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The Gospel of Hip Hop According to KRS ONE, Part III -- Spellings & Definitions of Hip Hop

Posted by Billyjam, July 22, 2010 09:45pm | Post a Comment
KRS One KRS ONE appears at Amoeba Hollywood on July 28th at 6pm in a special standing room only lecture in celebration of his latest book, The Gospel of Hip Hop!

Of the many memorable lyrics and expressions KRS-One has uttered over the years, perhaps the most often quoted by fans of Hip Hop is: "Rap is something you do. Hip Hop is something you live."

Simple but brilliantly profound, this regularly recited and referenced expression is part of the lyrics from the veteran hip-hop emcee, educator, activist, author's song "Hip Hop Vs. Rap," which was originally released as a B-side of the 1993 single "Sound Of Da Police" off his landmark 1993 solo debut Return Of The Boom Bap (Jive Records). The Teacha, as KRS ONE is commonly known, has long been a spokesperson for and ambassador of Hip Hop. Through his tireless two and a half decades of making Hip Hop music and giving lectures on the topic he has helped define the very meaning of the culture, or kulture, as he spells it. In fact, he has literally written the book on Hip Hop with his third and latest book, the 800 plus page The Gospel of Hip Hop, which is subtitled First Instrument presented by KRS ONE for the Temple of Hip Hop. Not surprisingly, The Teacha spends a good deal of space within these pages dissecting and analyzing the exact meaning of Hip Hop right down to its spelling, which he divides three distinct ways: Hip Hop, hip-hop, and Hiphop.

KRS-One "Hip Hop vs. Rap" (1993)

In my recent in-depth interview with KRS ONE I asked him about these spellings and just how critical he thinks it is for people to distinguish between the different spellings. "It's extremely critical in the creation of kulture. When you're creating a distinct group of people or a specialized group of people, it's important that the names that you choose be your own names. Even if you borrow names from other cultures or other lexicons, you still should apply your own meanings to them. Hip Hop does this to its advantage and KRS Oneto its criticism. Certain words that we take and use, other people hear them as well [but] it means a different thing in their culture or in their minds. So going over this spelling of Hip Hop, it's important that we first own the spelling of Hip Hop. And ownership of the spelling of Hip Hop is derived out of meaning, out of definition," he said.

"One of the first things that Adam in the bible, we are told, one of the first jobs he had from God was to name everything. And this we find is the order and the organization of the world according to a culture. It's like you're not supposed to get told what everything is. You're supposed to say what everything is. And so in this instance, when it comes to Hip Hop, first let's say what it is from our own mouths, not derive our meaning from MTV or even records, even recordings. Let's look at the true nature of Hip Hop and derive our meanings from there. So as we started looking at the real nature of Hip Hop, the absolute nature of it, you start to notice patterns and you start to see conflicting patterns within Hip Hop. And everything has its friction but Hip Hop seems to be moving on three distinct, how would I say, if could call them circles or dynamos of energy that help it to exist and one of them is the fact that Hip Hop is consciousness."

KRS, who has obviously given much thought to the topic, then noted, "Hip Hop never enters the physical world, never. We can't drink it. We can't eat it. We can't go to it. We can't wear it. But somehow we all know that it's here. We all are feeling it, well not all, but those who feel it are sensing it psychically. We all feel and sense the same thing, which, by the way, I find magnificent and phenomenal about a culture like this; it's a kulture of consciousness. Hip Hop is not physical. It's an idea. It's shared. It's a behavior. It's a way to view the world." And what about each of the spellings? "Right at the top, the first spelling is Hip Hop's first law unto itself, it's first condition, which is it's a consciousness, a collective consciousness that we are all sharing, so to spell that collective consciousness is capital H, lower case i, p, lower case h, o, p [Hiphop]-one word too, by the way. So we are controlling the spelling so that when you look at that word, when you see words like phenomenon for instance or psychology, these words don't sound like the way they are spelled but it gives the psychologist a uniqueness in the field. They own the word. They can break down that P S Y and tell you why the P is silent and so on. It draws you into their science by forcing your mind to see their words their way."

"Then we get to the second spelling, which is Hip Hop. This is what we call breakin,' emceeing, graffiti art, DJ'ing, beat-boxing, street fashion, language, knowledge, entrepreneur skills. That's the facet of the kulture. This is now the mind at work. This is the body. This is the kulture. This is Hip Hop as a repeatable science and art; we spell Hip Hop in this way. It's also the name of us. It's our name. It's the name of this particular group of people who do breakin,' emceeing, graffiti art, DJ'ing; this group. And that group Hip Hop is the first time that Hip Hop becomes physical, by the way. The first time Hip Hop enters the physical world is when we say we're it. And then it comes into the physical world. And then we make our products based on our physiology in the world. We were physical in music so Hip Hop comes out as rap. We are physical in dance, in b-boying. We are physical in art, with graffiti art. We are physical in DJ'ing -- we can cut, mix, and scratch. You know physical with clothing, physical with knowledge and language and things like that."

KRS says the third variation in the spelling comes from "the products that we create from these human skills. And that is the all lower case spelling of hip-hop with a dash in between hip and hop, or sometimes with just a space like hip hop. That's how most people spell hip-hop today and really they're referring to rap music entertainment, which is fine. You know we love rap. We make our money in rap. Rap has made us popular and very wealthy as a culture. We have no problem with lower case hip-hop, only when you're using it to describe a people. The same offense would come if you were spelling american with a lower case 'a' or haitian with a lower case 'h' or japanese with a lower case 'j.' We are a kulture and those who respect the kulture spell the kulture with a capital H, i, p, capital H, o, p. So this is why it's extremely important to spell Hip Hop at least with a capital H but also to know the difference between what KRS Onemeans what." Of course, this is all very technical and, being realistic, KRS ONE readily recognizes this, adding, "Of course, this is also privileged knowledge and the average person doesn't need to know this." I also asked KRS about the Gospel's recurring word hiphoppa and if he himself had invented that word. His answer appears in the video immediately below. The other video is from a concert at S.O.B.'s in NYC two years ago in which he did a mix of some of his classic songs.

At next Wednesday's standing room only Amoeba lecture (in the Hollywood store's intimate Jazz Room), KRS will discuss The Gospel of Hip Hop, sign copies of the book, and take questions from the audience. Note that due to the intimate nature of this event plus obvious space constraints, Amoeba will sell advance Gospel of Hip Hop packages, which, for the nice price of $25, include a copy of the book on event date (7/28), guaranteed space in signing line to meet KRS ONE, plus a ticket to hear KRS speak and answer questions. Note that all sales are final. If you have questions for KRS ONE, feel free to post them in the comments below, and, as moderator of the event, I will try to forward them to KRS to answer at the Amoeba engagement. This is the third part in the ongoing six part Amoeblog series leading up to the KRS Amoeba in-store. And if you cannot attend the KRS Amoeba lecture but would like to purchase the book online from Amoeba and have the author sign your copy click here for info.

KRS on the word "hiphoppa" (Amoeblog interview excerpt - visuals by DJ ALF)

KRS-One runs thru some classics and drops Hip Hop history (Live at S.O.B.'s NYC, 2008)

Relevant Tags

Boogie Down Productions (8), Bdp (10), The Gospel According To Krs One (7), Hip-hop (176), Interview (273), Kris Parker (7), Krs One (7), Krs 1 (7), Hip Hop (61)