THE GREATEST OF ALL TUNES (G.O.A.T.) is a series of posts, producing my 100 favorite songs of all time. The master list is here, and I update it about every two weeks or when I have another 10 songs or so.
Kris Parker, under the rap name KRS-ONE (knowledge reigns supreme over nearly everyone), was half of Boogie Down Productions, aka BDP, along with DJ Scott La Rock—who was Kris’ crisis counselor when Parker lived in a homeless shelter while transitioning from jail. Their debut album, Criminal Minded, was one of the first New York gangsta rap albums, and soon after recording it, La Rock was killed in a street confrontation.
This led to a crusade against gang violence, launched in KRS’s song “Stop the Violence.”
To be sure, it’s preachy and the production is fairly simplistic by today’s standards—but the message was one that was missing from the hip hop scene. It led to KRS’s moniker “The Teacher,” and a series of didactic albums in which he preaches on how African Americans should live their lives. My personal favorite is Beef—a song that is NOT about rapper-on-rapper violence but instead about vegetarianism. I almost chose it as my GOAT for BDP, but I had to go with Stop the Violence because it had a much greater impact.
Stop the Violence led to a movement and the 1989 rap single “Self-Destruction,” a We Are The World-style jam with bars by a who’s who of late 1980s rap: Public Enemy, Stetsasonic, Kool Moe Dee, MC Lyte, Doug E. Fresh, Heavy D, Biz Markie, and others.
The irony of KRS-ONE is that so many of his big hits were brash invitations to battle, like I’m Still #1 and one of the most famous dis tracks of all time, The Bridge is Over—which might have been the first major hip hop war—in which Kris attacked a bunch of artists he used to perform with—MC Shan, Marley Marl, and Roxanne Shante. It’s also one of the only rap wars where a male artist fights a female one. Kris boke from this kind of music after La Rock was shot to death, but he’s still best known in many areas for his battle raps.
Further listening: Necessary, South Bronx, and…Beef!