Review Summary: The best album to begin your introduction to KRS-ONE as long as you have patience and appreciation of 80s style rap and political lyrics.
Instead of adopting the now familiar theme to a rap album and wasting time croaking about the hookers hes bought, the greed he flaunts, the drugs he took to make him retarded, and finally showing some originality on the last track by drunkenly crying out "SHIT IS REAL IN THE HOOD!" 22 year old KRS-ONE, motivated by the very recent death of his longtime best friend (and BDP DJ) Scott La Rock - and hungry as hell to bring justice to a society that tormented him since he was left homeless at age 13, created an enlightened and poetically brilliant album that undeniably succeeded in his goal of playing a major role in lowering violent crime rates throughout the 90's.
The lyrics make this album a classic. The rhyming style/flow is that slow rhythmic 80's-beastie boys style. Most of the beats have their influence from funk or jazz. The songs can be divided into smoother-jazz songs and rougher and louder RUN-DMC sounding songs.
THE SMOOTH TRACKS:
The verses in the song stop "Stop the Violence" are so flawless they completely overshadow the mediocre chorus and boringly simple beat of a repeating horn. Every problem with the USA he brought up in 1988, remains true and often even more severe 24 years later in 2012. If you are going to listen to one song from this album, hell, if you are going to listen to one 80s rap song, it should definitely be Stop the Violence. The name of the song comes from the late 70's group Zulu Nation who started the Stop the Violence movement.
"My Philosophy" is the jazziest and most enjoyable song on the album. It uses sporadic saxophone segments and mixes with the flow of KRS-ONE like melted cheese on nachos.
Im Still #1's beat sounds like a ninja turtle video game theme song. Very slow, simple, smooth and rhythmic at the start, makes you feel like your just plowin' through goons, but then out of nowhere heres the boss! SHREDDER, and the beat drops DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN with a trumpet. This song is is about the rap world and world in general heading in the wrong direction, and him trying to stop it.
"JIMMY" is a hilarious song about STD prevention. Wear a hat jimmy! This song has the second most smooth and most modern sounds on the album(behind "my philosophy)"; and is by far the funniest song. Any fan of comedic rap will love the satiric stories of STD prevention crafted into such an enjoyable song.
Ya slippin' features segments of a guitar playing the banal Deep Purple "Smoke on the Water", but it remixes it and combines it with a crowd "OHH'S" to make a good production.
THE ROUGH TRACKS:
"Illegal Business" continues where My Philosophy and Stop the Violence left off with slow witty rhyming but this song has a more hardcore/obnoxious sound (depending on your opinion).He really makes a strong argument through this song, if you turned in these lyrics for a history paper on 1980s US business you would get an A.
"Part Time Suckers" is related to the previous song, Still #1, which basically calls out all the trash in the rap world. "out of thousands and thousands of MC's, 1 poet will flow in the breeze". Very very simple drum beat on this song.
The last song explains the name of the album through recited poetry rather than rapping. By All Means Necessary was a famous quote from a Malcolm X speech, but KRS-ONE much better resembles Martin Luther King the way he refuses to adopt the logic that two rights make a wrong, and kills people lyrically rather than literally.
Throughout the album KRS-ONE uses satire, comedy, story telling, metaphors, poetry, history and "insanely rational" arguments while still showing impressive rhyming skill in virtually every verse in the album. But whats even more impressive is KRS-ONE's non-violent message spread like cancer from this album. A cancer that benignly grew the brain of hip hop while other rappers infested it like pubic lice, sucking it dry like mosquitoes until it almost died.
The biggest problem is that some songs have very simple, repetitive and sometimes annoying choruses. Most of KRS-ONE's courses are frustrating but there really is poetic gold in the verses that more than makes up for them, and the chorus' will eventually become more enjoyable with more listens, and keep in mind disliking this music for its choruses is like disliking acoustic tracks for their lyrics; its not meant to be the forte of the music. Enjoying this album requires that you have some appreciation and patience with the slower production and rhyming that was typical in the late 80s. That RUN-DMC or Beastie Boy's sound.
The only other problem is that some songs are more educational than entertaining, they resemble rhyming history lessons more than anything else, history lessons where the teacha screams out "ILLEGAL BUSINESS CONTROLS AMERICA" dances around for 2 seconds while drumming, screams "COCAINE BUSINESS CONTROLS AMERICA" and resumes the lesson like nothing happened.