Mr. Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone isn't just any indie-label rapper. A certain first-ballot Hip-Hop Hall of Famer, this 1986 new-school graduate has become certifiably old-school as he nears his twentieth anniversary of MCing professionally. Having renounced the path of criminal-mindedness after his DJ, Scott La Rock, was senselessly murdered seventeen years ago, KRS has blazed the trail of conscious hip-hop for longer than some of 50 Cent's fans have been alive. And while his warnings about the dangers of material love went unheeded by many (as he relates in "Phucked"), KRS-One has kept it realer than most, even as the art form he pioneered has become commercialized.
As Keep Right proves, he also is one of the few survivors of hip-hop's golden age still worth listening to today. Sure, he's often didactic and self-referential (frequently sampling his own work), but so was James Brown. KRS won't ever let you forget that he is hip-hop, yet Keep Right -- his strongest album in a decade -- seems like more of a continuation than a comeback. True, his thirteenth release has a lot of generic song titles ("Are You Ready for This," "Feel This," "Here We Go"), but the choruses lend themselves well to the call-and-response chants of live performance -- obviously his bread and butter these days.
KRS knows the craft of MCing like the back of his hand and can still drop a punch line that makes you say "Hmmm," like: "KRS pop rap?... It'll never happen, like you eatin' pork with me." Yet the speed at which Keep Right accelerates (23 songs in 51 minutes) makes the album seem somewhat rushed, as the caffeinated flow of "My Mind Is Racing" suggests. The knowledge is still omnipresent, but the lessons are delivered in quick soundbites ("Why the dopest MC always a dead rapper?") Evidently more comfortable being an underground icon than a mainstream commodity, the Blastmaster nevertheless rolls with the new better than most MCs of his day have (sorry, Kane and Biz), and not only is he still spittin', he's still relevant.