Was it the end of an era? At the time, one would have been hard-pressed to realize it. In 1992, the rap collective called Boogie Down Productions had already been together for half a decade, nor was there any reason to believe they wouldn’t be so for four times as long more. They got off to a rough start when original producer/DJ Scott LaRock was killed in 1987, making “Criminal Minded” the only album he appeared on with partner and friend KRS-One. And with no disrespect intended to the dead, it turned out that KRS-One could carry the torch for BDP pretty well without him. Despite an ever revolving series of secondary and tertiary rappers and producers in the BDP crew, it was always KRS-One who ended up in the spotlight, and was recognized as their leader. Perhaps if Scott LaRock had lived, so would the concept of BDP, but eventually it must have become clear to the (somewhat justifiably) egotistical KRS-One that there really wasn’t a BDP at all without him.
As a result, “Sex and Violence” was the fifth and final studio album for Boogie Down Productions (they also had one live in concert album in 1991). The album clearly intended to make a statement, and the cover was a strong start. It’s a bizarre and abstract portrayal of a dirty old man molesting a painted harlot, with a jumbled menagerie of a human figure with female breasts and a tongue for a penis looks on at the scene with disdain, holding and pointing to a stopwatch with a nuclear mushroom cloud at it’s center instead of timepiece hands. It was certainly violent and sexual, but to be perfectly honest it’s completely revolting to look at. Even KRS-One himself seems to have a hard time looking at it, judging from his pose on the back cover where his leather jacket is pulled up until it’s almost covering his eyes.
Other than the cover of this album though, there’s nothing worth hiding here. Indeed, if Boogie Down Productions as a unit were to pick any way to end their career, they certainly chose to do so on a high note. The lead single “Duck Down” was a hardcore anthem not seen since their “Criminal Minded” days. Everything about the track is an attack. After KRS-One’s brief old school introduction, an intense machine gunfire of repeated high notes and a beat like “Funky Drummer” on steroids pulsates at top volume, while KRS-One gives shouts out to the producer Pal Joey. In the end though, it’s only a beat without KRS-One flowing over it, and then it becomes the powerful ode to hip-hop upliftment and preservation presented with a scathing critique of MC’s who act gangsterish but don’t know what REAL hardcore is:
“Poetry I speak, fluently I think youse a sucker
cause the only word you know is motherfucker
Yo, you don’t see a whole race in bondage
No, you grab the microphone and feed ’em garbage
Yo, everything about me is fresher than fresher
than fresher than fresh, of COURSE it’s KRS
Flashing lyrics, metaphysics, unlike you idiots
be doing, I’m pursuing, chewing your whole crew
and what you feel like doin, your face they be ungluin
like a gift, don’t step to Kris, you’re DISMISSED!”
If there’s one that’s defined KRS-One throughout almost his entire career, it’s that he’s not afraid to say controversial things and make thought provoking statements. The following track “Drug Dealer” is certainly no exception. Kris is mad at them, but not necessarily for PUSHING the product. Rather, he’s upset that they don’t use the wealth they acquire wisely. Confused? Nobody can explain it better than the man himself:
“Drug dealer, understand historical fact
Every race got ahead from sellin drugs except Black
We are under attack, here comes another cold fact
In the 30’s and 40’s a drug dealer wasn’t black
They were Jewish, Italian, Irish, Polish, etc. etc.
Now in 90 their live’s a lot better
They’ll sell you a sweater, a pair of pants cold hearted
But first sellin drugs and killin people is how they started
See many people have forgotten the fact
That America was never ever built for Black
So when some people are gonna run and buy crack
Take the money and put it back into Black
It’s only logic, see KRS-One will rock it
With knowledge, education for the people I’ll never stop it
Organize and legitimize your business
Remember, everybody else did this”
KRS-One doesn’t spend the whole album advancing new socio-economic ideas though. True to his roots as a “Criminal Minded” MC, he’s not afraid to scrap to prove he’s the best. Actually, he knows he’s the best. The intro to “Like a Throttle” says it all: “You wanna test me, ARE YOU STUPID? Gotta be out of your FUCKIN MIND. KRS-One is the DON, seen? Come down Kenny Parker!” And come down he does, with a slamming bass, funky guitar licks, and a quick-stepping beat. Kris rips phony MC’s fearlessly:
“Like I said I’m not a Muslim but to Allah I’m obedient
Some MC’s on the mic become Muslims when it’s CONVENIENT
And I’ve seen it!
Real Muslims praise Allah, and they mean it
Others are dreamin it with Sex Me and Do Me and
I’d rather listen to the Brand Nubians
You know it’s funny everybody wants money
And material things from cars and chicken wings
When they sing, they sing for the cash
They fail to realize, respect will outlast cash
You get respect by bein creative
and yes a native to your audience, so you know reality
In other words, if you ain’t a gangsta why play you a gangsta?
If you ain’t a hoe, why sell sex?
If you believe in Allah, how is it you can only work when there’s a check?
All of this is incorrect”
Around the time this album was released, the X-Clan had been strongly criticizing KRS-One for his “humanist” and his “metaphysical” philosophies as both an artist and an intellectual. Never one to back down from his point of view being challenged, KRS strikes back with “Build and Destroy” and makes some statements that are eye-popping even today:
“The white man ain’t the devil I promise
You want to see the devil take a look at Clarence Thomas
Now you’re saying, “Who?” like you a owl
Throw in the towel, the devil is Colin Powell
You talk about being African and being black
Colin Powell’s black, but Libya he’ll attack
Libya’s in Africa, but a black man
will lead a black man, to fight against his homeland
An accomplice to the devil is a devil too
The devil is anti-human, who the hell are you?
I lecture and rap without rehearsal
I manifest as a black man but I’m universal”
Freddie Foxxx joins the action on “Ruff Ruff” to serve up more criticism of inferior MC’s and wannabe gangsters. It’s a hip-hop classic, no question, and speaking personally it was the song that made me a fan of the self-proclaimed “maddest nigga in New York” from ’92 until the present day. The next track is a little more smoothed out musically. In fact, “13 and Good” sounds almost pimped out, and probably should since it’s a tale of Kris getting his groove on. Count on KRS-One to put a twist in the story though:
“Well built female, is in my arms
Yes – overwhelmed by my playboy charms
We jumped in the ride, rushed to the crib
I ain’t gotta explain what we did
Built to last, I simply waxed that
Ax the question, no need for guessin
Question was – hey baby, how old are you?
Twenty-six, twenty-one, maybe twenty-two
I’m twenty five, she shucked and kinda neeghed
And said, ‘Hee, hee, hee I’m only thirteen!’
Thirteen!! I need a quick escape
That’s statutory rape – but she was GOOD!”
Later her father shows up to resolve the situation, and it takes an even MORE bizarre twist. You really have to hear it to get the full impact, trust me, but it may remind you of that cover artwork. On the tape or the vinyl you’d be flipping over to the B-Side at this point, which may seem an inconsequential point, but when I originally purchased this album the impact of starting side two with “Poisonous Products” seemed to be a VERY strong statement. It has a deceptively seductive chorus with women cooing a harmony and a suave voice saying things like “so take it slowwwwwwww, amigohhhhhhhhhh.” This song is far from mellow though – what KRS-One labels as “Poisonous Products” is typically provacative for this controversial MC:
“Yo, the poisonous product, pimped out to poor people
Penetrates pieces of their thinkin equal
It comes in peaceful, through the TELL-LIE-VISION
Distorts your vision
Now the lies got you wishin through transmission
You wanna be a better Christian
You wake up Sunday morning to watch TELL-LIE-VISION, mission
Christians be sayin ‘Accept Jesus in your life’
Christianity was founded 400 years after Christ!
What do you accept in your life?
Christianty.. or the teachings of Christ?
Make up your mind, they’re not the same thing”
Now that’s some things that will make you go, “Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!” KRS follows it up with “Questions and Answers,” where he ponders why BDP has not received any press or magazine covers, and comes to the conclusion that he’s simply too REAL for magazines that focus on fraudulent issues – sounds like The Source, doesn’t it? So KRS decides to resolve the situation by interviewing HIMSELF:
“Question: Why, are people so stupid?
Answer: They got a brain and fail to use it
Question: How did it get like this?
Answer: People are more worried about ass and tits and
little bits of information
The barbarians teach us just to be barbarians in the nation
This new creation
takes on the manifestation of the Board of Education
Question: What’s the solution?
Answer: Organized, revolution
Question: Revolution implies killing..
Answer: Whether you fight or talk, the blood is
STILL SPILLING, and we’re chilling
Thinking of our history as Elmer Fudd
Everything, black people got in this country
they got through shedding their blood, word!”
On “Say Gal” KRS-One digs into his Jamaican influences, and does a little bit of patois stylee over a slow and booming bass riddim. It’s a good track to be sure, but many hip-hop heads might want to skip right over it to the song “We in There.” It’s definitively KRS – a funky track, a cocky swagger to his vocal tone, breath control and enunciation (still among the best in rap today) and lyrics that show no respect for falsehood among rappers:
“I know you want to step to me kid!
But you’re thinkin, ‘Damn, Kris is kinda big!’
Plus he rolls wit a crew that don’t care
And drops a hit album, hit video, hit single every year
From your eye drops a tear
I don’t play that shit, I play that hit
Your whole gangsta image is not legit
You heard _Criminal Minded_, and bit the whole shit!”
The title track “Sex and Violence” is another reggae stylee jam, although it’s done to a hardcore hip-hop beat that may be a little more familiar to a rap audience, although he gives props out in the lyrics to Shabba Ranks and Ziggy Marley. On the follower “How Not to Get Jerked” though he’s back to being the t’cha again, with lessons that too many rappers in the past decade have failed to heed:
“Now understand, rap is rebellious music
Therefore, only the rebel should use it
But pop artists abuse it
When the audience hears real rap, they boo it
See rap music is a culture
And everyone outside that culture is a vulture
The vulture makes money on the culture
Understand, I ain’t tryin to insult ya
But you’re either usin rap like the devil
or you’re pushin rap to another level
So don’t wait for your company’s promotions staff
Promote yourself with your own cash!
But this might mean you can’t buy gold
You might have to put that on hold
Cause if the artist falls, they diss him!
But if the company falls, the artist falls with them!
This ain’t about a tight skirt
Here’s how not to get jerked when you do hard work!”
And just so you don’t go thinking that KRS-One has all the answers, on “Who Are the Pimps?” he’s asking the questions. Actually, by the end of the song, it’s pretty clear who the pimps REALLY are:
“You’re a hoe, you pimped all around real fresh
Got letters on they chest spelling I, R, S
And they be taxin, askin, sittin back relaxin
Pimping asian, european, blacks and chicano
Hah hah! But they can’t pimp a wino
Why? Because a wino don’t want nuttin
It’s when you try to get ahead they start frontin
Capitalism — the system of pimps and hoes
I’m sorry that’s the way it goes
In this particular system everyone’s a slave
Racist is how they want us to behave
White Johnny, be fighting black Michael
Both are blind to the system’s sick cycle
In a circle psychotically they slay each other
with a grin, because of color of a skin
‘Pick up that money hoe!'”
Even on the closer, KRS can’t resist being provacative. He declares that “The Real Holy Place” can’t be found in any church, synagogue, or mosque: to him the real holy place is MENTAL, and only found in the human mind. Listening to his album, one could certainly make a case for mental strength being holy. Even if you don’t agree with all of the points KRS-One makes, he certainly makes them with conviction, and with a confidence and skill that few rappers have ever had (or ever will). When backed up by the likes of Prince Paul, Kenny Parker, Pal Joey and D-Square, that confidence is matched by equally confident beats to back him up, it results in a hip-hop classic. An unrecognized classic. In the liner notes you can see KRS already becoming disillusioned with Boogie Down Productions. He writes “BDP in 1992 is KRS-One, Willie D and Kenny Parker! BDP is not D-Nice, Jamal-ski, Harmony, Ms. Melodie and Scottie Morris. They are not down with BDP so stop frontin’.” Harsh words, but it definitely shows that the end is near for this group, as KRS-One is recognizing that he always has been and still is the torch bearer of the group. Combined with the poor sales of this album, undoubtedly it was the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused KRS-One to go solo for good in 1993. Before he did though, BDP had one last hurrah, and with KRS-One leading the way they released one hell of an album.