After the tragic death of deejay Scott LaRock in 1987 (he was murdered just months after the release of Criminal Minded), Krs-One would come back and release his sophomore effort By By All Means Necessary in 1988. Many remember By All Means Necessaryfor the infamous cover art (which is a re-enactment of the famous Malcolm X gazing out the window with gun in hand pic), but more importantly it’s the album where Kris’s teacher persona would begin to bloom. Without his partner in crime (no pun intended) Kris would not only be responsible for microphone duties, but would also take care of all the production on By All Means Necessary (rumor has it that BDP begin working on By All Means Necessary before Scott’s death, so I’m not sure how much input Scott had on the production side of things). By By All Means Necessary was added to the Source’s 5 mic list and is considered by most heads, a classic. Let’s see if the teacher’s creation stands up over 20 years later.
My Philosophy – Kris’ flow has improved 100 fold since his rookie album Criminal Minded, and he does a nice job of balancing intellect and bustin’ emcees asses on this opening track. You’ll probably recognize a few sound bites borrowed from Kris and used on other artists songs (Black Moon’s “How Many Emcees” immediately comes to mind, but I know there are several others). Kris also did a pretty good job on the production side. Nice way to start the evening, Kris.
Ya Slippin’ – What in the hell is the mumble mouth mush Kris’ boy is talking about at the song’s intro? Although, the comment about dude’s yellow coat was kind of funny. Kris is in full battle mode as he rips shit over the rough guitar licks laid over the simple drum beat. This was nice, so far so good.
Stop The Violence – Over this reggae influenced track, Kris encourages us all to stop the violence in hip-hop, and mostly manages to stay on topic (aside from the first verse, which he spends most his time advocating rewriting the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and consumed with where President Regan spends his vacation time, only loosely relating the verse to violence: and the violence he does refer to, really has nothing to do with hip-hop). Even though the first verse veers off course, it still manages to sound pretty good. Kind of funny to hear Kris shout out his – at the time wife – Ms. Melody during his song ending freestyle (*shiver*). I can’t help but wonder what forged that union… or maybe even more interesting, what caused their marriage to fold. If anybody knows, feel free to share in the comments. Back to the song, it was a decent listen.
Illegal Business – Kris goes into full-fledge teacher mode and brings up the controversial issue of the drug trade, and the government’s involvement in the whole ordeal. Kris’ track matches his subject manner perfectly: and even if you don’t believe that there are crooked cops cashing in on the drug trade, or that the government polices drug distribution, it’s definitely food for thought. This is a really good song.
Nervous – Kris spends over 4 minutes shouting out his peeps and talk random gibberish (and in case you can’t or don’t read the liner notes, he reinforces who is exactly responsible for, writing, producing, and directing By All Means Necessary. The track is all over the place, which grows annoying after a while: but this is the middle of the album, so if you view it as an intermission for the maestro, it doesn’t sound as bad, I guess.
I’m Still #1 – And now back to our normally scheduled program. Kris completely rips his two verses to shreds over this minimal track (I’ve always loved the horns that begin each verse and lead into the hook). It was interesting to hear Kris claim there was no old school yet, since at the time hip-hop wasn’t even 20 years old, and only after it was 50 years old could we start labeling artist old-school. Since Kris probably has his AARP card now, I’d say it’s safe to call him an old school artist. This was by far the best track on By All Means Necessary up to this point.
Part Time Suckers – This was kind of weird, especially the parts where he acts as a human dictionary. The combination of a bland beat and random lyrics, make for a pretty weak song.
Jimmy – This is nothing more than a public service announcement, to wear your jimmy hats..put a sock on your pickle…I guess I have to spell it out for you people: PUT A CONDOM ON YOUR DICK! THERE ARE DISEASES WAITING TO KILL YOU PEOPLE! With the subject manner and DJ Red Alert’s ad-libs throughout the song, make this sound too similar to the Jungle Brothers’ “Jimbrowski”. At least he shots the JB’s out for the terminology.
T’cha – T’cha – Kris encourages the listener to come to the “t’cha”, which is probably not a good idea if you’re looking for spelling lessons, being he doesn’t seem to know how to spell his own occupation correctly. Ebonics aside, Kris’ beat (which managed to teeter between really generic and rough and raw) mostly works, and his vocal work compliment the track nicely.
Necessary – This is pretty much a spoken word outro to end the night’s proceedings (a portion of it can also be found inside the liner notes with some pretty glaring typos, which I only discovered after reading along while listening during this write-up. I also discovered Ms Melody was the wardrobe consultant for the artwork, which kind of explains the leather coats and matching leather pants on the back panel of the insert). I guess this was an okay ending. Although, it might have worked better without the annoying background noise (seriously, you can’t call that crap a beat), which only draws your attention away from Kris’ fairly interesting lyrics.
By All Means Necessary finds a young KRS-One making a strong impression as he finds his artistic footing and improves on his output from his debut Criminal Minded. Not only is Kris’ lyrical output more polished on By By All Means Necessary but the production is also brought up a notch higher than it’s predecessor. Kris’s teacher persona comes in to full bloom on By By All Means Necessary, and finds Kris balancing lessons, battle raps, and humor.
Did The Source Get It Right? I’ve always been a firm believer in less is more (especially when talking about hip-hop albums), which By All Means Necessary benefits from greatly. There are a handful of bona fide classics here (“My Philosophy”, “Ya Slippin”, “Illegal Business”, and “Still #1”), and a few solid songs (“Stop The Violence” and “T’cha – T’cha”) to okay songs (“Jimmy” and “Necessary”). The inclusion of “Part Time Sucker” and “Nervous” (which is only passable if viewed in the context which I discussed up top) take By All Means Necessary from a 5 mic to a 4.5.