It's Not About A Salary

In 1988 Scott La Rock and KRS-ONE released the second album from their group, Boogie Down Productions (BDP). It was entitled By Any Means Necessary after the famous Malcolm X adage. This album was also to expand the social vocabulary of hiphop.

Two years earlier KRS and Scott put out Criminal Minded on B-Boy Records. Criminal Minded is far more sparse than anything provided by PE, but it has a funky range (with heavy Jamaican influence) that keeps it a dance-floor staple to this day. The main difference between KRS and Chuck is in delivery. While PE had employed traditional oratory and court jester traditions, KRS had developed his own oratory through styling and harmonizing. Tracks like "South Bronx' and "The Bridge is Over' (a rebuttal of MC Shan's claims regarding the Queens bridge Projects: "The Bridge") are classics for their style and the simple economy of their lyrics. Take ‘South Bronx', for instance:

1.Now way back in the days when hiphop began, With Coke La Rock, Kook Herc and Tehn Bamm, B-boys ran to the latest jam, But when it got shot up they ran home and said damn Peoples getting' blown away but come outside anyway, Let's try it again, outside, cedar park power from the street lights made the place dark, But yo they didn't care they turned out, I know a few people know what I'm talkin' about. Remember Bronx River rollin' thick, Cool DJ Red Alert and Chuck Chillout of the mix When Afrika Islam was rockin' the jams, On the other side of town was a kid named Flash, Patterson and Millbrook projects, Casanova all over ya know ya couldn't stop it, The Nine Lives Crew, the Cypress Boys. The Real Rock Steady takin' out these toys, As odd as it looked as odd as it seems, I didn't hear a peep from Queens, From ‘76 to 1980 the dreads in Brooklyn was crazy You couldn't bring out your set with no hiphop because the pistols would go (sound of gunshot) Because why don't wise up And show all the people you are wack, Instead of tryin' to take out LL., Why don't you take your homeboys off the crack, ‘Cos if you don't, well then their nerves will become shot, And that will leave the job up to my own Scott La Rock, And he's from ...South Bronx, South South Bronx......

KRS plunges us down the (memory) lane to the days of park jams in the south Bronx, disses both Brooklyn and Queens and provides us with a lesson in syncopation and breath control. If Chuck D is the orator and Flavor Flav the jester, KRS is the styler. If Chuck had learnt imagined meeting between Dolemite and Busy Bee, the KRS is like a freeway collision between Melle Mel and Miles.

KRS also wrote a remarkable ode to his mine millimeter, ‘9mm', which acted as catalyst for further rhyming classified by the inadequate umbrella term of ‘gangsta rap'. On the cover of Criminal Minded was a picture of Scot and KRS brandishing a shotgun, a pistol and a hand grenade, looking after business. Two years later KRS re-emerged on the cover of BY ANY Means Necessary with a gun ‘lookin' out the window like Malcolm. The gun play of Criminal Minded had been subsumed into the highly charged reconstruction of the famous Malcom X photo. The wax inside the controversial cover continued the minimal beats from the first album, but the lyrical flow was not directed at society at large. It was as though both KRS and BDP figured out that there was now a bigger public at stake and in the process enlarged their statements for the now larger context. In ‘Stop the Violence'.

In effect KRS moves from orator through joker as a styler, taking the listener through explanations of his last album, condom awareness, hiphop history lessons, and (with an irreverent approach) the government. In many ways 1988 proved to be a fortuitous year for reawakening the sleeping giant of minority resistance in the U.S. While gang hysteria swept Los Angeles, Oliver North became a national icon, the nightmare of Reaganomics was entering its next phase with the disastrous victory of the Bush-whacker. Through the Iran/Contra hearings came the leaked rumours of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Rex 84 plan, an update of the King Alfred Plan, the dreaded plot to incarcerate all people of colour and their sympathizers in the event of widespread civil disturbance. This obliterated the late seventies from view and provided an unobstructed view of late sixties' radicalism from a peculiarly dark perspective. Realization of the impact of the Counter Intelligence programme had hit home.

Less influential but none the less significant contributions to this process arrived from Schooly D, the ‘Saturday Night' bad boy, now screaming ‘Don't call me nigger, whitey', the Jungle Brothers were proclaiming ‘Black is Black' (sampling Lightnin Rod) and asking (after Marvin), ‘What's Goin' On?', Big Daddy Kane was sending words to the motherland and De La Soul were ‘Plug Tunin'. It made sense at that historical juncture for many artists to reach for cultural and social references in their music; radicalization seemed most appropriate.

By the time Straight Outta Compton came out there already was an established frame of politicized music. This is perhaps the most important aspect of all four of the above albums. These records also determined the entrance into hiphop of non-African American subjects. These records also determined the entrance into hiphop of non-African American subjects. While non-African-American people, particularly Puerto Rican (Boricue), have been involved in hiphop from the word go, it took until 1990 for Chicanos, Caucasians and numerous other groups to start to rhyme about their constituent needs.

PE and BDP had shown that is was possible to talk about social, cultural and political problems without falling into the "USA for Africa' trap. Kid Frost (Mexican-American) and the Boo Yaa Tribe (Samoan-American), the first groups from LA that weren't African-American to get national attention, had been rhyming before ‘88, but they came to prominence in the broadened field of hiphop's cultural nationalism. Certainly it can be argued that it may not have been possible for Kid Frost to make ‘La Rasa' without PE, but too many forget theat Chicanos had been involved in the culture from Herc's debut as DJ.

From the Temple of Hip Hop

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