It’s shocking, but the more I listen to hip hop the more I know what I like and don’t. (Imagine that.) And from the first time I heard this, I knew I liked it (well, the music) more than I liked most other hip hop I’ve heard to date.
Something about the production here sounds more modern to me than most of the hip hop I’ve heard (even that released in the early 1990s) and I guess it’s closer to the trip hop and other hip hop-adjacent music I’ve listened to for much longer. (Maybe it isn’t, but it definitely seems more familiar to me, in terms of style.)
I appreciate KRS-One’s sense of history and his sense of storytelling. Many of the songs here reference the past, be it the past of hip hop or the past of a particular social issue. The production of one particular song is designed to sound like early hip hop apparently. This gives the whole thing greater depth – to me – than basically every other hip hop record I’ve ever heard, all of which seem rooted in a very particular moment, and the subjective experience of that.
But though KRS-One’s lyrics are considerably more socially conscious than most rappers I’ve heard, and though he’s more thoughtful than even most of the socially conscious rappers I’ve heard to date, there are still some lines that I don’t love and it’s a curious mixture, social comment and regressive stereotyping (there’s more of the former than the latter, though). I think that’s just part of the authenticity of hip hop (I suspect) and it’s just something I’ll have trouble with forever, given I didn’t grow up with this and only experience it as an adult who has strong feelings about these things.
But still, if I have to listen to hip hop, I could do a lot worse than this record, which I don’t mind as background music (relatively speaking) and which prompts more thought than most records if I actively listen to it.