Thoroughly entertaining to see hip hop legend KRS-One expound on how he admires Kanye West, but really feels 50 Cent a whole lot more, in this AllHipHop interview from the VH1 Hip Hop Honors show back in October. This is one of the people most fully immersed in hip hop culture, but this really shows how conservative this great innovator has become.
True to form, and invoking his by now classic terminological distinction (“rap is something you do, hip hop is something you live”), he emphasises the importance of originality, but in the same breath stresses the importance of keeping your eye at street level, if what you want to do is hip hop and not just rap. And his example of someone who’s doing this? 50 Cent! One of the worst no-talent hacks to reach the top of the pile in years. An emcee who’s just as much about business as Kanye and the ‘ringtone rappers’ KRS here warmly gives their due as money-makers but dissociates from hip hop. Talking about the ‘competition’ between 50 and Kanye, KRS laments how sales, once again, are used as a measure of success, but, uh Kris, do you remember who started that nonsense, said he would stop recording albums if he ‘lost’, and kept it going right up till the very end?
Now, as mentioned, this is somebody who knows what he’s talking about, so I was wondering what he sees in 50, and how he’d characterise the growth he sees him experiencing currently. To me Curtis sounds like a tired retread of his previous two albums, bringing absolutely nothing new to the table and with even Dre’s beats sounding phoned-in. Unfortunately, KRS’ explanatory editorial at AllHipHop provides no further insights. He likes his hip hop boom-bap and that’s pretty much that. I guess it should have been pretty obvious to me from listening to his last 6 or so albums, which are pretty much just that — uncompromising hardcore hip hop, with one track pretty much indistinguishable from the other, and all of it totally forgettable. But at least it’s uncompromising, with none of the teeny-bopper speculation so characteristic of 50’s last two albums.
Still, gotta love Kris. “First of all, when you say Hip-Hop, understand who you’re talking to!”