Bronx hip hop legend turns 50

KRS At 50! A legendary hip hop artist whose name is practically synonymous with the Bronx recently celebrated his half century milestone.

On Thursday, August 20, hip hop legend KRS-One celebrated his 50th birthday, providing an opportunity for hip hop artists, activists and fans to look back at the long, illustrious and highly successful career of arguably the greatest hip hop artist to represent the Bronx.

Lawrence Parker, aka KRS, was born in Brooklyn in 1965 and left home as a teenager to pursue his dream as a hip hop artist.

To further his overall knowledge, he would read books about philosophy and religion when he wasn’t practicing his rhymes.

As a teen growing up during the crack epidemic of the 1980s, he lived in various group homes and homeless shelters in Brooklyn and the Bronx, where he was eventually dubbed ‘Krisna’ by other residents because of his interest in the Hare Krishna movement, a Gaudiya Vaishnava religious organization.

He would eventually change his name to KRS-One, an acronym standing for ‘Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone’, a name he would also use for street art.

One of the homeless shelters where KRS-One spent time included the Franklin Armony Shelter, where he met social worker Scott Sterling, also known as DJ Scott La Rock.

With Scott and DJ D-Nice, KRS-One formed the rap group Boogie Down Productions in 1987, and the trio soon released their debut album ‘Criminal Minded’ in the same year, containing vivid descriptions of street life in the south Bronx.

At around the same time, Boogie Down Productions became involved in ‘The Bridge Wars’ conflict, after Queensbridge artist MC Shan’s statements from his song ‘The Bridge’ were misunderstood, which made Boogie Down Productions believe that Shan and other Queens-based artists at the time thought that hip hop originated in Queens, not in the Bronx.

As a result, Boogie Down Productions fired back at Shan, his DJ, Marley Marl, Roxanne Shante and other Queens-based artists in the songs ‘The Bridge Is Over’ and ‘South Bronx’, among others, exposing the invalid facts that hip hop music began in Queens.

Just five months after Boogie Down Productions first release, DJ Scott La Rock was shot in the neck while trying to diffuse a situation with D-Nice at the Highbridge Homes.

After being critically wounded, Scott La Rock was taken to Lincoln Hospital, where he was pronounced dead within the hour at the age of 25.

In response to the incident, as well as violence in hip hop and African American communities, KRS-One started the Stop The Violence Movement to advance a vision of hip hop that would restore its original principles, where he reestablished close ties with artists and groups such as Public Enemy and the late Heavy D.

He, along with Boogie Down Productions, also geared their music more towards the genre of conscious hip hop as opposed to gangsta rap, which was the theme of their first release.

After five more releases, Boogie Down Productions disbanded, and KRS-One pursued a solo career.

Since his solo career began in 1993, ‘The Teacha’ and ‘The Blastmaster’ has released 13 studio albums, including ‘Return of the Boom Bap’ in 1993 and ‘I Got Next’ in 1997, making him one of the most influential artists in hip hop history and arguably the greatest hip hop artist to hail from the Bronx.

“His (KRS’s) story is a prime example that you can accomplish something if you follow your dreams,” said Ronald ‘Bee Stinger’ Savage, fan and member of the Zulu Nation. “He was a great lyricist – he definitely put the Bronx and hip hop on the map, especially in the battles against Queens and it’s unfortunate that he is not talked about as much in this day and age.”

“Obviously, we know that Hip Hop started with artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and DJ Kool Herc, but KRS-One took it to a whole ‘nother level.”

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.

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