The Gospel of Hip Hop According to KRS One, Part I

Posted by Billyjam, July 20, 2010 03:34pm | Post a Comment

Announced just last week, anticipation is already mounting for the very special appearance by KRS One at Amoeba Music Hollywood on July 28th at 6pm. The Teacha himself -- one of hip-hop history's most articulate and prolific spokespersons -- will give a lecture and field questions from the standing room only audience in relation to his most recently published book The Gospel of Hip Hop (Powerhouse Books).

The Gospel of Hip Hop, which is subtitled First Instrument presented by KRS One for the Temple of Hip Hop, is more than simply another book on rap and hip-hop. The tome is something that the longtime emcee/educator/lecturer/activist & author born Lawrence Parker (later known as Kris Parker) has been diligently working on and fine-tuning since the mid nineties.

And unlike, say, Jeff Chang's invaluable hip-hop history book Can't Stop Won't Stop, which examines the history of hip-hop music and culture, KRS One's latest book (the author's third, following The Science of Rap and Ruminations), which does outline the history of hip-hop's elements,  is really more like a Hip Hop Kulture rooted philosophical, spiritual manual/day-to-day living guide for the Hip Hop generation, particularly for those who may feel disaffected with organized religion but can relate to all things Hip Hop.

At next Wednesday's standing room only Amoeba lecture (in the Hollywood store's intimate Jazz Room) the Teacha 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. In the meantime I will be posting a series of KRS One Amoeblogs, starting today, drawing from the in-depth interview I conducted with him recently by BDPphone. Audio excerpts of that exclusive Amoeblog interview will also be included, as will various KRS One solo and BDP (Boogie Down Productions) music videos with each KRS One Amoeblog.

Clocking in at 831 pages of text in modest size font and with no images (for this first printing only), The Gospel of Hip Hop is some serious reading that will take a while to get through. But it is also the kind of book that you will find yourself going back to repeatedly and religiously.

Considering how long it takes to read, I was curious to know just how long it took KRS to write the book. "Fourteen years," he answered. "In 1994 it started in a meeting at the Schomburg Black Studies Center in Harlem and after that meeting I proposed the idea of writing this book. It started off as a manual for Hip Hop. For those who were going to live the Kulture this would be a straight up manual for how to live the ins-and-outs of the Kulture but it became a spiritual document as I began to research what that actually was." (Note that the spellings here, such as Kulture or hiphoppas or Hip Hop, are all in keeping with KRS One's writing.)

Both a perfectionist and a realist, KRS One acknowledges, despite the decade and a half that went into working on the book, that The Gospel is still not really completed to his satisfaction. "You're never really finished writing these types of books," he said. "Well, at least it takes another two or three editions, because it's a life manual and so there will always be new discoveries and things that I should have put in and didn't, even some things that I may want to take out. I've bore [sic] the soul of Hip Hop in this book and it's also out there not just for hiphoppas but [also] for those that might not know anything about Hip Hop; for the outsiders, so to speak."

I was curious as to who KRS saw as his potential readership now, since he first had the idea for the book back in '94. "The 20 year old of today. The new 20 year old," he answered. "Sometime around 2011 we start our KRS ONEnew cycle over again and we go back to the dark ages, as far as Hip Hop is concerned, for ten more years if you follow this particular pattern." Pausing for a moment, the author continued, "Today there is a new 20 year old who maybe just got a family, or maybe is just in college or maybe just got married; somebody like that who is 20 to 25 years old and they either were interested in the spiritual life from early on, they grew up in a spiritual life or mystical life experience kind of thing but never really got a chance to put their hands on anything in particular because the world religions are all entrenched in their traditions [and] only a few people can adhere to the disciplines of the traditional world religions -- a lot of people are coming out of that saying that, 'This doesn't fit my lifestyle anymore or this doesn't fit the modern age anymore. How do I get the same spiritual help or experience the same spiritual life or mystical life of legend? How do I get those miracles happening in my life?' This book was written for them; the new 20 year old seeking validity to his or her spiritual experience. And I must tell you that over the fourteen years that I've tested this book it's been absolutely phenomenal -- the possibilities to what a person can become practicing Hip Hop."
The book is most unique, with distinctive recurring language such as the author ending every section with the three words "There it is" and labeling each of the book's 18 segments not Chapters but Overstandings. As a longtime graffiti fanatic, the overstanding I found most engaging was The Tenth Overstanding: The Spirit of Graffiti Art, in which KRS discusses not just the beauty that colorful graffiti can inject into an otherwise drab city landscape but also goes really deep into the subject of the psychological effect of visuals and sounds in modern urban environments. Drawing from several studies, he notes in detail how everyday city sounds can affect us, including the overriding noises emitted by the police with their invasive squad car sirens blasting. Naturally, this brings to mind KRS' infamous Showbiz-produced single "Sound of da Police" from his debut solo album, 1993's Return of the Boom Bap on Jive Records. To hear what exactly KRS had to say on this topic and the study made on city sounds in New York and Philadelphia, scroll down to the YouTube clip immediately below "The Sound of da Police" video.

Click here for more info on the July 28th Amoeba Hollywood KRS One lecture & book signing, and be sure to check back here tomorrow on the Amoeblog for Part II of the Gospel of Hip Hop According to KRS One. And if you cannot make it to the event but would like to buy a book online from Amoeba and have KRS sign it for you, you can do so by clicking here.

KRS ONE "The Sound of the Police" (1993)

KRS ONE Amoeblog interview excerpt Pt I (video by DJ ALF)

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Hip Hop (94), Krs 1 (7), Kris Parker (7), Krs One (7), The Gospel According To Krs One (7), Bdp (10), Interview (341), Hip-hop (217), Boogie Down Productions (8)