At first I thought it had to be a bad joke, a Hip-Pop “Star” insulting a Hip Hop Legend, nah, this could not be.
When I found out it was the truth I still smiled and relegated it to a Pee Wee Herman vs. Mike Tyson publicity stunt by a weeded publicist. When I realized it was for real and read a written response by KRS1 himself I still tried to put it out of my mind to no avail. It kept irritating me like a piece of glass in my shoe.
What follows is my meditation on the whole affair.
Here are the facts: KRS1 has been voted either the number one or number two emcee of all time up on top with Rakim, Big, Tupac and a very small circle of others.
Nelly has gone multi-platinum in a very short span of time on the mic.
KRS1 began his career fresh from the shelter system.
Nelly began his career sheltered by the music industry system.
KRS1 began as an emcee when Hip Hop was new and fresh and dangerous.
Nelly began his career when Rap (which is a branch of the tree of Hip Hop) had already been colonized was safe and was getting stale.
KRS1 rapped about consciousness, stopping the violence, safe sex, brutal police (both black and white) and communal survival.
Nelly rapped about partying, multiple sexual partners, flashy cars, platinum, taking more than your share, keeping more than you need and being greedy.
KRS1 knew and rapped about being pimped by the record and music industry and “How Not To Get Jerked”, he also spoke about substance over style.
Nelly is the living embodiment of style over substance.
KRS1 wore African medallions and Buddhist Prayer beads.
Nelly wears a platinum chain down to his waist and two huge diamond earrings.
KRS1 addressed himself to Human Education Against Lies, civil disobedience, Civilization vs. Technology, Edutainment, Sex and Violence, how to survive By Any Means Necessary, warned us of the need for condoms (Jimmy hats), showed us how to go from Criminal Minded to Spiritual Minded and literally wrote the Blueprint of Hip Hop.
Among Hip Hop heads, KRS1 is viewed as a teacher, philosopher, master emcee, Hip Hop Legend and historian, elder and someone who never will duck a battle against racism, ignorance, the capitalist system, police brutality or injustice in any form.
Nelly is viewed among Hip Hop heads as a young, lucky “bling bling” kid who has far exceeded his “fifteen minutes of fame” and as an instantly replaceable “pop star”.
KRS1, like Chuck D, NWA, early Ice Cube, the X Clan, Gil Scott Heron, Paris, and a handful of others is viewed as a voice for the voiceless and as a threat to the status quo and injustice.
Nelly is a voice for the mindless, over self- indulgence, over consumption, greedy corporations, and artificially produced emcees.
We’ve always had room for fun and partying in Hip Hop from Kid N Play to Kwame even to the Fresh Prince, but they were not only original, they knew their place and would never challenge a Kool G. Rap, Guru, MC Lyte or Lord Finesse.
KRS1 had to battle for everything, for a record deal, his place in Hip Hop history, his style, his status and his reputation.
Nelly was given everything by his record label; lavish marketing campaigns, huge video budgets, heavy TV and radio rotation and endless gloss magazine spreads.
As dead prez said “It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop”, this is not the typical battle between two rappers, it is about whether Hip Hop is used to help advance us as human beings and help us survive a global movement towards war and a one-world government. Will it be used to discuss topics such as the two million people in prison (most of them minority and many of them of the so called Hip Hop generation), the drug scourge, joblessness, hopelessness, poor education and wasted ecological resources or be used as a marketing tool to program us to be even more addicted to high cost, low quality, polluting junk we don’t really need and often have to commit crime to afford?
For the record I am some twenty years older than KRS1 and my brain, creative and defense skills are as sharp as a man a third of my age.
The main question that must be addressed is whether Hip Hop will be used as a tool of education, liberation, communication and survival or a weapon used against used to promote greed, junk food, misogyny, and style over substance, blind patriotism, pre-packaged “safe” emcees and another form of mind control?
Keep real Hip Hop alive.