Album: The Sneak Attack
Rating: 5 / 10
Ah, KRS, you grace us with your presence. As the greatest hip hop prophet, philosopher, missionary etc etc, we must fall to our knees to grovel at your hairy knees. You energize us with your return, saving us from these blasphemous, vile, demeaning wack ass niggas. Er, no, not quite.
KRS One is justifiably one of the most respected MCs ever. So much so that “KRS One for President” is now an enormous hip hop cliche. However, he seems to have a rather distorted picture of the situation. “The light at the end of the tunnel”? Puh-lease.
That’s not to say his first album since 1997 is not anticipated. After the mad hardcore emptiness of the intro, DJ Kenny Parker exclusively bombards us with his old school vibe over which some samples are launched, before KRS steps on the mic and flatlines. “All summer, they be bumping the KRS One-er”? Hmmmmm…
Clearly obsessed with the wack cats he sees everywhere in what he considers his domain, KRS doesn’t hesitate to show ‘them’ that they are indeed wack cats. On ‘Hot’, ‘Attendance’, ‘Hush’ and various other tracks, he angrily throws down phrases at ‘them’, reaffirming that he was the first to do everything, ‘they’ ain’t real MCs and that he’ll put ‘them’ flat on their back. This is all despite the fact that he recently appeared on tracks with Xzibit, and, wait for it, Crazy Town. Hmmmmm again…
The production is big in scale here, featuring thunderous blasts of drums staggering along the track lurking behind fatass bass. The best bit, probably on the whole album, is at the end of ‘Hot’ (clumsily produced by Grand Daddy) when co-producer DJ Jazzy Jeff grabs the turntables. For those people who thought scratching had degenerated to the Beatminerz’ pussy ass twitching and Pete Rock’s light distortion of voice samples, this is perfect. Jeff calmly takes control of the samples, and then for the track finale, as if to reaffirm that he IS the best, he scratches the fuck right out of a Redman sample for a whole 17 seconds of solid turntablism. Beautiful. KRS takes charge of the boards on 6 tracks and seems to have inherited Kenny Parker’s powerful but cumbersome style, although KRS is much more simplistic in his beatmaking. The rest of the production here is pretty unremarkable, it’s not by any means bad, but it sure as fuck ain’t good. However, the use of an old school sound is probably on the whole a good idea, as KRS doesn’t suit beats from the world premier league producers such as RZA, Dre or Primo.
All this confrontational talk, KRS knows, is not all there is to hip hop. There’s also the small business of selling himself as a sort of hip hop Christ/missionary/priest/pressure group type fella. It’s when he’s doing this at his most philosophical, such as on the brilliantly simple parable rhyme ‘False Pride’, that he really shines. When he happens to mention that part of his overall world plan is hip hop, he Raptises people with ‘The Raptism’, which is by far the best produced track on the LP with some rustic guitar licks and a slightly mellower drumbeat for once. It’s when he decides to take a kinda Chuck D stance, like on the stumbling stampede rant of ‘Why’, that he slips up. It’s not that the shit he’s saying is garbage, or is wrong, it’s that it was all said a million times before, more than a decade ago, by guess who, Chuck D. And KRS himself too, for that matter.
Some of the tracks here represent KRS at his best. Intelligent narrative ‘Hip Hop Knowledge’ is a quality track, ‘False Pride’ and the title track are other notable songs. It’s just that so much of the material here is nowhere near remarkable, it’s mediocre and sometimes even worse. With the amount of pre-launch exposure and anticipation this got, plus KRS’s exposure in the hip hop press for berating the current wave of MCs, it could have been a classic and the stereotypical glorious return. But, sadly it’s nowhere near it. Good, but not as good as legend of the man himself.