KRS-One, What's the Frequency?

The rapper they call "The Teacher" knows the medium is the message

NT: What's the difference between hip-hop as opposed to rap?
KRS-One: For me, hip-hop is the political weapon that black and Latino people have in this country. I say a weapon because hip-hop cuts through things like racism and sexism, to a certain extent. It is hip-hop that says God lives within. It is hip-hop that even says Jesus might be of African descent. It's hip-hop that gives power to women and to femininity. Look at our female rappers, and see where our women in the hip-hop environment have gone further in their own lives. You can't do that in the basic American society. Women and minorities are always kept down because of the mainstream white-male authority. This is the way the country is. But it is changing, and hip-hop is the catalyst for its change.

NT: Hip-hop itself has seen many changes. What are your views of the current trend of artists in character like Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim?

KRS-One: First of all, they are brilliant artists. They are great representations of rap music. As women, I think they are beautiful women and very intelligent women, at that. I know Kim and little Foxy. Me and Foxy did our albums at the same time in the same studio in New York. She's a very intelligent woman. She knows exactly what she is doing. I would say on the more intellectual level that we should look at Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown as a woman's liberation in this society. Listen to what they're saying. Never before in the history of America have women been given the power and authority to come out and say the things that Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown are saying. A bunch of other inner-city women are saying, "Word! That represents me! They represent what I am about."

But there is something to be said here about maturity. About how you are growing up. I think that all music or television and entertainment should be guided by the parent. Or at least the parent should tell the children what music they think is slamming. The child may say, "I don't agree, Mom. I'm with this Lil' Kim over here." But at least you're having a cultural conversation about why you are listening to Queen Latifah and why your children are listening to Lil' Kim. I think Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown's music are for children.

NT: What are you talking about!? Your lyrics to "Brown Skin Woman" are an excellent ode to the African-American woman. What would you say to young girls coming up who are in love with Foxy's and Lil' Kim's harsh and sexually vulgar lyrics?

KRS-One: You can't say anything to those young girls. It's actually wrong to insinuate that you can say anything to them. That you or they have a responsibility toward what we might call civilization is wrong. That is reserved for the higher-thinking people. That is reserved for the intellectually minded people. That is not reserved to those that only listen to Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown. Foxy Brown's lyrics cannot be the extent of your life. But to be fair, KRS-One's lyrics cannot be the extent of your life, either. You have to look at these songs and lyrics in context. The Foxy Browns do music strictly for the clubs, strictly for the moment. For everyone reading this, we all know that there is a time in your life when you're coming from the club, it's Friday night, you've got money in your pockets. If you're a guy, you've got a girl next to you in your car, you've got mad game and her game is happening, too. Y'all are out and you throw in Lil' Kim and you get it on and you have fun. It's for the moment. That is not a time to play KRS-One. That's not the time to play "Brown Skin Woman" ["You're a queen, not a hoe"]. No, you're gonna want to get it on. So you have to listen to these songs in the context of the situation.

But say if you're driving on the way to work, or you're coming home from work, well, now KRS-One is appropriate music. Because my music is designed not only to motivate you through your day, but to also calm you down from stress at the end of the day. This is what edutainment is all about. It's about showing you reality so you can see your situation a little clearer through the music that you listen to. I am not to be played all the time. You're supposed to have everybody's music in perspective. So I would say that Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim's music is good for a certain type of person and for a certain-aged person and at a certain time of day.

NT: Does it bother you that although you are highly respected within hip-hop culture, you still may never receive a Grammy?

KRS-One: Not really. It's so funny you ask that, because I had to take my wife, Simone, to the Grammy ceremony. Visualize the picture of the wife with her hair tied up with a frying pan in her hand and slippers, screaming, "I wanna go to the Grammys! And you better take me!" So I had to go to the Grammy ceremony. The Grammys are the Grammys, and it is so plastic in there. I've been only twice, and the first time I went, I didn't like it. This second time, I still didn't like it. But Simone wanted to go, so I went. To be honest with you, I don't do music for the Grammys. If someone were to offer me a Grammy, I'd take it, but I'd probably donate it to some cause. It doesn't impress me. But what does impress me is the respect you get from people once you have one. I think the Fugees got a real Grammy this year. They did their job, they sold the records and they tried to stay true to the culture, and they stayed together as a group. But for KRS-One, nah. I do music for you to come straight to the club and sweat. That's it! That's the extent of it. I am the MC.

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