As far as publicity stunts go, KRS-One and Marley Marl’s new Hip-Hop Lives is kinda lame and obvious. The album’s title is clearly a reference to the Nas album, which was released about six months ago and sparked a lot of silly debate about the state of hip-hop.
At the time, I remember KRS-One gave an interview to one of these hip-hop sites and got to explaining how hip-hop isn’t dead because… you know, the same ol’ bullshit he’s talking about: Hip-Hop is like KRS-One’s dog that follows him around wherever he goes. Hence hip-hop can’t be dead, unless KRS-One accidentally wanders into a gas chamber or some such.
To capitalize on what must have been the greatest media interest in KRS-One since the time he claimed 9/11 was justified because he used to live in the World Trade Center but got kicked out (rent must have been a bitch), Kris went into the studio with his old ’80s-era nemesis Marley Marl to record the Hip-Hop Lives album.
If you’re not familiar with Kris’ legendary beef with Marley Marl and the Juice Crew, I’m sure it has its own Wikipedia entry at this point. Basically, Kris wanted to get down with the Juice Crew, but Marley Marl wasn’t having it because he felt BDP sucked balls (Roxanne Shante, on the other hand = nails – or was it her head game?). Which lead to a series of classic dis records including the likes of MC Shan’s “The Bridge,” and BDP’s “South Bronx” and “The Bridge Is Over.”
[Interestingly enough, according to a story in the New York Times, hip-hop began in the west Bronx rather than the South Bronx. Having never been to that part of New York at all, as far as I know, I wouldn't know the difference one way or the other, but I wonder what KRS-One has to say about this.]
But I think the battle was always viewed more so as a KRS-One-MC Shan thing, and the two of them already got together to do a motherfucking Sprite commercial like 10 or 12 years ago. I’m not sure what Marley Marl was up to at the time, but according to an story in the only issue of Scratch I ever read, he’s had his share of issues with The Pipe. If I’m not mistaken, Hip-Hop Lives is the first rap album he’s produced in its entirety since the early ’90s, which certainly seems like a waste.
Anyhoo, I gave Hip-Hop Lives a listen this morning, and it wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. KRS-One is definitely still on his uber didactic “I Am Hip-Hop” pseudo philosophy bullshit, but at least this time it’s kinda pertinent to the album’s thesis. Marley Marl’s beats are aren’t on the same level as his best shit from the late ’80s and the early ’90s, but it does have a certain “dirty” sound, which you just don’t as often these days. At 14 tracks with lots of skits and bantering between tracks about the good ol’ days, it’s kinda skimpy for a rap album, but I can kinda appreciate that, too.