Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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KRS-One and Marley Marl [extended]

  • In Control, Volume 1 [Cold Chillin', 1988] B+
  • In Control Volume II--For Your Steering Pleasure [Cold Chillin'/Warner Bros., 1991] Choice Cuts
  • Return of the Boom Bap [Jive, 1993] A-
  • KRS One [Jive, 1995] Dud
  • I Got Next [Jive, 1997] *
  • A Retrospective [Jive, 2000] A-
  • Life [Antagonist, 2006] A-
  • Hip-Hop Lives [Koch, 2007] Dud
  • Operation Take Back Hip-Hop [Traffic Entertainment/Good Hands, 2008] *
  • Survival Skills [Duck Down Music, 2009] *

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Marley Marl: In Control, Volume 1 [Cold Chillin', 1988]
Best sample: the horny blast that introduced Grandmaster Flash on "Freedom" and honors him on M.C. Shan's show rip of the same name. Lean JBeats, nasty scratches, and stolen dialogue keep the likes of Craig G. and Heavy D. moving--who knows, maybe someday they'll outdo themselves too. But like any ace producer, Marl is no better than his talent--certainly no better than Master Ace, who stands out from the crowd on the party-starting "Simon Says" (not a 1910 Fruitgum tribute) and speed-rapped "Keep Your Eye on the Prize" (and you were too cool for Channel 13). N.b.: Roxanne Shanté's "Wack Itt" is her fourth straight great one. Where the hell's her album? B+

Marley Marl: In Control Volume II--For Your Steering Pleasure [Cold Chillin'/Warner Bros., 1991]
L.L. Cool J: "I Be Gettin' Busy" Choice Cuts

KRS-One: Return of the Boom Bap [Jive, 1993]
His best, because the music has finally subsumed the lyrics--with outside guidance from Gang Starr's DJ Premier and others, the rapmaster's bassy beats and monophonic hooks have never sounded more catchy or more his own. Horn blats, "Three Blind Mice" guitar, siren imitation, human beat-box, whatever--all recur hypnotically and leave you hungry for more. Nor have the words fallen off. The history he teaches is mostly his own. And a couple of times he just kills the cops. A-

KRS-One: KRS One [Jive, 1995] Dud

KRS-One: I Got Next [Jive, 1997]
what he really got is beats, for once ("Heartbeat," "Step Into a World [Rapture's Delight]") *

KRS-One: A Retrospective [Jive, 2000]
Listening to this selection bound all over his vast corpus, you're struck by two things. First, even striding off a Blondie sample he wouldn't have stooped to in his proud twenties, he always sounds like himself. Second, he never sounds like anyone else of much moment--except Run-D.M.C., called out on the early "South Bronx." His musical forthrightness has no modern-day parallels--Gang Starr are scatmen by comparison, the N.O. Bouncers parademasters. How much impact the right voice and beat could make back in the day--and still can, especially boiled down to stark strokes that stick in the mind. To hear in one place "South Bronx," "The Bridge Is Over," "Criminal Minded," "Black Cop," the sociologically perfect and metaphysically weird "Love's Gonna Get'Cha," and the bullheaded history lesson "Why Is That?" is to learn that sometimes all a man needs to make great music is an idea he believes in. A-

KRS-One: Life [Antagonist, 2006]
Kris Parker has never been more didactic, and he's still working the same WTC-equals-WTO jive he was on in 2001. Motored by an exceptional collection of simple, clever hooks, however, his moralism packs considerably more wallop than the whining of white strivers and black artistes who think they're, you know, real hip-hop. Highlights include the cash-conscious "Mr. Percy," the sin-naming "F-cked Up," the enlightened "Woke Up," and, most intense, "Gimme Da Gun," in which Parker spits reasons not to do that crime as fast as he can, and his boy Raphi explains his side of the story. It ends with a shot. A-

Hip-Hop Lives [Koch, 2007] Dud

Craig G & Marley Marl: Operation Take Back Hip-Hop [Traffic Entertainment/Good Hands, 2008]
Undie old-schoolism as narrative, not just rhetoric ("The Day Music Died," "Don't Make Me Laugh"). *

KRS-One & Buckshot: Survival Skills [Duck Down Music, 2009]
Basically an old-school mixtape, wiser when it instructs the fathers than when it criticizes the sons ("Think of All the Things," "Runnin Away"). *