KRS-One Hip Hop Lives Review by Samir Siddiqui

05.28.07 11 years ago 16 Comments

KRS-One & Marley Marl
Hip-Hop Lives
Koch Records

Nas proclaimed hip-hop to be dead, and it resulted in Nasir Jones dropping
arguably one of the best albums of the year in a respectable 2006. Roughly
half a year later, hip-hop veteran KRS-One and legendary producer Marley
Marl, formal rivals, have hooked up to paint an alternate picture regarding
the state of hip-hop. Hip-Hop Lives balances underground and mainstream
appeal through straightforward, yet intriguing lyricism and expectedly solid
production. KRS doesn’t attempt to drop anything over-the-top technically,
but his ability to make un-conventional subject matter clear and relatable
is a key reason for this albums’ high quality. On the production end, Marley
Marl abstains from rehashing the popular sounds of the mainstream, and
instead, adds extra bounce and versatility to his old-school style, matching
the right beats to compliment the unique flow of KRS.

The album’s title track is one of it’s strongest, as KRS drops passionate
rhymes regarding the “eternal” nature of hip-hop culture over a layered Marl
backdrop which uses subtle key loops and well-placed scratches alongside
basic drum-kicks. While “Nothing New” is plagued by an annoyingly
reggae-sounding chorus, “I Was There” is a clever first-person outlining of
KRS’ hip-hop history, with Kris questioning “where were you?” at the times
of various marquee events in hip-hop. “Kill A Rapper” seems like the kind of
song that should have popped off about a decade ago, as KRS questions the
unresolved cases surrounding high-profile MC murders (B.I.G., Big L, etc.)
with a vicious, meaningful hook, “You wanna get away with murder, kill a
rapper! The investigation won’t go further, kill a rapper!” Marley Marl
provides a brilliantly jazz-heavy beat on the Magic Juan collabo “Musika”
which uses a smooth sax sound which mixes well with the Spanish undertone of the song. Marl brings back a classic Ghostface production (“Run”) on “All
Skool,” yet another track where the dynamic duo bridge old-school rhymes
with relevant themes, “I’m not old school, or new school, I’m all skool,”
raps KRS.

While solid in essence, there is something lacking on Hip-Hop Lives that
holds it back from true excellence, and it comes in the minor details.
Whether it be Marl’s reusing of two old productions (the other on “Rising to
the Top”) or KRS One’s somewhat repetitive hooks and flow, Hip-Hop Lives is
not quite the album that will resurrect 2007. But its a good start.

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