Lawrence Parker was born in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York during the summer of 1965. Parker left home at 14 to become an MC, coming to live at a homeless shelter in the South Bronx where he was dubbed Krishna by residents because of his interest in the Hare Krishna spirituality of some of the antipoverty workers. By the time he met youth counselor Scott Sterling, he was also writing graffiti as KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone). Together he and Sterling, a.k.a. DJ Scott La Rock eventually created Boogie Down Productions, releasing their debut album, Criminal Minded, in 1987. KRS-One has been a vegetarian since his youth.
Boogie Down Productions
KRS-One began his recording career as one third of the hip hop group Boogie Down Productions, or BDP, alongside DJ Scott La Rock and Derrick "D-Nice" Jones. They met during a stay KRS-One had at the Bronx Franklin Avenue Armory Shelter. La Rock (real name Scott Sterling) worked as a social worker there. The duo would begin to create music. After being rejected by radio DJs Mr. Magic and Marley Marl, KRS-One would go on to diss the two and those associated with them, sparking what would later be known as The Bridge Wars. Additionally, KRS had taken offense to "The Bridge", a song by Marley Marl's protege, MC Shan (later on, KRS One produced an album with Marley Marl in 2007); the song could be interpreted as a claim that Queensbridge was the monument of Hiphop, though MC Shan has repeatedly denied this claim. Still, KRS "dissed" the song with the BDP record "South Bronx"; next, a second round of volleys would ensue with Shan's "Kill That Noise" and BDP's "The Bridge Is Over". KRS-One, demonstrating his nickname "The Blastmaster", gave a live performance that devastated MC Shan, and many conceded he had won the battle. Many believe this live performance to be the first MC battle where rappers attack each other, instead of a battle between who can get the crowd more hyped.
Parker and Sterling decided to form a rap group together, initially calling themselves "Scott La Rock and the Celebrity Three". That was short-lived, however, as the two peripheral members quit, leaving Parker (now calling himself KRS-One) and Sterling. They then decided to call themselves "Boogie Down Productions", "Success is the Word", a 12-inch single produced by David Kenneth Eng and Kenny Beck was released on indie Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records (under the group name "12:41") but did not enjoy commercial success. Boogie Down Productions released their debut album Criminal Minded in 1987. The album, whose cover pictured BDP draped in ammunition and brandishing guns, is often credited with setting the template for the burgeoning genres of hardcore and gangsta rap. Scott La Rock was killed in a shooting later that year, after attempting to mediate a dispute between teenager and BDP member Derrick "D-Nice" Jones and local hoodlums.
During this time KRS-One also gained acclaim as one of the first MCs to incorporate Jamaican style into hip-hop. Using the Zung gu zung melody, originally made famous by Yellowman in Jamaican dance halls earlier in the decade. While KRS-One used Zunguzung styles in a more powerful and controversial manner, especially in his song titled "Remix for P is Free", he can still be credited as one of the more influential figures to bridge the gap between Jamaican music and American hip-hop.
Following the fatal shooting of Scott La Rock in 1987, KRS was determined to continue Boogie Down Productions through the tragedy, releasing the album By All Means Necessary in 1988. He was joined by beatboxer D-Nice, rapper Ramona "Ms. Melodie" Parker (whose marriage to Kris would last from 1988 to 1992), and Kris's younger brother DJ Kenny Parker, among others. However Boogie Down Productions would remain Kris's show, and their content would become increasingly political through their subsequent releases Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop,
Edutainment, Live Hardcore Worldwide and Sex and Violence.
Stop the Violence Movement
The Stop the Violence Movement was formed by KRS-One in 1988/1989 in response to violence in the hip hop and black communities.
During a concert by Boogie Down Productions and Public Enemy a young fan was killed in a fight. Coming soon after the shooting death of his friend and fellow BDP member Scott La Rock, KRS-One was galvanized into action and formed the Stop the Violence Movement. Composed of some of the biggest stars in contemporary East Coast hip hop, the movement released a single, "Self Destruction", in 1989, with all proceeds going to the National Urban League. A music video was created, and a VHS cassette entitled Overcoming Self-Destruction - The Making of the Self-Destruction Video was also released.
"Self-Destruction" was produced by KRS-One and D-Nice of Boogie Down Productions (Hank Shocklee of The Bomb Squad is credited as an associate producer).
Temple of Hip Hop
The Temple of Hip Hop is a ministry, archive, School, and Society (M.A.S.S.) founded by KRS-One. Its goal is to maintain and promote Hiphop Culture. The Temple of Hip Hop maintains that Hip Hop is a genuine political movement and culture, as it has been accepted by the United Nations as a culture. The Temple of Hiphop calls on all Hip Hop fans to celebrate Hip Hop Appreciation Week, occurring in the third week of May. It encourages DJs and MCs to teach people about the culture of Hiphop, to write more socially conscious songs, and radio stations to play more socially conscious hip hop. Hip Hop Appreciation Week is celebrated on the third week of May each year. Hip Hop History Month (November), founded by the Universal Zulu Nation, is also recognized.
September 11 comments
In 2004, KRS engendered a controversy when he was quoted in a panel discussion hosted by The New Yorker magazine as saying that "we cheered when 9/11 happened". The comment drew criticism from many sources, including a pointed barb by the New York Daily News that called Parker an "anarchist" and said that "If Osama bin Laden ever buys a rap album, he'll probably start with a CD by KRS-One."
Parker responded to the commotion surrounding his comments with an editorial written for AllHipHop.com, stating:
I was asked about why hiphop has not engaged the current situation more (meaning 9/11), my response was "because it does not affect us, or at least we don’t perceive that it affects us, 9/11 happened to them". I went on to say that "I am speaking for the culture now; I am not speaking my personal opinion." I continued to say; "9/11 affected them down the block; the rich, the powerful those that are oppressing us as a culture. Sony, RCA or BMG, Universal, the radio stations, Clear Channel, Viacom with BET and MTV, those are our oppressors, those are the people that we're trying to overcome in hiphop everyday, this is a daily thing. We cheered when 9/11 happened in New York and say that proudly here. Because when we were down at the trade center we were getting hit over the head by cops, told that we can’t come in this building, hustled down to the train station because of the way we dressed and talked, and so on, we were racially profiled. So, when the planes hit the building we were like, "mmmm, justice." And just as I began to say "now of course a lot of our friends and family were lost there as well" I was interrupted...
In late 2005, KRS was featured alongside Public Enemy's Chuck D on the remix of the song "Bin Laden" by Immortal Technique and DJ Green Lantern, which blames American neo-conservatives, the Reagan Doctrine and U.S. President George W. Bush for the World Trade Center attacks, and indicates a parallel to the devaluation, destruction, and violence of urban housing project communities.
On April 29, 2007, KRS-One again defended his statements on the September 11 attacks when asked about them during an appearance on Hannity's America on the Fox News network stating that he meant that people cheered that the establishment had taken a hit, not that people were dying or had died. He also discussed amongst other things, the Don Imus scandal and the use of profanity in Hip-Hop.
Premier, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-ONE, Styles P, and Rakim
KRS-One was the primary initiator behind the H.E.A.L. compilation and the Stop the Violence Movement; for the latter he would attract many prominent MCs to appear on the 12-inch single "Self Destruction". As Parker adopted this "humanist", less defensive approach, he turned away from his "Blastmaster" persona and towards that of "The Teacha", although he has constantly used "Blastmaster" throughout his career.
After five largely solo albums under the name "Boogie Down Productions," KRS-One decided to set out on his own. On his first solo album, 1993's Return of the Boom Bap, Parker worked together with producers DJ Premier, Kid Capri and Showbiz, the latter providing the catchy-yet-hardcore track "Sound of da Police". His second album, 1995's KRS-One, featured Channel Live on "Free Mumia", a song in which they criticize Black Civil Rights Activist C. Delores Tucker among others. Other prominent guest stars on KRS One included Mad Lion, Busta Rhymes, Das EFX and Fat Joe.
In 1991, KRS-One appeared on the alternative rock group R.E.M.'s single "Radio Song", which appeared on the band's album Out of Time, released the same year.
In 1992, Bradley Nowell from Sublime featured an acoustic song named "KRS-One" with his voice and DJ's samplers.
In 1995, KRS organized a group called Channel Live, whose album Station Identification he produced most of, along with Rheji Burrell and Salaam Remi.
In 1997, Parker surprised many with his release of the album I Got Next. The album's lead single "Step into a World (Rapture's Delight)", containing a sample of punk and New Wave group Blondie, was accompanied by a remix featuring commercial rap icon Puff Daddy; another track was essentially a rock song. While the record would be his best-selling solo album (reaching #3 on the Billboard 200), such collaborations with notably mainstream artists and prominent, easily recognizable samples took many fans and observers of the vehemently anti-mainstream KRS-One by surprise. However, in August 1997, Parker appeared on Tim Westwood's BBC Radio 1 show and vociferously denounced the DJ and the radio station more generally, accusing them of ignoring his style of hip hop in favor of commercial artists such as Puff Daddy. Although having not been in the UK since 1991, due to the fact he does not fly, he claimed "to be in touch with the people", and said that "they weren't feeling Westwood, he's a sell out and has sold his soul to the dark side." This sparked controversy in the UK since Radio One was one of the main supporters of the single "Step Into My World" and caused the album to be his best selling. Parker has since visited the UK, most notably in May 2007, in a performance at the Royal Albert Hall where he once again dissed Tim Westwood in a freestyle.
In 1999, there were tentative plans to release Maximum Strength; a lead single, "5 Boroughs", was released on The Corruptor movie soundtrack. However, Parker apparently decided to abort the album's planned release, just as he had secured a position as a Vice-President of A&R at Reprise Records. The shelved album was again scheduled to be released in 2008, but ultimately an unrelated album entitled "Maximum Strength 2008" was released in its place. He moved to southern California, and stayed there for two years, ending his relationship with Jive Records with A Retrospective in 2000.
Parker resigned from his A&R position at Reprise in 2001, and returned to recording with a string of albums, beginning with 2001's The Sneak Attack on Koch Records. In 2002, he released a gospel-rap album, Spiritual Minded, surprising many longtime fans; Parker had once denounced Christianity as a "slavemaster religion" which African-Americans should not follow. During this period, KRS founded the Temple of Hiphop, an organization to preserve and promote "Hiphop Kulture". Other releases have since included 2003's Kristyles and D.I.G.I.T.A.L., 2004's Keep Right, and 2006's Life.
The only latter-day KRS-One album to gain any significant attention has been Hip-Hop Lives, his 2007 collaboration with fellow hip hop veteran Marley Marl, due in large part to the pair's legendary beef, but also the title's apparent response to Nas' 2006 release Hip-Hop Is Dead. While many critics have commented they would have been a lot more excited had this collaboration occurred twenty years earlier, the album has been met with positive reviews. KRS One has appeared on several songs with other artists, due to this he has received 9 Gold and 7 Platinum plaques.
KRS One has collaborated with several artists including Canadian Rap group Hellafactz, Jay-Roc N' Jakebeatz and New York producer Domingo among other. He and Domingo publicly squashed their beef that started over financial issues and released a digital single to iTunes on November 25. The single titled "Radio" will also feature Utah up and comer Eneeone and is dedicated to underground MC's that don't get the radio airplay they deserve. In 2009 KRS One guest starred on several albums including Arts & Entertainmen on the song "Pass the Mic" by fellow Hip Hop veterans Masta Ace & Ed O.G and featured on the posse cut "Mega Fresh X" by Cormega (alongside with DJ Red Alert, Parrish Smith, Grand Puba, & Big Daddy Kane) on his album Born and Raised.
KRS One and Buckshot announced that they would be collaborating on an album set to be released in 2009. The first single, ROBOT, was released on May 5, 2009. The music video was directed by Todd Angkasuwan and debuted as the New Joint of the Day on 106 & Park on September 4, 2009. The album leaked on the Internet on September 9, 2009 and released album was released on September 15, 2009. It debuted at #62, making it on The Billboard 200 selling around 8,500 copies its first week and was met with generally positive reviews. Steve Juon of RapReviews.com gave the album a flawless 10 out of 10, claiming "Buckshot and KRS have achieved something rather remarkable here - an album I can't find a single fault with. There's not a bad beat, there's not a whack rhyme, there's not a collaborator on a track that missed the mark, and the disc itself is neither too short nor too long."
In 2010 KRS One was honored along with Buckshot by artists Ruste Juxx, Torae & Skyzoo, Sha Stimuli, Promise, J.A.M.E.S. Watts and Team Facelift to name a few on their mixtape 'Survival Kit' which is an ode to the 2009 album Survival Skills by KRS One and Buckshot. The mixtape was released for free download on DuckDown.com. The album features new version of KRS classics 'South Bronx', 'Sound Of Da Police' and 'MC's Act Like They Don't Know' as well as new versions of well known Buckshot songs and 'Past Present Future' from the Survival Skills album. The MC Fashawn stated in his verse on MC's Act Like They Don't Know that 'I did it to make Kris smile I figured he'd appreciate it'
Most recently, KRS One was featured as the voice of Chris Cringle in the new Nike Most Valuable Puppets commercials. KRS One performed in May 2010 at SUNY New Paltz for their annual "Rock Against Racism" concert. KRS One also narrated the 2011 film Rhyme and Punishment, a documentary about Hip-Hop artists who have done jail time.
Gospel of Hip Hop comments
n an interview with AllHipHop about his book "The Gospel of Hip Hop", KRS-One said:
"I’m suggesting that in 100 years, this book will be a new religion on the earth... I think I have the authority to approach God directly, I don’t have to go through any religion [or] train of thought. I can approach God directly myself and so I wrote a book called The Gospel of Hip Hop to free from all this nonsense garbage right now. I respect the Christianity, the Islam, the Judaism but their time is up. ...In a hundred years, everything that I’m saying to you will be common knowledge and people will be like, 'Why did he have to explain this? Wasn’t it obvious?'"
These comments have been referred to by numerous media outlets such as the AV Club who comment that "KRS-One writes 600-page hip-hop bible; blueprint for rap religion" and "KRS-One has never been afraid to court controversy and provoke strong reactions. Now the Boogie Down Productions legend has topped himself by writing The Gospel of Hip Hop: The First Instrument, a mammoth treatise on the spirituality of hip-hop he hopes will some day become a sacred text of a new hip-hop religion".
Randy Hubbard Parker, stepson of KRS-One, was found dead in his Atlanta, Georgia apartment on July 6, 2007 in an apparent suicide; he was 23. Simone Parker, KRS-One's wife and Randy's mother, released a statement on July 10 that stated her son's death was related to his continuous battle with "severe depression". The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office stated that Parker died of a gunshot wound to the head, and listed the cause of death as suicide. Parker was a graphic designer and fashion entrepreneur. A private memorial service was held on July 18, which would have been his 24th birthday.
Benefit for First Responders
KRS-One spoke at a hip hop benefit concert on September 12, 2009 to benefit the first responders of 9/11 he spoke of non violence to take back the country. The event was presented by the 9/11 group We Are Change based in New York City and SMT Studios.
He has endorsed Congressman Ron Paul for President in 2012.