With every passing day, New York City’s legacy as the birthplace of Rap music and Hip-Hop culture is looking more and more like the lost history of a forgotten kingdom. This is due to the big apple having zero mainstream presence in the music as of late. As Drakes second album is poised to set a new creative bar for the next of generation rap stars (or so various media outlets are saying), the traditionally east coast brand of the music is now something that youngsters can see on VH1, like some well-preserved museum exhibit. If such a place existed, KRS-1 would undoubtedly be a key attraction. However, the Blast Master continues to release new music in the vein of that which made him a giant so long ago. He now sounds the horn for the forgotten legacy he represents with “Just Like That.”
“Just Like That” reteams KRS with Mad Lion. The same Mad Lion that made his mark on the Dancehall Reggae circuit with the KRS-1 produced “Take It East” back in 1994. The two have now switched roles, with Mad Lion adjusting the levels on the mixing board. He employs the familiar intro of “Cha Cha Cha” by the Fania All Stars. He lets the sample play out a bit longer that it did on Kool G Rap’s “My Life,” allowing for a slightly larger portion of the horns to be heard. He underpins the delicate sample with crashing drums, upping the adrenaline quotient considerably.
KRS-1 takes the listener on a Hip-Hop history tour of the Big Apple, telling the story from his perspective. He does so in a fashion not too dissimilar from his 1993’s single “Outta Here.” This time around, he seems a bit more energized. He speaks with the exuberance of someone who found their place in the world by becoming a part of a movement. He also speaks with more than a hint of desperation, fighting to keep this history alive for a generation who could seemingly care less.
Aside from producing the track, Mad Lion also directed the video. He employs green screen to superimpose KRS in front of various backgrounds, all of which are historical NYC landmarks. He even puts KRS in front of the Manhattan skyline, where he towers like a monster from Hip-Hop Kaiju flick. In one moment, KRS stands in the walkway of a subway station with posters of his various album covers plastered on the walls. Another moment shows him in front of a brownstone amidst inanimate cardboard cutouts of his peers from the 1980’s. The gray-blue hues and consistently overcast skies would otherwise suggest sadness, but here give the proceedings a photo album effect. A photo album adorned with graffiti tags, that is.
“Just Like That” offers a brand of rap music that can only be considered a throwback in today’s world. The airwaves are now populated by harmonizing, over emoting rappers. Hooks and tribal call and response chants are the only form of lyricism that one is likely to here. Gangsters, revolutionaries, and superlyricists are no longer the icons of choice. The current generation has no ties whatsoever to the old ways. Some may call that progress, but I call it regression. Luckily, KRS is still here to remind me of the days when Hip-Hop looked like miles and miles of undiscovered country to my young eyes.