"I'm trying not to escape," says twenty-two-year-old rapper KRS-ONE on the album, "but hit the problem head on/By bringing out the truth in a song." Over irresistible beats provided by his BDP cohorts, KRS delivers the word on the drug trade, AIDS and violence three forces that threaten to destroy minority communities.
Of course, in more typical rap fashion, he also takes every opportunity to insult rival MCs and declare, as he modestly puts it in the title of one track, "I'm Still #1." But the metaphor of the teacher or philosopher the man with a message runs throughout By All Means Necessary, and KRS takes his role as an educator dead seriously.
Born Kris Parker, KRS-ONE (a graffiti tag that's an acronym for "knowledge reigns supreme over nearly everyone") moved onto the hip-hop scene when, after spending time in jail, he entered a homeless shelter and met a counselor named Scott Sterling, who would become DJ Scott La Rock. The two men teamed up and put out singles on independent labels before creating a big stir with the album Criminal Minded, which they recorded in 1986.
In what could well have proved a fatal blow to BDP, Scott La Rock was shot to death in the Bronx last year. Instead of packing it in, however, BDP pressed on, and Scott La Rock stands as a guiding, inspirational figure on By All Means Necessary.
KRS decries brutality on the hip-hop scene in "Stop the Violence" and "Necessary." Both songs, however, also attack governmental indifference, minority self-hatred and the economic oppression of the black community thus placing the violence in a larger social context.
On "Necessary," the album's last track, KRS recites an ardent defense of hip-hop culture over an eerie, atmospheric background. "We strive to be the best we can be/Not to just get over," he says of the standards BDP promulgates, and he describes "controlling a positive destiny" as life's most basic necessity. The vision KRS articulates on By All Means Necessary can help put both those goals within the reach of his listeners.
(Posted: Oct 6, 1988)
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