KRS-ONE – Spiritual Minded

Spiritual Minded

The state of hip-hop has been in flux the past several years. If one looks around the modern hip-hop scene, how many classic MC’s are still around? Although hip-hop giants like Public Enemy, L.L. Cool J, and Ice Cube are still making music, many would question the validity of their work. Public Enemy appear to have gone underground for the time being. L.L. and Ice Cube seem more concerned with their careers in Hollywood than their hip-hop status. Public taste has drifted away from socially conscious lyrics to a politically and spiritually deadened landscape of low riders and endo smoke. Granted, there are always some exceptions to the rule, KRS-ONE being the most notable.
Many would argue that KRS-ONE is one of the greatest lyricists and performers in the history of hip-hop. When the new school of hip-hop burst onto the scene in the late 80’s, they fought and scraped for every inch they got. Along with KRS-ONE, rappers like Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J and Rakim paid their dues and were legendary for their rap battles and feuds, many of which were against old schoolers. Many of these elder statesmen scoffed at these new kids on the block and questioned how they would dare step on the toes of those who came before them. KRS-ONE saw a need for social consciousness in hip-hop at a time when many were merely rapping about parties, and he challenged the notion of hip-hop only as entertainment. He saw something much deeper that many of his lyricist ancestors didn’t. He was among the first to take steps towards bringing hip-hop into a modern and politically charged era.
KRS-ONE’s career has consistently been a battle with the complacent not only in hip-hop, but in society in general. His early work with Boogie Down Productions reflects this on nearly every track, and one would be hard pressed to come up with more than a handful who were as influential in hip-hop as he was during that time in his career.
After breaking up Boogie Down Productions, he went on to continue his career with solo albums. His work in the mid to late 90’s was solid, but a bit scattered. He seemed a bit confused in terms of where to go next. While the records and rhymes were consistently top-notch, the overall themes that used to be so striking and apparent weren’t quite as visible.
After taking a hiatus for a couple of years, KRS burst back onto the scene last year with his stunning and inspirational Sneak Attack. That record was like a shot in the arm for those disappointed with the direction of hip-hop. KRS was on fire and brilliantly alive on that record, as if possessed. With such a strong comeback, many wondered if he would be able to maintain this resurgence of creativity. Although Spiritually Minded is not quite the bombshell that Sneak Attack was, it is consistently powerful, engaging and yet another full force record for KRS-ONE.
“Lord Live Within My Heart” is a tough, head-nodding track that gives one a pretty solid overview of most of the record. The lyrics are classic KRS battle-rhyme style, mixed with a bit of spirituality. “Take Your Tyme” is KRS’s tribute to women, stressing self reliance and morality. The track has a funky, yet melodic beat that sounds as if a solid R-n-B band played everything live. The track comes off fresh, and mixed with the wisdom of “The Teacher,” one can’t go wrong. “Never Gives Up” reminds one of the encouraging and inspirational tracks off of Sneak Attack. KRS delivers controversial and in-your-face lyrics over the top of throbbing bass lines and a foreign language chorus.
“Tears,” along with many of the other tracks on the album, has a strong soul/classic R-n-B feel combined over KRS’s traditional hip-hop beats. It seems that as he is going for a more spiritual feel on this record in particular, he wanted more of a soothing melodic sound to hit home between his top-notch hip-hop. “Come to the Temple” is another example of this style. It features guest vocals from Fat Joe and Smooth B among others and is a solid posse cut with a bit of R-n-B flavor over rough and ready hip-hop beats.
An interesting aspect of this record is the continual references to Christianity and Bible quotes. Granted, KRS-ONE has always been one of the most political, as well as spiritual, MC’s throughout his entire career. He has never been known to subscribe to a particular faith, at least this reviewer has not seen any mention of it in the past. Rather, he has traditionally come off as a universalist by having respect and praise for all faiths. Is it possible that after years of searching he has chosen his faith? If the lyrical content and Biblical references in the booklet are any indication, then he may very well have.
Spiritually Minded is an excellent record and an awesome display of the talent that KRS-ONE still has. While not quite as go for the throat as Sneak Attack, this record hits hard and is very relevant and topical, which is something of a rarity among modern mainstream hip-hop acts. KRS-ONE is still the at the top of the pile of the best and most diverse artists going in hip-hop. He was once quoted as saying something to the effect of “Hip-hop is like my dog. Where I go, it follows.” If his bold assessment is true, then hip-hop fans may see a rebirth of conscious rap to the forefront. This would be a dream come true for hip-hop fans looking for something more than albums about cars, chronic, and G-strings.