make It" is a perfect example.
No one doubts that the Hezekiah Walker Choir are great singers, but
their harmonized melody seems completely at odds with this rugged
boot-stomping beat. At under two minutes and thirty seconds, nearly
half of the song is taken up by KRS-One lecturing or the Choir singing.
The heart of the song where KRS finally DOES rap over this
excellent beat is just over a minute long, and it's not enough.
If KRS-One had rapped for the entire two minutes and thirty seconds
and left out the Choir, this beat and his rap combined would be a
hip-hop classic. As it is, it's not even close.
There are plenty of worthy songs for any KRS-One fan to listen to,
and this album is clearly meant for those who know him and his
track record best. They will appreciate the thumping "Get Your
Self Up", Mad Lion's beats and a much better use of the Choir on
"The Raptism", and the powerful bursts of Kenny Parker's
underrated musical production on "Ghetto Lifestyles" and
"The Lessin." This album will not achieve KRS-One's goals of
waking up the masses or re-energizing the hip-hop culture base
though. For a phenomenal rapper and a legendary presence
in rap to waste this opportunity is a shame.
Ever since "Return of the Boom Bap" came out in 1993, every KRS fan has been
waiting for him to blast the public with another album that
has non-stop dope beats and rhymes end to end. So many KRS-One
albums before and up until then lived up to that promise - and
very few have since. That doesn't however mean that '93 was
the pinnacle of his career - it will continue for years - it
just means that such heights will have to come later than 2001
if in fact they will come again.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: April 24, 2001