H.E.A.L. – Civilization Vs. Technology (September 24, 1991)

H.E.A.L., which is an acronym for Human Education Against Lies, is a movement that was formed and led by the Blastmaster KRS-One back in the early nineties. KRS-One’s beliefs and philosophies have changes plenty over the past 30 years, but in the early nineties he was pushing a humanist movement. He received a little heat from some of the black community and leaders who felt his agenda should have been more focused on the African-American struggle, and some of you may recall that X-Clan had a few words for Kris (to which Kris would of course, have a rebuttal), because they felt he should be teaching Afrocentricity and not an all-inclusive humanist message. Regardless of the criticism, KRS-One would gather together a bunch of his friends, who collectively would form H.E.A.L. and release the subject of today’s post Civilization Vs Technology.

The liner notes of Civilization Vs Technology spell out the album’s mission statement (the “all caps” format is not mine): HUMAN EDUCATION AGAINST LIES IS A FORWARD MOVEMENT FOR SELF CONSTRUCTION. WE BELIEVE THAT BEFORE YOU ARE A RACE, AN OCCUPATION OR A RELIGION YOU ARE HUMAN. The H.E.A.L. roster would range from hip-hop’s most respected emcees to newcomers, as KRS-One and his BDP crew members and affiliates would handle the bulk of the production duties.

I stumbled upon Civilization Vs Technology during one of my used cd bins scavenger hunts a few months ago. This is my first time listening to the album, so lets see how this one goes, shall we?

Heal Yourself – This was the lead single from CVT and the only song I’d ever heard going into this post. Harmony, Kid Capri, Big Daddy Kane, Freddy Foxxx (now known as Bumpy Knuckles), LL  Cool J, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, KRS-One, Ms. Melodie and Run DMC come together and address issues that effect all humanity. Because, as KRS-One so eloquently puts it “before you’re a color, first you’re human, teaching humanity it what we’re doing”. I love the content on this one, plus the D-Nice/KRS-One concocted instrumental is dope.

I Am What I Am – I never heard of Sister Carol before listening to CVT, but apparently she’s a female reggae artist. This is her solo joint and she definitely makes the most of it. Long time BDP associates Anton and Sidney Mills lay down a hectic paced, but nasty instrumental that Sister Carol chants all over with rabbit like speed. This was dope.

Anti-Ho – KRS-One hooks up a simple instrumental driven by a deep bouncy bass line for his ex-wife Ms. Melodie (rip) to spit one quick verse about saving a woman from the clutches of whoredom. During her verse, Melodie bust through a window (which is hi-larious to me when I visualize it) to rescue said promiscuous woman, who has apparently just dropped to her knees to give dome to a bunch of fellas. Now that’s some serious cock blocking, Ms. Melodie. KRS-One then ends the song with thought-provoking rhetoric and poses an interesting question to the listener. This song was the perfect balance of conscious and entertaining.

Whole World African – As you probably already can tell by this point, I’m not that well versed when it comes to reggae artist. Ska Danks is another reggae artist that I’ve never heard of before today, and this is his solo joint on CVT. One of the reasons I’m not that well versed in reggae artist or a huge fan of their music is because the pace they deliver their rhymes combined with their accents, makes it hard for me to understand what the hell they’re saying most of the time. That is also the case with Ska Danks. But have no fear, KRS-One’s smooth backdrop and the catchy hook save this song.

Don’t Hold Us Back – I’m not sure if Heather B was ever an official member of BDP, but she was definitely an affiliate. The first time I heard her rhyme was on “7 Deejays” from BDP’s Edutainment album. For this one, Kenny Parker slides HB a funky little diddly that she uses to spit one long verse about relationships. She sounds a little stiff and gets sloppy at certain points of the song, but still manages to sew together a pretty nice story line and drops a few sage like jewels for the listener to marvel at (“it’s not that they don’t love you or want to see you fail, but what’s stronger than love is the ego of a male”). This was dope. Shoutout to the whole Sway In The Morning crew.

Know Your Culture – This is equivalent to the reggae version of “Heal Yourself”. Kevin B, Sleepy Wonder (which is a dope alias), Reverend Badoo, Mickey Jarrett, Bigga Don, Shabba Ranks, Shelly Thunder, Lady English and Miss Linda (I’ve actually heard of a few of these guys) all come together to promote the importance of knowing yourself which is knowing your culture…I think. Unlike “Heal Yourself” this one is boring as hell and hard to listen to.

O’ Freedom – The yawn fest continues. I’ve never heard of Kushite, Musik G or Sky High before this listen and I’ll be completely fine if I never hear from them again in life. I’m all for the upliftment of Africa and Afrocentricity, but you still have to make the message sound entertaining, guys. Plus, Sky High’s instrumental is trash.

One Bright Day – Now, if you’re going to put a reggae artist on an album, no better choice than to get one of the heir’s of reggae royalty to do it. Bob Marley’s eldest son, Ziggy Marley and his band The Melody Makers join the H.E.A.L. movement and provide a simply song calling for unity within humanity. The deep grove is infectious and the repetitive lyrics actually work well for this song.

Family Got To Get Busy – Salt N Pepa and Ms. Melodie spit short verses, and in between and after their verses are short interjections about family from Kool Moe Dee, Grand Daddy I.U., Ziggy Marley, Kid Capri, DMC, KRS-One, Chuck D, Doug E. Fresh and Red Alert. Even though the song’s format is unorthodox it works, plus KRS-One’s summer breezy instrumental just feels good.

Correct Education –  KRS-One introduces a rapper named Ready Z, not to be confused with Steady B, which was another emcee that Kris worked with in the past (if you read this blog on a regular basis you already knew that, though…if not, read about it here). Ready Z actually sounds a little like Steady, just a conscious version. Ready spits one quick verse over his decent self-produced instrumental before getting the hell out of Dodge.

Family – Simone (who would later become KRS-One’s second wife, after he divorced Ms. Melodie… it’s kind of  interesting that he had them both appear on this project) gets a solo joint and a chance to showcase her voice as she sings about the importance of family. The only problem is Simone is not a good singer and sounds like a tone deaf female version of Keith Sweat. It also doesn’t help that KRS-One’s sappy instrumental makes the whole idea of family feel sad instead of something that should be celebrated. This song should have never made the final cut for CVT.

Civilization Vs Technology – This one starts off well with Harmony singing and KRS-One spittin’ rhymes about saving the earth over some rough violin stabs. Then the beat drops, the weird guitar licks and the godawful vocal of R.E.M.’s lead man, Michael Stipe comes in and the song completely falls apart. I’m not exaggerating when I say Stipe’s singing made me want to break the cd in two and light it on fire, but that probably wouldn’t help the earth and I’m sure KRS-One would come up with some theory of how my broken cd would affect the ozone layer too. This song sounds terrible, which is sad since there was a good message in the song.

Tighten Up Your Wig – WTF is this? Reminds me of a dark version of the theme song for Gilligan’s Island. And that’s not a compliment.

It was a great marketing plan by Kris and his staff to put a hip-hop all-star team together for the lead single, which turns out to be a great record, and the strongest song on the album. Even though the next four songs don’t include any A-list emcees, they are all solid records as well. And then things get messy. With the exception of Ziggy Marley’s joint and when the all-stars take the court again on “Family Got To Get Busy”, the rest of Civilization Vs Technology ranges from mediocre to straight trash, thanks to sub-par talent, horrible singing and horrific production. Civilization Vs Technology makes a conscious effort to be a conscious effort. Unfortunately, most of the consciousness isn’t entertaining so the messages fall on deaf ears and make for a less than luxurious listen.

-Deedub

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