Criminal Minded is the debut album from Bronx crew Boogie Down Productions (which at this point consisted of Krs-One, Deejay Scott La Rock, and tag-a-long homie D-Nice). As the story goes, shortly after the release of Criminal Minded Scott La Rock was gunned down while attempting to break up an argument/fight. While Scott was around to help with a portion of the production on BDP’s sophomore effort By All Means Necessary, Criminal Minded is the only BDP album that Scott LaRock was a part of from beginning to end.
On a lighter note, this is where the legacy of the legendary lyricist Kris Parker, better known to the world as Krs-One, begins. Many consider Krs-One to be one (if not the) of the greatest emcees ever to touch a mic. The Source also included Criminal Minded on there 2002 revised 5 mic list. Now, over 20 years from its original release does will it still measure up?
Poetry – Nice introduction for the Blastmaster. Simple but nice track with precise cuts from LaRock while Krs-One rocks the mic lovely. Great way to start the album.
South Bronx – D-Nice gets his first vocal appearance on wax, as he gets exactly 10 seconds of mic time in the form of a brief conversation with Scott at the beginning of the song. The Blastmaster shares the history of hip-hop (reinforcing its origins to the Bronx) while taking a few shots at his then rival MC Shan. Although Mr. Parker’s rhymes sound dated this still sounds okay.
9mm Goes Bang – Mr. Parker hits us with a reggae-flavored gangsta rap giving praise to the work his 9mm puts in on his enemies. This is a far cry from the conscious Krs-One most BDP fans are use to. This was…okay I guess.
Word From Our Sponsor – Krs-One’s sound pretty nice, but the best part of this song is the break La Rock scratches in on the hook. Pretty nice.
Elementary – Krs-One explains the acronym that makes up his name, while lyrically impressing again on this track. Ironically the beat matches the title of the song (that’s not a compliment), hindering the overall effectiveness of the song.
Dope Beat – Mr. Parker’s enthusiasm for Scott LaRock’s beat is similar to a kid unwrapping that new toy he wanted for Christmas, and for the third consecutive year proclaiming this the best “Christmas ever”. While I don’t know if I would call it a dope beat, the guitar sample on the hook does make it mildly interesting. Wait – did he just take a shot at Run? Hmm…
Remix For The P Is Free – I can’t help but think about Black Star’s “Definition”, which used the same beat many moons later. The beat still sounds nice as Krs-One seamlessly moves between his reggae chant and straight spit, while never disrupting his flow as he talks about the ladies, or as he calls them hoes. Again, it feels strange to here Mr. Parker use this term, but this is still a young Kris. That said this still bangs today.
The Bridge Is Over – Probably the most important dis record ever made (I said important not best, there is a difference). Krs-One goes after the legendary Juice Crew, and does a pretty good job rippin’ em. I’ve always loved the piano sample used on the track, although it sounds a bit empty today.
Super Hoe – I hate this song. From the terrible singing, to that annoying sample of the ringing phone used on the hook (answer the phone dammit!), to Krs-One bragging, about of all things…the skinz La Rock gets? Really? Dude, you’re gay.
Criminal Minded – BDP closes things out with the title song. The beat is simple but effective, and Kris sounds as good as he did on “Poetry” (although he did sound kind of awkward when he tells those who can’t rock the house to “not open their mouths”). This was a nice way to close the show.
Criminal Minded finds Kris Parker showing signs of the polished emcee he would become in the years to follow, but ultimately, the overall lackluster production makes this a hard listen (specifically the middle portion of the album). Lengend has it that Cedgee (of Ultramagnetic M.C.s) contributed to some of the production on Criminal Minded (in the liner notes they give a “special thank you to Cedgee”), but he is never officially given credit. Based on the overall quality of the beats, that might not be a bad thing.
Did The Source Get It Right? I respect Krs-One’s emcee ability like the next man, and you can’t deny he is one of the top 5 (arguably number 1) ever to do it. But Criminal Minded does not contain his best lyrical output, and when paired with the inconsistent production, Criminal Minded is definitely not worthy of 5 mics. Criminal Minded is a solid debut, with a few classic songs that serve as a starting point for a legendary emcee (and crew) that would go on to bless the world with a lot more quality music.