As leader of the group Boogie Down Productions, KRS-ONE was one of the central figures in hip-hop's 1980s golden age. His stentorian voice and politically confrontational lyrics made him and his group something like the Scottie Pippen to Chuck D. and Public Enemy's Michael Jordan. Though earlier artists such as Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five ("The Message"), Kurtis Blow ("The Breaks"), and Run-DMC ("Hard Times") had explored social commentary, it was Boogie Down and Public Enemy that transformed the genre into a medium of big ideas, not just something that reflected the community and culture it sprang from but a form that could provoke and challenge as well. Along the way, Boogie Down released three classic albums: Criminal Minded, By All Means Necessary, and Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip-Hop.
KRS-One also pioneered the notion of hip-hop artist as activist when he responded to a death at one of his concerts with the Stop the Violence Movement and its "Self Destruction" single, which raised some $400,000 for the National Urban League.
A onetime homeless teen who became one of the central artists of his times -- not to mention a lecturer at Harvard and Yale and a presence in The New York Times op-ed section -- KRS-ONE's life story lives up to his boast that he is hip-hop. And while he's maintained an active career as a solo artist and hip-hop proselytizer in the decade-plus since the dissolution of Boogie Down, the hip-hop world hasn't always treated him with the respect due a legend. You can argue whether mainstream hip-hop has fallen short of KRS-ONE's ideals or whether it is he who has moved away by standing still. One thing's for sure: Pedantic doesn't sell like it did in '89.
The man who once named an album Edutainment will offer up both sides of his artistic personality in Memphis this weekend, when he makes what is apparently his first appearance in the city.
At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 2nd, KRS-ONE will give a free lecture at LeMoyne-Owen College, an event that will also feature performances from local MCs, DJs, break-dancers, and graffiti artists. That night, he'll perform at the Plush Club on Beale Street. The show begins at 10 p.m., with an opening set from local hip-hop collective The Iron Mic Coalition.
The Drive-By Truckers are one of my very favorite current bands, a rip-roaring Southern rock outfit that boasts three absolutely killer songwriters and one of the best live shows in the land. Over the past couple of years, I've seen them at Young Avenue Deli, the Hi-Tone Café, and Newby's, and the size of the crowd has disappointed me every time, especially since this band has some Memphis roots. (Co-founders Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley lived in Memphis in the early 1990s while in the band Adam's House Cat.) So, I'm a little surprised to see them playing the New Daisy Theatre, a club Hood once worked at, on their latest trip through town. I hope that signals an audience growth that this band deserves like few others. The Truckers play the Daisy Saturday, April 2nd, and be sure to head down early for the openers, The Heartless Bastards, an unpretentious but oddly inspirational three-piece rock band from Ohio whose Fat Possum debut, Stairs & Elevators, is one of my favorite records of the year so far.
Finally, it's not music but it is sound: Comedian and former The Man Show co-host Doug Stanhope is doing two nights at the Hi-Tone Café: Friday, April 1st, and Saturday, April 2nd. I caught one of Stanhope's sets the last time he came through town, at the now-defunct comedy club Stop 345. His confrontational, defiantly un-P.C. (and, yes, sometimes really funny) riffs on such taboo topics as abortion, the military, and religion found an agreeable audience but also drew the ire of a few in the crowd, sending one easily shocked young woman to the exits in tears. n --