KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone), the prophet from the South Bronx, earned a Black Entertainment Television Lifetime Achievement Award last year for his relentless struggle to teach the rest of the world about a new civilization: hip-hop (graffiti, B-boying, emceeing and deejaying). The Teacha, as he’s also known, talked about life, religion, piss and other oddities.
How are things?
Excellent. Couldn’t have asked for a better tour, man.
At speaking engagements, do people argue with you?
Oh yeah, all the time.
Is there a pervasive argument?
I did [a lecture] in Atlanta … and I [stated] publicly that I’m not black. And here I am, in Atlanta, a black/African-American mecca, saying, “No, I’m not black; I’m hip-hop.” That caused a little bit of a disturbance.
It’s all respect, though, no doubt, because ain’t nobody kicking my ass. But you’ve got the black nationalists, Nation of Islam, Black Panther Party-types coming through and they’re really pissed off at the idea that I’m not black. I’m hip-hop. I’m a new breed of person on the planet. That’s one argument.
And I just did an interview with [radio host] Alex Jones that got a lot of criticism—and praise—out of people on both sides of the fence: “Why you dissing Barack Obama?” I guess we’re all supposed to fall down and worship the black president. I’m not feeling it. Not at all.
What’s wrong with Barack Obama?
I don’t have a beef with Barack Obama in particular. He’s only been in office a little while. My beef is with any president. … They’re all incompetent, if you ask me. Everyone’s saying “The best thing about Bill Clinton was the economy.” I think that’s nonsense. Just because the president didn’t pay you off doesn’t mean he was a good president. The whole basis of government is so you can put a dollar in my pocket?
Does the same philosophy apply to hip-hop?
In what way?
Executive incompetence …
I wouldn’t blame it on hip-hop. That’s giving us too much credit. [It’s] the incompetence of the music business itself: the [Recording Industry Association of America], MTV, BET, VH1, Viacom—all of that. … However, there is something to be said about hip-hop’s internal incompetence, meaning, taking us out of the music business and looking at us just as a culture—just as a brand-new civilization on the Earth: hip-hop. If you look there, we’re too young to be incompetent. We’re learning. We’re not just shaking our asses anymore. I applaud that. But we got another 20 years. If the Earth doesn’t fall apart on [December 21] 2012, hip-hop will be a great nation.
What’s that date?
That’s when the Mayan calendar ends. A meteor is supposed to hit the Earth and we’re all out of here! That’s what that is. No doubt.
Wow, look out. Let’s talk about Temple of Hip Hop. It seems like another religion, like you’re trying to be an L. Ron Hubbard type of fellow.
Oh, L. Ron Hubbard!
Seriously, do we really need another religion?
Well, to be blunt, yes. Absolutely. KRS is starting a new religion. When you really get down to what religion is, it’s culture. It’s spiritualizing your daily lifestyle. Some people say sewing is a religion to them; for some people it’s money. Whatever you’re willing to give your full heart and your full attention to becomes your religion. We’re suggesting that you can have a direct relationship with God through hip-hop. We’re living in a new age; we don’t ride donkeys anymore; we’re pushing Beamers and Benzes. What does God have to say to that? What’s the spiritual thought for today?
Remember when you dissed the Juice Crew? Do you still have that much piss and vinegar in your blood?
There’s two answers. … One is that the piss and the vinegar is a little less in my blood these days, but I do keep a jar on the side just in case. I do have a 1986 jar of piss just in case anybody gets it twisted.
This story originally appeared in the Sacramento News & Review.