KRS One's recently published The Gospel of Hip Hop is a most ambitious Hip Hop based self-help / life-manual that was tirelessly written by the author, artist, and activist over a fourteen year period. Next Wednesday, July 28th, at 6pm, KRS One will be at Amoeba Hollywood to lecture about the book, sign copies, and field questions in an intimate setting in the SoCal store's Jazz Room. This is the second in a series of Amoeblogs leading up to that instore. Each post includes excerpts from the recent in-depth phone interview conducted with KRS about his 832 page book.
Like most bibles, KRS One's Gospel comes in hardcover with a gold laminated biblical like font on its cover and an attached string to mark its pages. It has lots of reading, no pictures, and sets about laying down the exact meaning and intentions (IE, the gospel) of hip-hop itself. However, unlike the good book, KRS's Gospel comes with a "shout out" section; and, like the Bible, the Gospel is clearly on a spiritual tip.
In the introduction section of the book, titled "A New Covenant," KRS writes about "the voice" that led him to leave home in his mid teens and "drop out of high school to pursue Hip Hop." It was this voice that "recited to me the poetry that I recite to others. It was this voice that instructed me to battle. It was this voice that inspired the Stop The Violence Movement (1989), and the Temple of Hip Hop (1996), and this gospel for Hip Hop."
Elsewhere in the 18 page "New Covenant" introduction KRS writes, in reference to "GOD's word," "When I was wandering around Brooklyn and Manhattan without a house or home it was this Word that guided me. It was this Word that showed me where to sleep, how to eat, and when to study. This is how I became The Teacha. I heard the voice of GOD and followed it."
KRS One, whose name stands for Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone, started out in hip-hop as a graffiti writer. He was born in Brooklyn in 1965 and named Lawrence Parker (he would later be renamed Kris Parker) and he left home in his teens and ended up living in a homeless shelter in the South Bronx where he so famously first met an influential youth counselor named Scott Sterling (aka the late Scott La Rock) with whom he would go on to form Boogie Down Productions (BDP). In these early homeless shelter times KRS was nicknamed Krishna because of his interest in the Hare Krishna faith.
With this in mind I asked KRS if those teachings, or other religious teachings, had any influence on his writing for The Gospel of Hip Hop. "Not really. There was really no one particular religious faith that is incorporated here. My Krisha experience was very short, like less than a year, an eight month experience I had with the Krishnas in New York. It was because I was homeless," he said. "I have very rich religious experiences" that date back to KRS' earliest childhood memories. "From the time I was born my mother was deep into yoga, Hindu philosophy," he said. "I used to watch my mother meditate and pray and I kind of grew up in that tradition. She was Rastafarian too for a minute. We went to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church there in Brooklyn in the mid seventies."
Switching gears I then noted how for many years KRS, like many other outspoken artists in the genre, had often been critical of the mainstream media, especially its portrayal of hip-hop music and culture. I recalled how even back in 1990 when he had formed the wonderful H.E.A.L. project (Human Education Against Lies) and released the single "Heal Yourself" (Elektra), a year later he was critical of the media. Below is the video for the song, that also includes cameos from Harmony, Kid Capri, Big Daddy Kane, Freddie Foxxx, LL Cool J, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Ms. Melodie (KRS's ex wife), and Run DMC. KRS' verse about the media starts at the 2:51 point in the clip. I asked KRS One if he felt, now in 2010, about the media in general and specifically if its portrayal of hip-hop had improved over the years. His answer appears in the video immediately below.
Check back here on the Amoeblog tomorrow for The Gospel of Hip Hop According to KRS One Part III, in which the author will talk about the history of the word hiphoppa, the various definitions of the word Hip Hop and the meaning behind its three different spellings as outlined in his book. Meantime, if you have any questions that you would like presented to KRS One during his Amoeba appearance next week please enter them in the comments below and, as moderator of the event, I will do my best to present them to the Teacha. If you cannot make it to the KRS Amoeba lecture but would like to buy the book online from Amoeba and have KRS One sign it for you, click here. Click here for more info on the July 28th Amoeba Hollywood KRS One lecture & book signing.
KRS ONE on the media's portrayal of hip-hop (Amoeblog interview excerpt Pt. 2)
H.E.A.L. project "Heal Yourself"
H.E.A.L. project "Heal Yourself"