KRS-One on one: Hip-hop needs more women

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KRS-One on one: Hip-hop needs more women

Interview and words by Cheverly Council and Rebecca McDonald
Photos by B FRESH Photography

KRSOne-bfresh2The vibe was live at Epic on Saturday night for the Stop the Violence Movement/Temple of hip hop show, with B-girls and boys out in full effect, a local hip hop lineup with over a dozen acts such as Illuminous 3, Lila T, and Ill Chemistry (Desdamona and Carnage), the Twin Cities Battle League, The Source Magazine’s “Spit 16” battle, and hip hop heads old and new. It’s safe to say, though, that most came out to get an earful of “The Teacha” KRS-One, who quietly passed through downtown but performed classics from “South Bronx” to “Sound of Da Police” with unmatchable thunder. He invited dancers to the stage to engage with him, as he yelled, “If you get your hip hop from the radio, step to the back!”

The show was reminiscent of local street ciphers spotted regularly on the streets of NYC back in the day, minus the rope-a-dope gold chains. It was grassroots, inclusive and down to earth – even KRS asked for tape of the show because he’d done a mic juggling freestyle that he had never done before, saying, “I hope y’all got that shit tonight. The two mics- I lost control. I was buggin’!…I gotta figure out how to do it again.”

City Pages sat down with KRS One after the show to ask him a very important question (and we even got a peek at his new, controversial bible-formatted text, The Gospel of Hip Hop: The First Instrument, to be released in November, Hip Hop History month)…

CP: What do you think is missing in hip-hop today?

KRS ONE: “I am not just saying this because you [a woman] are asking the question, this is my real answer: More women. More women. Not just emcees or b-girls, but women taking control of hip-hop. Let me be culturally-specific- hip-hop’s women should teach hip-hop’s men how to speak to them. Because when we learn how to speak to you, we can learn how to speak to the whole business world. It’s not just about respecting you…it is…but it’s deeper than just respecting another human being. Everytime you degrade a person, you degrade yourself, because you are standing next to that person. You can’t diss a person, and not diss yourself…I should say ‘she’s a queen.’ And what does that make me? A king. So now at the end of the day, what’s missing in hip-hop? Knowledge of self, that should only come from women. I know that sounds feminist, but that’s real talk.

CP: But men can be feminists, too.

KRS ONE: No doubt. But they are scared. They’re cowards.

Although KRS One was the only artist who offered this particular answer, his sentiments were echoed by a local performer and emcee, O.S.P. AKA FidelHasFlow, who said that “Hip-hop is missing honesty and therefore lacks integrity. It’s operating under a veil of stupidity.”

Check out more information about KRS One’s 818 page hip hop life-guide manual, The Gospel of Hip Hop: The First Instrument”

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

25 comments on “KRS-One on one: Hip-hop needs more women

  1. Did not read yet, but my first response to the title was “To do what, take off their clothes and shake their asses?” Before I call KRS-1 a joke, or a sell-out, or politician, I have to read this first. Nikki D is mentioned in the article, right? All I can keep thinking about is “Black Cop” as he rapped for the “Beastie Boys” during the VH1 Hip hop show. Will read.

  2. Yeah, the industry is in need of some actual females, not the strippers you see prancing in videos. The males could also use an upgrade over the musty prison culture…

  3. I agree with KRS. Good on him for saying it.

    To Robert… I don’t understand your denunciation of KRS in this context.

    Respectfully, could you explain your statement? KRS has never had “booty shaking” in his video or audio work (the sole exception is the bizarre “13 and Good” which I took to be a cautionary tale, since the narrator is punished). But why suggest you’d consider calling KRS a ” joke, or a sell-out, or politician”?

  4. Still haven’t read, yet, Minister Faust. Got to find out what’s up on Homecoming gang rape. That’s was my initial response to the “title” of this Hip-hop Blog this morning. Like I said, still haven’t read it, but I clearly remember him on Sean Hannity. Will read.

  5. Pingback: KRS-One on one: Hip-hop needs more women « Brand Newz

  6. “Everytime you degrade a person, you degrade yourself…” Am I the only adult that saw this guy on Sean Hannity explaining to a white man why its okay for Black people to call one another the “N-word”? Talking about Helping Ignorant People – Hurt Our People. Am I the only person that knows N.W.A.’s “reality” and the gun culture was introduced to Rap Music through this man? A wise man once said, “We got to remember our history”.

  7. I agree that women need to become more prominent and powerful in all walks of life for things to get better, but I don’t believe it’s women’s responsibility to tell men how to treat them. I think that thought stems from patriarchal thinking for two reasons; one because it assumes that women should be preparing the ground for men to walk on but not vice versa, and two because it assumes that women should be setting and maintaining boundaries whereas men are free to push them.

    It should not be up to women alone to figure out how to have healthy relationships, on a personal level or in the public arena – for things to get better men need to do 50% of the emotional work and that will give women enough time and energy to do 50% of the professional work, whether it be creative, political or business-oriented. That’s the only way to get away from the traps that many American women fall into today.

    (I think Sweden is a sexist society but I saw an article a few days ago about a study of gender equality worldwide – the Scandinavian countries came out top and the US was number 31, down from 27 in the previous study.)

  8. “… I do not believe it’s women’s responsibility to tell men how to treat them”. Swedish reader, you may not believe it, but in America “If you do not respect yourself ain’t nobody else going to respect you and speak up for you”. Especially Black and Hispanic women in America. Women who are “mothers” should have been told their “sons’ how a young girl, young lady, and woman should be treated. A woman should “not” have to tell a grown man how a woman is supposed to be treated. I have a son, so I tell my son and show him by example how a female is supposed to be treated. He also has a sister. I’m still stuck on the gang rape in California and that’s playing into my thinking on this. Both parents should be addressing their sons, but when the father’s not present for whatever reason, in America, it’ is the mother or “woman’s” job. A man will treat a female the way they allow them to be treated in America (Hoochie, video vixen, stripper, ect.), so in America women better “take responsibility” and stop setting bad examples for our young daughters. I do not take this KRS-One guy seriously, but women need to first take responsibility with their “sons” in America. Like I said, that gang rape keeps going through my mind. I’m probably off point, but I know its women’s responsibility to tell their “son’s” how to treat them and other females, as well as mine as a father and man.. We may even agree but disagree on a word. Thoughts on that gang rape in California is the reason for my response.

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  10. Yellow Brick Links, back in the Kemetic days when this thing was called “Rap Music” we had female rappers like DJ Lady B, Sha Rock, Sequence, Dimples D, Sparky D, and others, who did not use feminism, sex, nor having to rap like a dude to come lyrically correct. Moreover, “Rap Music” did not just start when “you guys” started liking it. Would just to like to see “young ladys” or “teenagers” doing it, not “grown ass” women trying to be rappers instead of being better “mothers”. The pioneer woman from “Salt and Pepper” had it right, but America ain’t want to see a grown woman like Salt on a “Reality Show” that grew up and had knew something. NO, they want to see Flavor Flav, New York, and the Crack Mom Franky or whoever. Time to grow up and let the kids have it back, thirty and forty year olds. Fifteen years ago I said on television in Philly, “GET A JOB”. Still say it. Is this thing on?! Need positive young ladies and teenagers doing it, “not” grown ass women trying to still be friends with their daughters and thier daughter friends still making hip-hop records. Truth hurts, damn!

  11. rap music has always been about the overt display of testosterone. even “thoughtful” rap like de la, LONS, and tribe always reverted to a base theme of braggadocio, strength, and social dominance. modern-day, third generation rap has become highly feminized. the autotune, r&b hooks, and europop fusion is all the work of major labels selling to an expanded audience: namely, how to market music ‘just for men’ to women as well. this is why hip hop heads from the 90s especially hate new artists. nowadays, we got hos-ass rappers like wale building a fanbase on tracks with lady gaga and colin munroe. what part of the game is this???

    hip hop needs precisely the opposite of more women. this politico-equalist sound from kris has been played out for a minute.

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  13. I think that this is a great read. One thing about KRS is as a pre-eminent MC he often has to balance speaking to different groups. It’s a challenging task. For example, in the case of the above interview, KRS is speaking to the woman interviewing him, whoever else was present/live right there, and also to a hip hop audience that will potentially be reading his words, and to non-hop hop audiences that will read his words. This is illustrated by how he opens his statement, recognizing the unique position of the interviewer (a woman in hip hop) but then moving direction to address his target audience w/ the message that he wants to address – the need for more women in positions of power w/in hip hop, and their role in helping guide hip hop culture and men in hip hop.

    In his first answer, he is talking to both men who need to heed women — in his opinion — and to women who we wants to see step up in hip hop. When he says “I know that sounds feminist, but that’s real talk,” I don’t’ think he is demeaning feminism himself, but recognizing that to his audience, it may just sound like “feminist” rhetoric. KRS uses hip hop language like “real talk” to debunk those who would write his message off as “feminist” rhetoric, but, he certainly doesn’ deny it’s feminist. When she responds “But men can be feminists, too,” he embraces that and agrees, echoing, “no doubt. But they are scared. They’re cowards.” That is like a challenge to men in hip hop to reevaluate the way they view feminism. And it’s a much needed challenge from someone in his authority in Hip Hop culture, imo.

    One of the most important things about any subject having to do w/ KRS and hip hop is an understanding of what he is talking about when he says “hip hop.” To KRS that term is not synonymous w/ solely a music scene, and it’s not synonymous w/ black culture or black people. Hip hop is it’s own culture with emceeing, djing, break-dancing, beat-boxing, graffiti art, street language, street art, and street entrepreneurialism being some of the tenets of that culture which KRS and other internal hip hop “authorities” such as his peers in “The Temple of Hip Hop”, Afrika Bambaataa, and the Zulu Nation have identified.

    Robert, you seem to be an intellectual and have some real hi hop experience and valid thoughts on all this (I’m feelin your list of female MCs), but I don’t think you see KRS in the light that many within hip hop culture (and it’s various communities, not the music scene) do. I want to touch on some of the things you brought up.

    KRS is not responsible for the content of NWA. The fact that his “Criminal Minded” album contained stories in song form that included gun use and drug dealing did earn him the title of the “originator of gangsta rap” in some circles. However, neither on “Criminal Minded” or any of his subsequent 16 albums has he been limited to stories about gun use and drug dealing. One can’t “blame” KRS for NWA or gangsta rap in the same way that you can’t blame the original Paul Muni “Scarface” film for gangsta cinema or violence in the movies – it’s absurd.

    On the Sean Hannity show, I believe KRS was very clear about trying to make a distinction between two arguably different words — one ending in “er” and one ending in “a.” He told Hannity that generally speaking the black community identified the former as a “racial epithet” but that the latter was a different word w/in the hip hop community – which he was in the position of representing on Sean Hannity’s show. KRS made it clear that the word “nigga” as used in various contexts – including self-referentially – in hip hop is a common happening in hop hop b/c hip hoppas feel that “we are all niggaz.”

    The legacy of the origins of that arguably new word are definitely a hurtful subject, but whether we agree or not that it is a new word, KRS’ point was that it IS used as a new word, and that people like Hannity and his audience should understand why people w/in hip hop may use that word themselves, how it is differentiated from the histrorical “n-word,” and why it’s not seen as ok to use the “n-word.” It’s a fine line, but I’m glad that KRS at least as the will and eloquence to try and explain it.

    I think KRS would agree that “we got to remember our history” but I think he also manifests that “we got to understand our living present.”

  14. JimDC, KRS-One can be you all’s “teacha”, but he can’t tell me, my kids, or any of the kids that I work with a thing. If we really understood our living present as “Black people” we wouldn’t be still heading in that direction. To keep doing the same thing over and over again (hip-hop) and expecting a different result is insanity. Remembering our history, Richard Pryor in 1982, who made the n-word a household word in America (regardless how you want to spell it to white people) explained the n-word best – “That’s a devistating fucking word. That has nothing to do with us. We are from a place were they first started people, in Africa. Dr. Like, a “white anthropologist”, I have to say that so white people believe me, “white yes, that could be true”, he found the remains of a man that stood up and walked on this earth 5 million years ago, you know that mother fucker didn’t speak French. Black people, we are the first mother fuckers on the planet! And aside from of us being from the first people on the planet, so are the white people we so-call that. So, we all family, so fuck all that other shit, ’cause it don’t mean nothing except about some cash”. 1982 Black History – “That word has nothing to do with us”. All I say, man, is know your history and just try to understand who hip-hop can use (pay) to keep us hurting.

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  17. So why no women acts on the bill at Rock the Bells last summer. The total absence of a female hip hop act was very disappointing. Put your money where your mouth is Chris and book some female hip hop shows. There is plenty of talent out there for a Rock the B@((s Tour that can show the men how it is done.

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