The scene opens up, focusing on a picture frame containing a photo of a young man holding his infant son. Children are joyfully chattering in the background. The camera pans out to reveal those children playing with instruments and curiously manipulating a record, rotating it back and forth. A voice is heard, asking “So, you’re a philosopher?” A question to which the reply, mixed in with a series of scratches, is “Yes.” A VHS cassette is popped into a VCR and the program starts to play. After a brief on-screen countdown, a teacher emerges from a diagonally-parked Jeep and begins to speak.
The man in the picture frame is Scott La Rock, the program is “My Philosophy”, and the teacher is rapper KRS-One.
“My Philosophy” was a Stanley Turrentine-sampling single released from Boogie Down Productions’ sophomore album, By All Means Necessary. It was their first album following the violent death of Scott La Rock, who was shot in the neck and behind the ear during the summer of 1987 in the aftermath of trying to diffuse a volatile situation that involved D-Nice. Determined to keep moving forward, KRS-One soldiered on his own and eventually secured a deal with Jive/RCA Records after a first deal with Warner was revoked when Scott was killed.
The video was directed by Fab 5 Freddy (who can briefly be seen in the clup) and features KRS-One and the rest of the BDP Posse defiantly walking through the streets of New York and performing in an intimate-but-electrified smoky venue. Images of iconic Black figures like Malcolm X and Bob Marley can be seen as well.
Lyrically, KRS-One was poignant as he’s ever been, delivering rhymes that are just as relevant today as they were back then. Launching something that could not be described as anything less than a diatribe against the then-current trends in hip-hop, The Blastmaster proclaims that “rap is like a setup, a bunch of games. A lot of suckers with colorful names.” KRS then takes aim at those who were seemingly doing all they could to perpetuate the myth that all black people eat chicken and watermelon, use broken English, and sell drugs. All of which is certainly not true. A gross imbalance between commerce and creativity is also examined, as The Teacha continues on to say that the record labels could care less about integrity and ingenuity as long as their company is selling the product and profiting.
“Don’t bother dissin’ me or even wishing we [would] soften, dilute, or commercialize all the lyrics…because it’s about time one of y’all hear it” is the response that KRS levels at any would-be critics that may think that his message is coming across just a tad bit too harshly.
The song closes out with the line “Fresh, for ‘88, you suckers” and 25 years later, the tune is just as fresh. It’s a testament to the oft-held belief that the best music is timeless and that exceptional philosophical theories will hold up through the years.
// Notes from the Road
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