S. Bronx Crew Births Beef, Introduces 'The Teacha'
3:00PM ET March 10th, 2011
Contributor : Hip Hop Blog Staff
A Rocky Williform Company
Every week, HHB will spotlight a legendary hip hop artist and examine their legacy and body of work. Hip hop is 30+ years old, and HHB wants to make sure that everyone understands how rich and varied this musical genre is. From Grandmaster Flash to 50 Cent, there are an endless array of MCs, DJs and producers who have made this music what it is today. Let's clap for 'em...
One of the most intelligent, influential and important hip hop acts to emerge during the genre's Golden Age, the Bronx-based crew of Boogie Down Productions was both a seminal act in the development of hardcore, gritty street rap and also played a huge role in the emergence of conscious rap. That seemingly conflicted legacy gives the group an entirely unique place in the pantheon of hip hop greats. At its core, B.D.P. was a hip hop act committed to the righteous indignation of hip hop's second generation; a group of kids creating art in the era of Reaganomics and New York City's booming crack epidemic. Emcee KRS-One was confrontational and incendiary, and was also one of the first rappers to showcase the cultural and musical connections between hip hop and reggae; often incorporating raga, patois and toasting into his rhymes.
A young, homeless Kris Parker met Scott Sterling when Sterling was working at the Franklin Men's Shelter in 1986. The two struck up a friendship and Parker, a former graffiti artist and avid b-boy who called himself KRS-One, began writing rhymes. Sterling worked as a social worker but was already a local DJ. The two decided to form a group; Boogie Down Productions, which also, somewhat unofficially, included associates DJ McBoo and a young DJ D-Nice. The crew released the independent single "Crack Attack" to little fanfare, but around the same time, up-and-coming DJ/producer Marley Marl produced a single for his cousin, Queens emcee MC Shan. The single, "The Bridge," was misinterpreted by KRS-One and subsequently launched hip hop's first major feud. KRS believed Shan and Marley Marl were alleging that hip hop, which was born in the South Bronx, started in Queens. This incensed KRS-One and, adding to the animosity, DJ Mr. Magic, a popular radio DJ who was a mentor to Marley, dissed Boogie Down Productions' first single live on the air during his radio show.
Boogie Down Productions then released the Shan diss "The Bridge Is Over." The song launched KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions into the upper echelon of New York hip hop and ignited 'The Bridge Wars,' with B.D.P. and Marley Marl's Juice Crew trading insults on wax for the next couple of years. After the success of that single and it's followup, the anthemic "South Bronx," B.D.P. dropped their full-length debut album, Criminal Minded.
Criminal Minded, with its hardcore, minimalist production built on the edgy, aggressive sound that Run-D.M.C. had spearheaded, but KRS-One's raps focused on the gritty realities of street life in the South Bronx. Songs like "9mm Goes Bang," which recounted the murder of a drug dealing thug, and the crack-and-prostitution tale "P Is Still Free," were among the first hip hop songs to deal explicitly with crime, guns and drugs, and KRS and Scott's image on the album cover--holding automatic weapons and surrounded by ammunition--is now recognized as a watershed moment in the development of what would later be called gangsta rap.
Sadly, while trying to diffuse an ongoing disagreement between the teenage D-Nice and a local tough, DJ Scott La Rock was gunned down shortly after the group's star began to rise. Devastated by the loss of his partner, KRS-One's approach to music dramatically changed. He decided to carry on the BDP name and on the sophomore album By All Means Necessary, the rapper dubbed himself 'The Teacha' and adopted a more socially-aware persona. The raps still dealt with street life, but from a more topical perspective. Instead of just providing documentation of what was happening in America's inner cities, KRS-One began to offer commentary and insight on the ills devouring the Black community.
KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions' third album, Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop continued their string of critically-acclaimed LPs, though they were unable to attain the level of commercial success enjoyed by contemporaries like Public Enemy. Nonetheless, KRS had become one of hip hop's most respected voices, rivaled only by P.E.'s Chuck D, and he used his clout within the culture to organized the "Stop the Violence" movement; a campaign designed to curb Black-on-Black crime. He spearheaded the recording and release of the classic "Self-Destruction" single, enlisting some of the most revered names in East Coast hip hop to contribute verses to the track, which addressed crime and drug abuse. The song raised almost a million dollars for the National Urban League. KRS also became a contributor to the New York Times.
This would prove to be the pinnacle of Boogie Down Productions career as a collective, which by now included a revolving door of contributors; including KRS-One's wife Miss Melodie, her sister Harmony, DJ D-Nice and an assortment of others. Follow-up albums like 1990s Edutainment and 1992s Sex & Violence were less well-received than their earlier work, as hip hop was beginning to be dominated by West Coast gangsta rap by acts like N.W.A. and Ice Cube and, in the East, quirky, alternative rappers like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul were dominating the airwaves and the culture. Many critics began to blast KRS-One's lyrics as preachy, and there was division among KRS and other members of the B.D.P. collective. He also experienced a backlash from many of his fans after an incident in 1992 where KRS attacked Prince Be of the hippie-esque pop-rap group P.M. Dawn. KRS-One would later apologize for the incident.
After Sex & Violence, KRS-One officially 'retired' the Boogie Down Productions moniker and disbanded the collective. He would go on to release music under his own name and continued on as one of the 1990s most respected lyricists and a vocal advocate for hip hop culture and tradition. But his legacy with Boogie Down Productions remains intact, and the crew is forever embedded in hip hop's DNA, sitting on both sides of the hardcore and conscious coin.
Criminal Minded (1987)
"South Bronx," "9mm Goes Bang," "The Bridge Is Over"
By All Means Necessary (1988)
"I'm Still #1," "My Philosophy," "Stop the Violence"
Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop (1989)
"Why Is That?," "You Must Learn," "World Peace"