September 2, 2010

My Gut Reaction: KRS-One & True Master - Meta-Historical (August 31, 2010)

Back when KRS-One released Survival Skills, his joint album with the Boot Camp Clik's Buckshot, I received many requests to draft an opinion.  While I try to honor all requests (eventually), this was one that was especially hard for me to concentrate on, and after my fifth false start, I finally figured out why: I don't really give a fuck about KRS-One.

Yeah, I know what I just said.

That's not to say that I hate the guy or anything.  I respect his very generous contributions to our chosen genre.  I appreciate the fact that he is still working to educate the youth on what the music should be about, as opposed to succumbing to what is currently popular on the radio.  And I like the fact that he is more than willing to attack any artist who he believes might be detrimental to the art form.  But after the early Boogie Down Productions albums and his first few solo efforts, I stopped listening to him, and I'm willing to bet that most of you two have done the exact same shit.  To me, he's gotten to the point where every single song seems to blend in with the rest of his entire catalog, and that lack of differentiation lends itself to my eyes glazing over and my mind wandering whenever he starts to spit into a microphone.

Naturally, the best way to get someone like me to pay any attention to KRS-One again is for him to pair up with someone who is marginally related to a beloved rap crew that someone like myself keeps proclaiming his love for.

Enter True Master, one of the members of the Wu-Tang Clan's stable of producers who like to call themselves the Wu-Elements in order to score free skillet queso at Chili's.  Through sheer luck or the mystical power of a lottery-type system, he hooked up with Kris Parker and recorded Meta-Historical, a twenty-track opus intended to, I don't know, teach the kids about what hip hop is supposed to sound like or some shit.  It was released this past Tuesday by Fat Beats Records, which is also the home of Black Milk, who might have been a more obvious choice for a collaboration of this magnitude.  I have no idea exactly how True Master's name ever even came up in conversation in the first place (I'm pretty sure 4th Disciple is a bit more prolific), but it did, and Meta-Historical exists, so here we are.

And yet, thanks to Kanye West, Justin Bieber, and Raekwon, Meta-Historical will forever be known in the annals of meta-history as the second weirdest Wu-Tang Clan collaboration of this week.


Can we shut up and get to the fucking music already? Thanks so much.

Meta-Historical kicks off with a dark-sounding True Master beat that rides the fine line between menacing slow-roll and annoying as shit. I don't agree with The Teacher's assertion that he is a “plain” rapper: his lack of gimmicks has always been his gimmick. Well, that, the Teacher thing, and his tendency to slip into a Jamaican accent at the drop of a dime, I guess. He uses the word “studio” twice within the same bar, which makes me worry: was Meta-Historical recorded within the span of a twenty-four hour period, quality control and proofreading be damned? Fuck, I hope not.


This should have really been the first song on Meta-Historical: True Master's simple looped instrumental sounds like the perfect backing for KRS to reintroduce himself with. And he sounds reinvigorated, sticking with his Teacher philosophy without the self-absorption that has plagued him for nearly his entire career. Guest star Dr. Oyibo is limited to the breaks between verses that are typically reserved for the hook, but as he doesn't sing, this track manages to leave much more of an impression.

5. GIMME DA 90'S
And then we're presented with this shit. Although the title of this song is a refrain that most of the HHID readers would (correctly) assume that I think every time I hear something on the radio today, the only thing remotely 1990s about this track is the Blastmaster constantly referencing that particular decade, even devoting his entire second verse to simply repeating lines from other, better songs. True Master's beat doesn't travel in the direction you expect it to, especially with that title, and it will probably strain your synapses and cause you to question his earlier work. It reminded me of Killah Priest's “The Professional”, except really fucking awful. Moving on...

Already I'm thinking that there are too many skits on Meta-Historical.

True's instrumental is a simple creation, but it creeps up on you: its repetitive nature is beneficial for its lifespan. Kris isn't necessarily the best fit for the beat (as it would work better for a Wu-Tang Clan member's solo album cut), but he sounds alright with his mic dominance and strict refusal to perform alongside the music. To his credit, True Master doesn't allow too many flourishes (including his own performed hook, which isn't particularly sticky) to get in the Blastmaster's way.


The title screams “Wu-Tang”, but KRS spins the beat into another realm entirely, dropping jewels of wisdom for his followers to scoop up and lock away in their vaults, like the greedy bastards they really are. I'm liking the calm and collected flow that Kris has cultivated since the last time I paid him any mind, and he matches up well with True Master's poignant (and still banging) instrumental. I love it when a plan comes together. The singing on the chorus was unnecessary, but it's probably too late to ask these guys to re-record the song.

I could have done without KRS-One's strange interpretation of Monica's 1995 song “Don't Take It Personal (Just One Of Dem Days)”, especially since that's the first thing you hear when the track begins, but f you manage to look past that misstep, listeners are rewarded with two alright verses from our host, over a simple guitar loop from True Master, who finally sounds comfortable to be working with a guy that most hip hop heads consider to be one of the finest rappers in history. This was delightful.


Kind of a sequel to “Gimme Da 90's”, at least in its execution: True Master's unorthodox instrumental fails (yet again) to capture the feel of the time period evoked in the song's title, and KRS dissects his memories of the era, as he is one of the few rappers still successfully (relatively speaking) working today that was actually around at the time. I kind of hated this song: the beat is so off-kilter that it doesn't even matter that KRS is off beat, and the singing on here is flat-out terrible.


Here is the collaboration that I'm sure most hip hop heads were hoping for when Meta-Historical was announced in the first place. True Master lends Kris a beat that Prince Rakeem also sounds at home in, which makes sense, as this could easily be a RZA track featuring the Blastmaster. As long as you're okay with the serious RZA persona (as opposed to his loose cannon Bobby Digital alter-ego), the only way you will think this song could have been better is if GZA/Genius had found the studio that morning. This was nice, son.


With his multiple references to the Wu all over this project, I'm left wondering why KRS-One decided to settle for True Master instead of holding out for Prince Rakeem to record this album with him. (I'm sure The RZA could have found a little bit of time between business endeavors and honey-dipped blunts.) This song is neither meta nor historical: Kris pushes his “you better open your eyes” agenda over a lackluster beat that, nevertheless, contains some pretty hard drums that deserved better.


Here is the collaboration that I'm sure most hip hop heads were not even drunk or high enough to hallucinate when Meta-Historical was announced in the first place. Was U-God out of the country? For his part, Cappadonna sounds better on here than he has in the past fucking decade, but that isn't saying much, especially when you take True Master's grating beat into account. KRS-One is the only participant to emerge from this hip hop nightmare with all of his bearings.

19. HE'S US
True Master (and his GZA-esque flow) joins KRS behind the microphone to spout the type of hyper-religious psychobabble that has turned most of the Wu's fans against them. This was more than a little heavy-handed, but the music sounded alright, and True sounded just as good as the Blastmaster, making me wonder why he didn't lobby for more appearances on Meta-Historical. This was okay, but it should have been more engaging.

Hey, look, there's the exit sign. Well, this was fun.

THE LAST WORD: I walked into KRS-One and True Master's Meta-Historical with the absolute lowest of expectations (it helps that I haven't really paid attention to any of the Blastmaster's recent output), and I was still underwhelmed. However, while Kris is still coasting off of the same Teacher persona that has dominated his rhymes ever since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, he isn't really the problem (although he isn't the solution, either): True Master's instrumental backing sounds rushed, failing to connect with any of the rappers involved (except for The RZA, I suppose), including himself (on “He's Us”). True is capable of some heat rocks behind the board, but he wasn't the best choice of collaborator for a project of this sort: he's still a bit too green when it comes to working outside of his immediate camp. Out of twenty tracks, there are nine fucking skits, which is nine too many, and out of the eleven actual songs, only one or two are actually worth listening to more than once, so while Meta-Historical isn't a complete waste of space, I can't imagine KRS-One proudly displaying this album on his resume. Older hip hop heads will be rightly disappointed, younger hip hop fans won't give much of a fuck, and Wu stans will wonder what the big deal is.


Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded
Reader Review: KRS-One – I Got Next


  1. Survival Skills was much better. I'm assuming Hip Hop Lives will join Hip Hop Is Dead as something you will purposely ignore for eternity, although I don't mind; both of those albums are meh.

  2. Lol, about time before Kris' most loyal fans turn on him. He releases the same shit one million times every damn year and nobody buys it.

    Come on Kris, you know better than that. Might as well just give up releasing albums cause neither you nor your fans get anything out of them.

  3. I'd like his stuff a lot more if he'd broaden his lyrical horizons and talk about himself a lot less. The guy is still a better MC than just about anyone out there but he has nothing new to say. He's pretty much the only guy who thinks of him as a teacher. He needs to drop that shtick and give us something new before anyone is really going to care again.

  4. SKITS!!!! Let's see how well those move on iTunes you old codger. Real mouthin'-off from a young cat.....

  5. Good grief, I thought I was the only person thinking this...

    As someone who has listened to KRS for nearly 25 years now I've finally come to the opinion that (say this quietly, children) "he just isn't as good as he used to be".

    Every now and then he can make a song that makes me smile, but the flow does sound very tired. And I've seen too many of his mood changes to think of him as a respected elder statesman. Mind you, who would want to be an elder statesman anyway?

    What made it worse was I was listening to a Spectac track which featured Big Daddy Kane and I thought to myself, "damn - he still sounds new." Now maybe that's because he doesn't do as much, but still...

    One example. How better would that buckshot and krs album have sounded if krs wasn't on it?

    I know he's highly respected and I still respect him myself, but maybe he needs to take a break.

    Or read this blog, get really angry and get some of his bite back.

  6. "However, while Kris is still coasting off of the same Teacher persona that has dominated his rhymes ever since dinosaurs roamed the Earth"

    Haha funny. Also true.

  7. I was only looking forward to this for the production (True Master is my favorite Wu-producer who isn't named RZA), but as much as I love the guy's beats, I wasn't feeling this album.

    I can't say much about KRS since I've yet to listen to any of his albums, but I'd figure I'd get to that in about a year or ten.

    And I know I'm late, but anybody know how that True Master/sexual assault charge turned out? I just randomly looked up his production credits on Wikipedia the other day and was presented a link that told me he got arrested for escaping court back in September.

    ...The heck happened there?

    1. All I've heard is pretty much what you just said.