Responsible for six albums with the group Boogie Down Productions, eleven solo releases and numerous collaborative albums, “Now Hear This” is KRS One’s twelfth solo record, and with around thirty years of his life devoted to Hip-Hop, I’m glad that he’s still releasing not only entertaining, but credible and relevant music in 2015. “Now Hear This” is a politically-charged album filled with hardcore beats and passionate lyrics, and it’s great to hear a Rapper who has always been known for his point of view not watering down his opinions.
The album kicks off with the intro-slash-title-track, and alongside the mean beat, KRS delivers his highly charged trademark rap style. With lines like “I’m the original story, you the sequel… I’m the whole motion picture, you’re the preview” it’s great that The Blastmaster hasn’t fallen off in any way, in fact with lyrics like these you wonder why people still choose to listen to all the mainstream Hip-Pop garbage out there. Like you would expect from a genuine Hip-Hop album, “Now Hear This” is brimming with political topics from the legalisation of drugs on “Drugs Won”, the hypocrisy of immigration on “Invaders”, to the self-explanatory “American Flag”. On the latter track KRS outlines the stupidity of saluting and praising the Star Spangled Banner whilst demonising the Confederate Flag. Since both flags have been used for enslavement and brandished by racists, what makes the American Flag any better he asks? He goes on to say that ethnic minorities, women, and natives had no rights under the American flag, so why all the widespread admiration? He also brilliantly asks the listener “What does the American Flag mean to Iraq?”
The track “You A Millionaire” is another great song, in this track KRS-One outlines the real price of becoming rich is at the expense of the poor. The tracks sports a hardcore beat and melody coupled with a brilliant chorus, probably the best on the LP…
“You’s a millionaire, yeah, off black despair, yeah
You’s a millionaire, yeah, off of lust and fear, yeah
You’s a millionaire, yeah, off the poor right there”
There’s also the track “The Lingo” which despite having a slightly cheesy chorus, features some nice nineties-esque production and a slew of acronyms (or “Afronyms” as he calls them) such as “Did I Eat That?”, “Here Our Mind Expands”, and “May U See Love In Me”. Another fantastic song is “From The Beginning Again” in which KRS outlines how he wants to sort out America. He raises all the relevant problems and solutions such as equality of pay for women and justice for Police brutality, he states how we should re-write US Constitution and he hilariously calls the U.S.A. a “War Whore”.
In the latter stages of the album comes “More Love” which features an acoustic guitar as the sole instrument for the song. Aside from the simple production, the topic of love is pretty refreshing and somewhat unusual for Hip-Hop, listening to this is like hearing a genuine hippie song. The final song “Oh Cruel Mob” is a spoken word poem from G Simone, KRS One’s wife, and this makes for a great ending to the LP. With Simone asking the Police “Who gave the life of man to you?” this provides the finale with some pathos.
The stand-out tracks of the album in my opinion are “You A Millionaire”, “Biterz”, “The Lingo”, “From The Beginning Again”, “More Love”, and the title track, and that’s a decent number of memorable songs. But that’s not to say that this release is without its flaws, with this album KRS has a tendency to let certain songs down by accompanying them with a forgettable or mediocre chorus. Songs like “This is All We Got” which sounds simple and slightly out-of-date and “Duty” which sounds like something 50 Cent would make, are both examples of tracks which fall short due to their sub-par choruses. But that being said, any shortcomings and failures these or other songs may have are swiftly dissipated thanks to the lyrics which are raw, unadulterated, powerful, and from the heart. I must also mention that due to the average-sounding, satisfactory production, the album rides along steadily rather than jumping out at you, for that reason “Now Hear This” may not obviously stand out as the politically-charged album it is. The LP does also dip slightly during the middle but thankfully it picks up the pace towards the end, overall the sentiments and the statements made by KRS-One make up for anything the album may lack.
KRS-One is a monument to longevity within the music business, and it just goes to show that if an Artist stays true to themselves, they can make amazing music for decades rather than years. As long as you stay authentic and original (as he outlines in “Biterz”) then you will stand out from the crowd, and as long as you don’t water down your viewpoint, you’ll be remembered as one of the greats. As he points out in the song “Let’s Go”, “the whole world’s still buggin’ off the music I did 20 years ago!”. An MC, Producer, Philosopher, Activist, KRS-One proves his expertise in each of these occupations with this album release. “Now Hear This” is one of the most pertinent albums out right now from any genre, every line and every word is soaked in rebellion and revolution, this is without a doubt a relevant LP for today’s society. Go get yourself a copy and support real Hip-Hop.
Knowledge Reigns Supreme.