"I'll splatter my data on rappers that don't matter..."
KRS-One can divide hip-hop fans. Some view him as a righteous teacher-MC who has been broadcasting truth from New York City streets for more than two decades. Some view him as an overly preachy defender of a brand of hip-hop whose time may have passed.
A song titled "Gimme the '90s" isn't going to help dispel those who subscribe to the latter group. Seven skits with the Blastmaster holding court, on everything from true hip-hop to the N-word to white fear of the black man, isn't going to help, either.
But pairing up with Wu-disciple True Master for a collab album definitely helps. Once only counted among the sonic architects of the disastrous sophomore Gravediggaz record, "The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel," True Master eventually came into his own as a credible producer, and his simple, effective loops match well with KRS's flow.
Is it kind of annoying as he philosophizes on "Palm & Fist" about metaphysical reality? Kind of. Then again, listening to some excellently casual boasting on "One of Them Days" had me bobbing my head like the first time I heard "Rappaz R.N. Dainja."
KRS's overarching philosophy is on diplay in "Old School Hip Hop": "Back in the days we threw it like this on 'em/Beats and rhymes you didn't have to wish for 'em/Beats and rhymes today you gotta fish for 'em/'Cause most rappers traded ass and tits for 'em." Now that right there is some truth, and while Kris can sometimes get a little too professor-ish, it's nuggets of greatness like those few lines that keep him near the top of any great-MCs list.
Meta-Historical coalesces best in the form of "1-2, Here's What We Gonna Do," as RZA drops by for one of his best verses in years and True Master loops a forlorn guitar; it also shines on the title track, where KRS explores history in all its forms and importance.
Is it a perfect record? No. It limps out with a couple of clunkers ("Street Rhymer," "He's Us"), but along the way, it's a good reminder of why hip-hoppers still love KRS-One.