KRS-One Live @ Leeds University Stylus, 5/10/10

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“Real Hip-Hop”: Those words seem to get thrown about all over the place these days by artists trying to justify their commitment to the movement. But before KRS-One — an influential emcee/producer/writer/speaker who has been doing his thing for twenty-five years plus now — even took to the stage in Leeds, various elements of the artistic culture were already in full effect out of respect for the man.

For an hour or so beforehand, MC Supernatural blessed the audience with a number of off-the-top-of-the-dome freestyles assisted by various objects held up in front of him. The Call-Out Crew (a local group of b-boys) then took to the floor to showcase their impressive breakdancing skills; and there was a real sense of community as whites, blacks, Asians, and men and women of all ages huddled together in the crowd to share the experience. This was quite simply a gathering of people who loved for Hip-Hop culture.

KRS arrived on the scene at approximately 9:30 PM and immediately began rocking a freestyle to a beat by his DJ (Kenny Parker) in the opening segment. For two of the bars, he singled me out of the crowd, told me to hold up the camera and gave a big “FUCK YOU” to MTV right into my lens. He proceeded then to question the whole crowd if they knew the whereabouts of real Hip-Hop; a majority responded by shouting the words “OVER HERE! OVERE HERE!” at the top of their lungs.

The stage was clearly set for the South-Bronx Emcee to justify his “#1” title in the game and prove how good a “real Hip-Hop show” can be. As well as performing solo classics such as ‘Sound of Da Police’, ‘Step Into The World’ and ‘MCs Act Like They Don’t Know’, KRS gave live renditions of BDP songs like ‘Criminal Minded’ ‘Poetry’ and ‘9mm Goes Bang’ (and he seemed almost surprised when even the younger audience members rapped along to every lyric).

Obviously passionate about his music, he then told his DJ to cut in-between a song because he didn’t think the venue’s sound system was on a par with him. “For this to work, everybody in the room needs to be into the culture,” he said with his eyes directly on the soundmen. The crowd was kept entertained by KRS then dropping various freestyle bars to test if the mic was up to the desired standard.

KRS’s unpredictability only contributed to his stage presence, which made it very difficult for us, as a crowd, to take our eyes off him. A gig, it seemed, was not just an opportunity for an artist to perform album songs live at that moment and get paid for it; rather, it was an opportunity to demonstrate that Hip-Hop culture is all about bringing everyone together and unifying the people.

Inviting local b-boys and emcees to showcase their talents on stage towards the end of the show, KRS proceeded to tag various t-shirts with his signature. He slapped hands and mingled with fans and genuinely seemed to be having a lot of fun. Likewise, for everyone else involved.

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