(For today's Reader Review, Dag Diligent takes the time to write about KRS-One's I Got Next. I used to own this album, but I sold it several years ago, presumably because I didn't care for it, but I can only speak for myself. For those of you two who have been wondering why there's only one KRS-One write-up on HHID (as of this writing), today is your lucky day. Be sure to leave your comments below.)
KRS-One is an emcee that should require no introduction, at least on a hip hop blog. But I'll provide a short one anyway.
As of 2009, KRS-One is 44 years old. He was introduced on the 1987 Boogie Down Productions album Criminal Minded. The same year also saw debuts from other heavyweights in the industry, such as Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim, Ice T, and N.W.A. Ten years later, while many of his peers from 1987 were struggling, had disbanded, or both, KRS experienced his greatest commercial success with his album I Got Next.
Many view I Got Next as the beginning of the end for Kris, because after this album, he wasn’t able to pull off another hit single, and he also was unable to engage the listener with anything as intense as his previous work. In fact, this is probably the last KRS-One album that you bumped for more than a few days. Although KRS is a founder of the gangsta rap movement, he has truly moved on by this point and spits a mostly conscious album.
To this day, Kris Parker's status as an emcee is legendary, but during his conversion from Blastmaster to Teacher, and again to Religious Leader, he seems to have lost some of his hunger. He has always applied MC wizardry over nice boom-bap beats, and although sometimes his rhymes border on the structurally simple, he usually brings the fire regardless. I Got Next is best when Kris is accompanied by Redman, who appears on two tracks: KRS lays down his trademark conscious rhymes while Reggie maintains the energy on the song, providing a chemistry between the two is near perfect and makes me hope for more collaborations in the future. KRS almost needs a hypeman to break up his long verses. Also, the album can be overly preachy, and completely loses its way for most of the second half, thanks to some substandard production from KRS himself, some poor musical choices, and some boring rhyming.
KRS has always produced most of his work, but for I Got Next, he also called on the talents of DJ Premier, Kid Capri, Diamond D, and Showbiz (who is featured prominently). He also called in some surprise help for this album, which I’ll get to later on.
1. 1ST QUARTER: THE COMMENTARY
This short skit introduces listeners to both the album and the entire concept of hip-hop. KRS clearly takes the title of Teacher quite seriously, but he, curiously, brings in a newscaster to start things off. Skip.
2. 2ND QUARTER: FREE THROWS
Continues with the basketball theme (in title only). It starts out with some energy at a live show, but descends into spoken word poetry. Typical KRS: Yes. Ill: No, but could have been better with an actual beat. Inspirational: No, but Kris tries. Skip: Definitely.
3. THE MC
Kicks off by continuing the energy of the live show from the previous track, and proceeds to kill everyone with a slamming old-school beat. I wouldn’t say that KRS tears the track up; instead, he dominates the beat and lays down a few amazing verses that teach us what emcees are supposed to be all about. Listen up young MCs (and, also, Young MC): if you are recording a hip hop album, this is the way to do a hook. Produced by Domingo (sounding a lot like DJ Premier here), who delivers a great track.
4. I GOT NEXT - NEVA HADDA GUN
This is exactly what you should expect from KRS. It’s actually two songs that fit so well together that Kris decided to just combine them. KRS both produces and holds it down for most of both songs, with a lot of nice change-ups, scratching, and simple but effective beats. On “I Got Next”, he comes out of the gate strong and absolutely kills it, but his flow on “Neva Hadda Gun” is a little boring, even though the lyrics are skillful. The hook is a scratched sample from the ultra-hard “Bring the Noise” by Public Enemy, but KRS kind of screws it up by rapping over it in a non-hard way (like a Teacher instead of a Blastmaster). But that is a minor complaint for a great pair of songs.
5. HEARTBEAT (FEAT REDMAN & ANGIE MARTINEZ)
Redman stops by to handle the hype-man duties for Kris and Angie Martinez, and also manages to drop a pretty good verse at the end of the song, but he sounds a little off of his game. Angie Martinez has a grating voice and unleashes a verse she recorded during amateur night. Kris definitely has the best verse, but Reggie puts up a good fight. The beat is hard, decidedly old school, and has a live show vibe, making this my favorite track on the album (despite Angie Martinez). Four good tracks in a row! Well done, Kris.
6. STEP INTO A WORLD (RAPTURE'S DELIGHT) (FEAT KEVA)
KRS-One’s biggest hit ever, and the second single off I Got Next. The hook is borrowed from the song “Rapture” by the pioneering new wave group Blondie. The beat dropped so hard that I wanted to kick out my windshield. Everything works, but the song feels a little long, probably because the rough beat is a little too relentless; some change ups would have been nice. However, the beat is slamming, the production is there, and the lyrics are on point. KRS is at 5 for 5.
7. A FRIEND
A lot of people list this song as one of Kris’ best, I disagree. In their defense, Kris does drop some respectable verses, but the hook is ridiculously soft for KRS as either the Blastmaster or the Teacher. He comes across like a lonely seventh grader talking about how nice it is to have a friend. Maybe if the hook was a little tougher, the song wouldn’t be so embarrassing. Or maybe Kris actually was lonely and wanted to have someone to be silly with (one of his actual lyrics). The Showbiz-produced beat is good, if a little tame, but it works with KRS-One's flow. Typically, I would tell you to skip this song, but Kris drops some solid lines, and so many people like this track that I’ll give it to the majority. Another winner.
8. H.I.P.H.O.P. (FEAT THOR-EL)
Everyone take your seats, it’s time for the teacher to go over spelling. Warren G (and K-Solo, plus every other rapper ever), please pay attention. It starts off with a decent beat, but this is really just a Thor-El song that features KRS-One (Kris was bringing Thor-El onto his label around this time). Unsurprisingly, Thor-El is dominated by Kris, who rhymes about boring live shows. Skip.
More teaching! Skip.
10. 3RD QUARTER: THE COMMENTARY
“…register with the Temple of Hip Hop by filling out the attached registration form and questionnaire located on the album's pull out panel.”
Three skits in a row. This one is here just to remind you of the song “Sound of Da Police”.
12. BLOWE (FEAT REDMAN)
Redman returns, but this time only as a hypeman. After a slow start with Kris acting like a television, Showbiz throws out a pretty weak beat, one which helps Kris wind down to get ready for bed. Redman delivers a solid hook and not much else. But the chemistry between the two remains.
13. REAL HIP-HOP, PT. II (FEAT LAMONT FIELDZ & THE MIC VANDALS)
Another boring beat mixed with a lame hook. KRS and the Mic Vandalz fail to deliver anything worth listening to. Skip.
14. COME TO DA PARTY (FEAT ANTHONY WILLIAMS)
Kris obviously wasn’t inspired by his own production as he spits a cookie-cutter verse over an empty beat with a lame R&B hook. Thankfully, the track is short. Kris has really lost it in this second half.
15. CAN'T STOP, WON'T STOP
DJ Muggs shows up for a little production work, and he must have heard the last six tracks because he definitely tries to make things better. He delivers a good beat for the first single off the album, and KRS spits a smart story-rap. Kris keeps the song moving with good energy and Teacher-level lyrics. Muggs kills it by adding sound effects to the story. Good job.
16. OVER YA HEAD
Commissioner Gordon and KRS really slow it down with a jazzy slow beat. The song stinks, and the rhymes are terrible. I think Kris was trying to push the envelope lyrically, but I’m too busy trying not to skip to the next track to actually check.
17. JUST TO PROVE A POINT (FEAT G. SIMMONE)
The point Kris proves with this song is that hip-hop and rock rarely sound good together. I have had this album for eleven years, and I have never listened to this song all the way through until today…and I regret it. The guitar is horrible, the chorus is terrible, and while KRS may actually have a voice for this type of music, he needs some better writing and production…and an audience that isn't me.
18. 4TH QUARTER: FREE THROWS
Preaching at a live show…at least there is a beat (barely).
The following is considered to be a bonus track on I Got Next.
19. STEP INTO A WORLD (RAPTURE'S DELIGHT) (REMIX) (FEAT PUFF DADDY)
Oh no! The Hitmen produce one of their typical slick beats and include Sean Combs, and it sounds exactly how you would expect. Actually, the beat is okay, but The Hitmen (who know who signs their paychecks) basically loop Puffy’s voice on any part of the song where Kris isn’t rapping, which is really irritating. KRS dominates with a verse not heard on the original version, but his work is utterly lost in this sugary mess. Sigh.
Also, some promotional copies of I Got Next allegedly list a song entitled “Stop Skeemin'”, which features Joe, but I haven't been able to find any proof of that whatsoever.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This album sounded old-school in 1997 (in a good way), and it has stood the test of time. I Got Next marks the complete transition of KRS-One from Blastmaster to Teacher. For this album at least, KRS-One continues to be a hip hop legend. The first half of the project is classic material, but the second half is full of boring songs, sub-par lyrics (for KRS, anyway), and some very questionable choices. Although it never reaches the heights or intensity of KRS-One’s previous work, the Teacher manages to deliver. Overall, I would have liked to see a little more of the Blastmaster persona, and Redman could have easily stepped in and added the energy that this album was lacking on the second half. But in the end, I Got Next is still a good album.
BUY OR BURN? Buy this one. The first half is KRS-One at his best, with five amazing tracks in a row featuring raw hip hop, ill lyrics, slamming beats, and Redman. What could be better? Just be prepared to skip most of the second half, and eject at the first sign of rock music or Puff Daddy.
BEST TRACKS: “The MC”; "I Got Next - Neva Hadda Gun"; "Heartbeat"; "Step into a World (Rapture's Delight)”; "Can't Stop, Won't Stop"
- Dag Diligent
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Do you agree with Dag Diligent, or do you think he's completely off base? Leave your thoughts below.)