By Jack M. Angelo
Where hip-hop got its official start will be debated for years to come. When hip-hop found its footing was almost undoubtedly in the mid-late 80s. Acts like Rakim and Eric B., Public Enemy and BDP broke down the walls of what hip-hop could sound like with their debuts in 1987. 33 years ago, fortunately, is a short enough period of time that we still have all of these legends around, many still performing. One of these undisputed kings of hip-hop, KRS-One decided to grace Baltimore Soundstage with his performance and teachings on January 18, 2020.
Before The Teacha began his lectures, there were three Baltimore native openers listed for the evening. First up was WishGRANTed. The performer bounded across the stage with youthful energy as his songs played. The music he performed was certainly hip-hop, though perhaps not in the strictest sense of it. A lot of modern influence permeated Grant’s sound, making it perhaps not the greatest fit for this show. However, the audience seemed pretty into his performance, with a few fans of his clearly in the show, often singing along to his lyrics.
Next up was Eva Rhymes, another Baltimore rapper, who brought a couple friends along with her on stage, including a singer and violinist. She came in style, with a fur coat, fishnet stockings and a pair of sunglasses that digitally scrolled her name across them. She performed her excellent hip-hop stylings to a fairly receptive crowd. At one point she began to stray from what she considered strictly hip-hop, but stopped the song and corrected herself once she remembered what show she was opening.
The final opener of the evening was Stay Up News veteran Ill Conscious, who brought several other performers with him on stage as well. The West Baltimore native’s intricate flows and delivery managed to entertain the audience, even this deep into the openers. Ill Conscious performed with rapper Jay Royale, rap duo Dirt Platoon and singer Omnia Azar over the course of his set, adding different dynamics and energy throughout. Ill’s skill on the mic is evident, and the audience clearly respected him for it, reciprocating his raps with cheers and claps.
After a quick warm-up from KRS’s DJ, The Teacha himself finally graced the stage. KRS-One spent approximately the next 90 minutes showing everyone in the audience exactly why he is considered such a legend. Performing his immense back catalogue of course took up the majority of the set. It seemed like every member of the mostly older, black audience knew each lyric to KRS-One’s entire history of music. The Teacha’s charisma has not missed a beat either, with his performances just as electric as ever. The 54-year-old shows that age is only a number while performing his hits like “Sound of da Police.”
The other parts of his show consisted of lectures and freestyles. There was significant chemistry between KRS and his DJ, which allowed for them to seamlessly transition between dynamics and beats. The quieter moments of the instrumental allowed KRS-One to do what he does best and spit, often for minutes at a time, off the top of his head, and even manage to drop jewels in the process.
KRS-One also took the time to speak to people without instrumentals or rhymes, teaching about the changes in the music industry since he came into it. One of his longest lectures consisted of deriding the industry for becoming a sort of musical middleman between the consumer and the artist, driving up the price of art, while simultaneously cheapening it in the process.
KRS-One is undoubtedly one of our living legends in hip-hop, and hip-hop is better off for it. Whether it is seen in the thousands of protégés KRS-One has influenced with his sounds, some of which performed before him this very evening, or in the performances of The Teacha himself, rap would not be the same if KRS-One had not laid his stamp on it for the past three and a half decades.