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KRS-ONE: The BDP Album (efemjay's album review)
Boom-Bap Bars, Beep-Blip Beats
KRS-ONE — The BDP Album
The BDP Album was released on January 10, 2012, to virtually zero fanfare. How is it that a man who is arguably the greatest emcee of all-time, and is certainly in any knowledgeable listener’s top five, could release an album of this magnitude — reviving the classic BDP brand for the first time since 1992 — and almost no one cared? The answer is the artist’s excessive prolificacy. KRS has been releasing albums at a blistering pace since 2006, and while they’ve been solid, most people got lost in the Blastmaster’s discographical maze long ago. Should hip-hop heads pay attention this time around? Absolutely. KRS’s efforts here are his most inspired since Hip-Hop Lives, his 2007 collaboration with Marly Marl. Unfortunately, his partner this time around is no Marly.
The BDP Album reunites KRS with his brother and longtime BDP affiliate, DJ Kenny Parker. Parker’s beats are sometimes ambitious, sometimes pretty good, and almost never offensive to the ear, but they are, frankly, amateur. And for an album that constantly boasts of being “real hip-hop,” Parker’s backdrops for his brother’s braggadocio sound curiously like the alternative. Cheesy synths; stiff, unimaginative, and oddly mixed drums; a minimal reliance on sampling; and even less scratching form the soundscape of The BDP Album, and it rarely, if ever, satisfies. The beats certainly never come within a hundred miles of KRS’s rhyming.
KRS says that he has known for quite some time that he is “the physical embodiment of hip-hop on earth.” That sounds outlandish, but can you really listen to him and say that he’s wrong? He may not have the technical rhyming skill of Eminem, the poeticism of an inspired Nas, or the mainstream appeal of Jay-Z, but no lyricist drops more jewels than Kris. This man left his home at the age of 13 “to become a philosopher,” and at 46 now, he packs more wisdom into a single verse than most rappers manage over the course of their entire careers. If KRS weren’t a seasoned veteran, but instead the fifth member of Black Hippy, I have little doubt that he’d be the talk of the underground rap community. I challenge anyone to honestly listen to KRS on this album — ignoring Kenny Parker’s beats — and tell me that Kendrick Lamar is a better rapper.
KRS has always been known for his political acumen, and he’s never been afraid to take a controversial stance. He went to war with X-Clan and the 5% Nation in the early 90’s, after all, largely due to the perception that their racial politics were in conflict with his humanist philosophy. In an era when hip-hop was characterized by its pro-blackness, the Teacha declared, “I’m not black, or red, or yellow, I’m brown,” so it’s not surprising that he hasn’t fallen in line just because we have an African-American president. KRS’s politics can’t be pigeonholed: there are elements of his outlook that are liberal, even quasi-socialist; but there are also strong tendencies toward libertarianism and even paleo-conservatism. I’d say the closest designation that makes sense is revolutionary anarchism mixed with a hint of classical liberalism. Not Che Guevera with bling on; more Ghandi with a business plan.
KRS knows the deal on geopolitics. On “The Solution,” he correctly identifies the problem: “The challenges we’re facing in the world is this/ the banks are telling governments to do that, and do this.” The solution? More freedom. “We need to do trade with Cuba/ open up the borders all the way to Aruba.” Is it a race thing? No: “It ain’t about stupid white men/ when blacks, Latinos, and Asians act just like them.” So let’s get down to brass tacks: What is all the election-season political windbaggery really about? Solving problems? Of course not. “The truth is that we’re in a debt we can never pay back/ so to balance the budget, we can never say that.” KRS is smarter and more honest than your congressman, but don’t ever suggest he should run for office: He’s not just above that, he’s beyond it. KRS doesn’t talk about reforming our corrupt political system, but revolution, and building a new nation from the ashes of our modern-day Babylon. Audacious? Sure. But would you expect anything less from a man who says, “You should never try to compare me/ unless it’s to that little kid being held by Holy Mother Mary”?
The BDP Album is supposed to be a return to KRS’s battle-rap roots, though, and the album opener, “Tote Gunz,” uses a Biggie vocal sample to remind us that Kris was the first rapper to appear holding a gun on his album cover. But even when KRS is battle-rapping, he can’t help but show that he’s smarter and better-informed than his peers. To a wack emcee invading his space, he says, “This club is like Iraq, you’re the U.S., you need to leave.” On “Introducing,” the album’s best cut, he says, “You rappers cappin' blanks/ that’s why you’re getting Chased like Manhattan Bank.” Battle raps abound on The BDP Album, but KRS always keeps it intelligent. “You never heard how long, I spit long?/ for every one of your verses, I got about six songs/ y'all wanna be on sitcoms/ you ain’t an emcee, you don’t spit, you’re just something to spit on.”
The record industry has changed, and KRS has changed with it. He’s found his niche. He doesn’t complain about illegal downloading — that would be too establishmentarian for this iconoclast. Instead, he boasts of how he made a million dollars last year, independently, by using modern technology instead of falling behind the times. Is the Web responsible for the music industry’s decline? Not according to Kris: “Your record company died, and that’s that/ studios collapsed, splat, and that’s that/ they blame it on the Internet like that’s a fact/ but really, too many of you groups were just wack.”
Speaking of latter-day wackness, KRS doesn’t have much love for this new crop of pop-rappers, and even less for their virtual DJs. “Time’s Up” is all about how pioneers like Kris gave hip-hop to the current generation, who have abused it, and now KRS and his ilk are aiming to take it back. Unfortunately, the production Kenny Parker gave Kris to rhyme over is far worse than the beats on most newrap, making this the worst cut on The BDP Album. This example is extreme, but time and time again, Parker’s beats make what could have been a great song merely good. Did Kenny raid Swizz Beats' collection of Casio keyboards before producing this LP? Why? On “Cipher Remix,” KRS brags, “We just walked in and did this,” and on far too much of the album, this is an apt description of the effort it sounds like was put into the beats.
The album closing “2012” is an in-depth look at the Mayan Prophecy, with a style that harkens back to Edutainment and the closing moments of I Got Next. This is really cool for one or two listens, but has extremely limited replay value. It, and the previously cited “Time’s Up” (definitely not to be confused with O.C.’s classic of the same name) are the only tracks that would keep The BDP Album from receiving 3.5 mics. “Introducing” is the one cut where things come together enough to warrant 4. The rest of the album ranges from a weak 3.5 to a strong 3.5, dependent entirely on Parker — KRS’s rhyming is always good enough that, if he had been matched by equivalent production, The BDP Album would be a near-classic, and one of 2012’s best. As it is, we’ll have to wait for Return of the Boom-Bip, the upcoming, album-length collaboration between Knowledge Reigns Supreme and DJ Premier, for Kris’s boom-bap bars to finally be matched by worthy beats. If that release can’t get heads' attention, then hip-hop truly is dead.
1. Kenny Parker Intro (–)
2. Tote Gunz (3.5/5)
3. Forever (3.5/5)
4. All Day (3.5/5)
5. The Solution (3.5/5)
6. Cypher Remix (3.5/5)
7. Introducing (4.0/5)
8. I Do This For You (3.5/5)
9. Comin' In (3.5/5)
10. Do It (3.5/5)
11. The Hustle (3.5/5)
12. Times Up (3.0/5)
13. 2012 (3.0/5)
14. What It Is/ Outro (–)
Great review! you got it spot on ! Props!
A little low of a score IMO, but an in-depth review. I was actually pleasantly surprised by this album, but some of your criticisms are certainly valid.
@iLL Will — RE: my score, it translates to roughly 3.5 mics. I’m rating individual songs on 1-5, but I figure the percentage by subtracting 1 from every score and dividing by 4. Why? Because 1/5 should be 0%, not 20%. Feel me? I also set up a system where I weigh the best songs more heavily than the worst songs. If there are 12 songs on an LP, then the best song gets counted 12 times, the next best song 11 times, etc., down to the worst song being counted only once. I do it this way because I feel one bad song shouldn’t kill an album; you can skip it. I use this entire methodology so that I can get some different scores, instead of having 100 albums with a generic “3.5 mic” score, and so that it isn’t an agonizing decision whether to give an album a 3 or 3.5; 3.5 or 4; 4 or 4.5, etc. Three-and-a-half mics based on a scale that starts at 1 and goes to 5 = 2.5/4 = 62.5%. So I’m giving this LP a rating slightly better than exactly 3.5 mics.
Sorry if this shit is too nerdy, LOL.
Weird….I added up everything and divided by 12 and got 3.75 which is 75%
Wait i fucked up lol..It came out to 69% tho
@Isaiah — See my post above explaining how I figure the total score. The one 4.0 is rated 12 times; the 3.5’s are rated 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and 3 times; the two 3.0’s are rated twice and once. That’s my recipe! Now I gotta go listen to that new track of yours.
Lol my bad i was typing my post before it refreshed and listen away my trapped in the 90s son!
^haha good math shit efem. But yeah I guess I was just lookin at the 60 somethin instead of really thinking about the individual ratings. I like your point about Kenny Parker’s beats though, I agree for the most part. KRS was up to his usual mastery but the album did feel a little… cobbled together.
Executed by Efemjay.
Bet you didn’t know I dedicated a thread named “Excelent Explanations Executed by Efemjay” after you based on your Killer Mike R.A.P. Music explanations. Unfortunately the thread, along with my suggestions on the lyrics page, got deleted.
I admit, I posted “Excelent Explanations Executed by Efemjay” in ALL the suggestions boxes when I was accepting your explanations, lol, so when I posted the thread with a link to the Killer Mike lyrics page, ScopeY & Dyaz reprimanded me by deleting ALL the suggestions…then proceeded to give the thread I created the same fate.
But after I accepted all your explanations one of them took the credit for publishing the song! Damn, it’s all good though…after all that…my SKORg (score) remained in tact. ;–)
Do you guys think it’d be better if I expressed my final score in a standard “mics” fashion? If so, here would be the scores of the albums I’ve reviewed:
Nas: Life is Good 4.22 mics
Large Professor: Professor @ Large 4.20 mics
DJ Premier — Bumpy Knuckles: The KoleXXXion 3.85 mics
KRS-ONE: The BDP Album 3.56 mics
Probably dude…or state ur scale at the beginning
^ The problem with rating albums that way, 1-5, imo, is that it gives everything a free mic, and then that creates less spacing between albums. The advantage is that people are more familiar with it. 63.9% looks bad. 3.56 mics looks good. But I like seeing the space between 63.9 (KRS) and 80.1 (Large Pro), rather than 3.56 vs. 4.2.
3.56 vs 4.2 seems like a pretty big gap to me lol…and no album unworthy of 1 mic should be reviewed in the first place