Part deux of the September, 28 1993 releases.
We last heard from KRS-One (not withstanding his cameo appearances on other artists’ albums) on BDP’s 1992 release, Sex And Violence, which would be the final album released by Boogie Down Productions. As I mentioned in my post for Sex And Violence, Kris had pretty much cut out the bulk of the members in BDP before the album was released, so it was only a matter of time before he would go solo. And he would do just that in 1993 with his first solo effort, Return of the Boom Bap.
For ROTBB, Kris would recruit the legendary DJ Premier and Kid Capri to produce the bulk of the album, and he and a few others would handle the remaining balance of songs. ROTBB wasn’t a commercial success, but it was a critical darling, which should come as no surprise, considering how respected of an emcee that KRS-One is.
KRS-ONE Attacks – ROTBB opens with a Premo instrumental built around a dope piano loop, with KRS-One soundbites placed over it. Nice way to start to the evening.
Outta Here – This was the lead single from ROTBB. Kris uses his verses on this one to paint a brief bio of his humble hip-hop beginnings to his rise to emcee supremacy with Boogie Down Productions. Premo hooks up a simple, but intense, instrumental as Kris discusses living in the shelter, meeting Scott LaRock, meeting Rakim and Public Enemy, loosing Scott LaRock, and rappers who cool off and lose their record deal, video and $5,000 loveseat. I didn’t really like this song back in the day, but I can definitely appreciate Premo’s beat and Kris’ sharp lyrics more today than back then. Fine wine, baby.
Black Cop – On this self-produced track, KRS discusses the crooked, misguided and brainwashed black cops that mistreat the black community in which they are supposed to serve. Kris’ ragamuffin’ delivered content is solid, but I’ve never been able to get into his drab instrumental.
Mortal Thought – Premo whips up a beauty of a backdrop for this one, as Kris’ limber tongue and lyrics dance wonderfully all over it. This one is fire, and a classic boom bap record.
I Can’t Wake Up – Our host is stuck in a dream that he’s a blunt, but not just any blunt. Over the course of three verses, Kris has the pleasure of getting smoked by several of your favorite hip-hop artists (including his once enemy, Das EFX…apparently they made up by the fall of 1993) before finally being refused by the drug free emcee, Chubb Rock (Kris references a line from Chubb’s verse from “Back To The Grill”). I’m not a huge fan of Premo’s instrumental or Kris’ storyline.
Slap Them Up – Kris is joined by his buddy Ill Will, as the two tag team the mic over a dope melodic mid-tempo instrumental that’s credited to a Norty Cotto and Douglas Jones. Ill Will does a decent job of keeping up with the teacher, until Kris completely obliterates him, and the beat, on his final verse. This was dope.
Sound Of Da Police – This is another one that I wasn’t really a fan of back in the day. Showbiz hooks up a simple and dark backdrop for Kris to discuss the history of police in America (which includes a borderline stretch of “officer” being derived from the term “overseer”) to the current state of police brutality on black men, which sadly, is just as relevant today as it was 25 years ago. “My grandfather had to deal with the cops, my great-grandfather dealt with the cops, my great-grandfather had to deal with the cops, and then my great, great, great, great…when is it gonna stop?”. This one definitely sounds better today then it did in ’93.
Mad Crew – Kris’ instrumental is cool, but his lyrics are the true star of this one. So, just sit back and watch one of the best to ever grip a mic show you how it’s done.
Uh Oh – This one is unique. Kris gets credit for the production, so I’m assuming it’s his own voice that he loops and stacks to create the instrumental. He then pulls out his ragamuffin’ style to share three different tales of kids with guns that all end in death. Kris’ “beat” is kind of weak, but the stories were clear and delivered effectively.
Brown Skin Woman – Kris gets his ragamuffin flow on over a solid Kid Capri (who, thanks to his cameos throughout Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN, is now known by a whole new generation of hip-hop lovers) instrumental, showing respect to the black women, so you can’t hate on that.
Return Of The Boom Bap – I hated this song back in the day, and I still hate it now. The only thing about this song that I enjoyed was the quick and effective jab he takes at his nemesis, PM Dawn (“On and on to the PM Dawn, two buckshots and your squad is gone”…rip Prince Be). Other than that, this song was pretty worthless, which is sad, since it is the title song.
“P” Is Still Free – Kris picks up where he left off at on Criminal Minded’s “Remix For P Is Free”, as he shares a few tales about scandalous women doing whatever it takes to get the crack, rock that is. This may be my least favorite Premo produced song in his legendary catalog, and it’s easily the weakest song on ROTBB. But, I’m sure there is somebody out there that completely disagrees with me on that.
Stop Frontin’ – Kid Capri gets his second production credit of the evening, placing a smooth piano loop over soft drums, and a cool horn sample, that Kris uses to breeze through, making the art of emceeing look like elementary. Capri also squeezes a quick verse in between KRS-One’s, and he doesn’t sound bad. This is definitely one of my favorite songs on ROTBB.
Higher Level – Premo gets his final production credit of the evening, and he saves his best for last, as he turns a sick loop from Gene Page’s “Blackula” into a disgusting instrumental that will make you screw your face and nod your head, uncontrollably. Kris uses it to discuss religion and politics in America, as he instructs the listener to “vote for God, don’t vote for the devil”. There is not any better way he could have ended the album than with this monster of a masterpiece.
The chip that was squarely on KRS-One’s shoulder throughout Sex And Violence is clearly gone on Return of the Boom Bap. But don’t get it twisted, the teacher is still sharp as a razor. KRS-One laces the album with pristine rhymes and sound lessons throughout. It would have been nice to hear Premo produce the entire album, instead of just half, as the production is a bit uneven throughout ROTBB, but there are still enough bangers to keep you attentive, and Kris’ lyrical dexterity and clarity will keep you entertained, even when the instrumentals fail.