Array: Mike Sheerin / michaelsheerin.photoshelter.com

KRS-ONE

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  • Predator Prime
Arts Club

If you haven’t heard of KRS-ONE​, you’ve definitely heard him. If hip hop had a currency, he’d be on the 100 denomination note, sharing with Scott Le Rock, of course. Both made up the original duo of Boogie Down Productions (BDP), where KRS-ONE earned the nickname the Teacha. Every MC today owes something to the Blast Master (everyone has at least two dozen pseudonyms in hip hop). Tonight, KRS-ONE shows us just why he has the respect and admiration of his countless peers.

First though, DJ PREDATOR PRIME ​comes on alone, stepping up to the decks asking, “Do you wanna hear that 80s shit or that 90s shit?” 80s wins out, of course; we are here for that, after all. He treats us to a mix of all the classics, flipping between both golden eras of hip hop. Hands are up, old heads are trying their best to rap along. After his tour of the hip hop early years, he calls out KRS-ONE​. The icon bounds onto the stage and the Teacha begins to speak, starting off with the first of many freestyles. Here is where KRS displays his true strength; there are rappers with more prowess flow-wise, but he’s untouchable when it comes to lyrics – deceptively simple, accessible and smart. Songs from the BDP d​ays are proto-gangster rap, about life in the Bronx and inevitably about his encounters with crime. It’s frank rather than glorifying, preaching betterment through learning.

As the set shifts to his newer tracks, the songs become more and more political. This is distilled down into the anger-filled, anti-imperial The Invaders, about America’s annexation of Mexico. With its pro-immigrant message, the song strikes a chord in a post-Brexit Britain, and it certainly gets some fists pumping. Not long after, he starts his lecture on the styles of MCing, rapping over a variety of beats for each. This is him flexing his hip hop muscle, displaying his versatility and a little showmanship too. He frequently comes back to the two posters on either side of the stage, displaying his various mantras on hip hop and his namesake Knowledge Reigns Supreme. He takes the title of Teacha very seriously; he’s here to educate us rather than just play another gig on another tour. He champions the importance of hip hop for all: “Rap is something you do, hip hop is something you live.” It’s a campaign he’s been fighting for a long time, and hopefully for a long time to come. As he walks off stage, DJ Predator Prime ​jumps back into his mix. The Blast Master then appears at the entrance, and is quickly mobbed by the crowd, having his photo taken with everyone who wants one, signing anything and everything. It’s a rare sight to see, especially straight after a set running over two hours. He’s after hearts and minds, to convert to his gospel of hip hop. No one leaves Arts Club unsatisfied.

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