Lawrence “Kris” Parker, better known as KRS-One, is one of the most groundbreaking emcees in Hip-Hop history. Known for his politically-charged raps, brash delivery, and ethos of promoting Afrocentrism and knowledge, KRS-One is one of the godfathers of political or conscious rap, but his influence doesn't stop there. KRS always incorporates patois and Jamaican toasting in his flow, connecting dancehall and Hip-Hop for anyone who may have forgotten how much the Caribbean helped forge this culture. And on Boogie Down Productions' classic debut Criminal Minded, his gritty street tales helped set the mold for what would later be called gangsta rap.
His name is an abbreviation for Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone, and "The Teacha" never falls short of delivering a thought-provoking message with his gift of lyrical storytelling. KRS has a long catalog of tracks from his days with Boogie Down Productions and his solo career. Here are KRS-One’s 25 Dopest Songs.
25. “Hip-Hop Vs. Rap”
On this track KRS maps out the differences between hip-hop and rap. “Rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live,” the emcee explains. Kris shouts out a dozen or so other classic rap tracks on the song, which was a freestyle originally released as the B-side of 1994s "Sound Of Da Police."
24. "Ah Yeah"
One of the most incendiary tracks in a catalog that's about as unapologetic as it gets, KRS delivers this firebomb on his classic sophomore solo album, calling out white supremacy and racism on one of his most bombastic anthems.
23. "A Friend"
KRS-One reflects on the qualities that people have to have in order for them to kick it with him. In true KRS fashion, the rapper has to drop some conscious bars about trustworthiness, hip-hop culture, and respect on the track about friendship and camaraderie.
22. "Free Mumia"
While the track is dedicated to Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political prisoner, little is mentioned about him. It can be said that KRS-One used Mumia as a comparison: Mumia was arrested and convicted for political reasons, just like Hip-Hop was under trail and used as a scapegoat for political gain.
21. "Duck Down"
One of KRS-One’s hardest tracks. Over a banging drum beat, KRS delivers another clear message to sucka emcees about who exactly holds the crown in Hip Hop. With a hard hitting breakbeat and horror movie type sample, this track is nothing short of a banger.
20. "Black Cop"
The version of “Black Cop” that appeared on Return of the Boom Bap was a remix produced by Kenny Parker and KRS-One. The original record, produced by Pal Joey, was scrapped. In fact, its first release on the CB4 soundtrack lists Pal Joey as the producer and its rerelease on the Return of the Boom Bap lists KRS-One, clearly revealing that a mix up had occurred.
KRS-One gives us a safe-sex anthem with “Jimmy.” At the height of the AIDs epidemic, Teacha reminds all the “super hoes” to wrap it up before laying it down in the bedroom. The song is informative yet playful, the hook later being interpolated for Diddy and Pharellls’ 2001 collaboration. “Diddy”.
The opening track to the classic Criminal Minded sets the tone for the rest of the album: hard, minimalistic beats and KRS’ intelligent lyricism. Revolutionary and hugely influential, Hip Hop in its purest form.
17. "Rappaz R N Danja"
This DJ Premier-produced banger is the perfect opener to KRS One’s underappreciated eponymous titled second solo album. KRS has a message for wack rappers – guess what: they are in danger.
16. “Mad Izm” (Channel Live)
KRS links up with New Jersey duo Channel Live on the track “Mad Izm”. The iconic track has a hypnotizing loop and drum beat as the emcees spit lyrics about smoking the finest tree. Before writing the introspective verses that will change the landscape of hip-hop, KRS one just needs a pull from a good ole Philly blunt, and he’s ready to create.
15. "Criminal Minded"
The title track to Boogie Down Production’s 1987 album is the perfect introduction to KRS-One’s conscious rap style. The rapper was unmatched in his era. KRS flows effortlessly on the hard hitting beat as Scott La- Rock chops and scratches throughout the track. The perfect introduction to one of the best emcee’s of all time.
14. "You Must Learn"
KRS-One addresses the American public school system and its obsession with teaching black kids nothing but ‘white history’. In this song the rapper takes it upon himself to teach his listeners the importance of African American history, name-dropping black history icons like Benjamin Banneker, Garrett Morgan, and Harriet Tubman. He makes it clear that young blacks should educate themselves on their history. They must learn!
13. "Why Is That?"
Much like Black Man In Effect from Edutainment, this song is signature KRS One. Thought-provoking, provocative, filled with knowledge and ultimately uplifting; this is one of the highlights of Boogie Down Productions’ Ghetto Music: The Blueprint.
12. “Stop the Violence”
The song that kicked off the rapper’s Stop the Violence campaign, promoting peace and harmony in the hip-hop community. The campaign was kicked off after a fan was shot and killed outside of a Boogie Down Productions and Public Enemy show. The track encourages listeners to change the narrative of hip-hop and street culture by putting an end to the violence, staying true to KRS-One’s ethos of positivity and black empowerment.
11. “9mm Goes Bang”
On this track, Blastmaster KRS tells us a story about his trusty 9mm pistol. Evidence of early KRS-One (before he fully adopted his "Teacha" persona), this Kris is not the one to fuck with. With some attempted robberies and beef over somebody’s girl KRS always keeps his gun on his side, always ready for the smoke. A prime example of how BDP helped lay the groundwork for gangsta rap, before the tragic murder of Scott La Rock set KRS on a more conscious path.
10. "Self Destruction" (Stop The Violence Movement)
“Self-Destruction” was released as a charity single for the National Urban Legue, a New York City civil rights organization that is dedicated to fighting racial discrimination. The song was made after several shootings in New York City’s Hip-Hop scene, including the one that killed his friend and Boogie Down Productions founder, Scott La Rock.
9. "Outta Here"
KRS-One calls out all sucka MCs on the predecessor to his 1995 track, “Rappaz R N Danja”. The track warns one-hit wonder rappers and wack rappers to keep their eye on the clock because the time will come when they will be “Outta Here”.
8. "Love’s Gonna Getcha (Material Love)"
The 8th track off of Edutainment released in 1990, this single was produced by Pal Joey, and features a music Video. Here KRS-One teaches us the dangers of materialism and falling in love with items and flashy things and value these items more than life itself.
7. "I’m Still #1"
One of the stand-out tracks from the overall excellent By All Means Necessary album. As early as 1988 KRS proclaims with confidence he is still the GOAT and will still be always be. Thirty years later, not many have came to prove him wrong.
6. "The Bridge is Over"
This single is one of the most iconic diss records of all time. A continuation of their song “South Bronx”, going even harder on the Juice Crew’s MC Shan, Marley Marl, Mr. Magic and Raxane Shante.
5. "Step Into A World (Rapture's Delight)"
This track is simply a banger! Taking a sample from Blondie’s, “Rapture”, on of the first songs that made hip-hop pop, was an anthem dedicated to the real emcees and hip-hop heads. KRS-One raps over one of the hardest beats in his career that is sure to get the club rockin.'
4. "MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know"
KRS- One and DJ Premier team up on the classic track “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know” to once again let listeners and rappers know who is at the top of the game. Not only is KRS the best battle rapper with the sharpest pen, he also rocks the crowd better than every emcee too. There’s no question that KRS-One is one of the most energetic rappers to blaze the stage. He is engaging and ruthless on the mic.
3. "Sound of da Police"
Unfortunately, this track is just as relevant today as it was the day of the release decades ago. In this song KRS One addresses police brutality toward the black community, linking the days of slavery to the way police acts in these modern times. Comparing overseers to police officers, everyone should be scared of the sounds of the police.
2. "South Bronx"
In response to MC Shan’s “The Bride”, KRS-One comes answers back with “South Bronx”, proving that hip-hop’s birthplace was still not to be fucked with! The iconic diss track is a staple of hip-hop history, officially firing back to Queensbridge rap group, The Juice Crew, kicking off the infamous Bridge Wars.
1. "My Philosophy"
KRS-One addresses the commercialization of hip-hop. He notices that the genre he grew up loving has become a marketing ploy and is losing the raw and genuine essence of hip-hop music. The song was ahead of its time, almost 30 years later the song is more relevant than ever.