“Playlist: KRS-One” is a compilation album featuring the pioneering hip-hop artist KRS-One of Boogie Down Productions. The 14-track set includes songs from his long tenure on Jive Records during the 1980s and 1990s. KRS and the B.D.P. crew were initially lauded as part of the late 80s new-wave of hip-hop performers, bringing updated musical and lyrical styles-- among other things, KRS is credited with weaving a reggae sensibility into many of his works. In particular with B.D.P., KRS-One alternated between stage personas: One was ‘The Blast-master’, given to relentlessly fierce battle rhymes that sought to energize fans and intimidate his rivals (“I’m Still #1”, “Step Into a World”, “Rappaz R.N. Dainja”); the other was “The Teacher”, incorporating everything from Malcolm X quotes to the Bhagavad Gita in social commentary cuts like “Love’s Gonna Get’cha”, “My Philosophy” and “Black Cop”.
Nearly every Jive album that KRS recorded is represented here, but the selections are not in chronological order. KRS’s heyday was considered the golden-age for remixes, and so the producers of this set wisely included the “Live from Caucus Mountain” 12-inch mix for “You Must Learn”; puzzlingly, they chose the album version of “We In There” over the well-received remix by A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed (side note: retroactive sampling issues have damaged updated CD re-releases of various period hip-hop gems.)
Minor issues aside, what’s most disappointing about the compilation is that nothing from KRS-One’s first album Criminal Minded is included. That seminal release was recorded for the now-defunct indie B-Boy Records (and since re-released) and so it falls outside the purview of the Jive/Sony archives; still, it couldn’t have hurt to pay a license fee to include at least one song from that album for context (or include one of the live-in-concert renditions as recorded on the Live Hardcore Worldwide LP, also ignored here.)
Still, for those who have a yearning for ‘the boom-bap’ over the ‘bling-bling’, this best-of set is a can’t miss for the discerning hip-hop fan.