KRS-One - Live in Baltimore (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Live in Baltimore (2016)

live show

“I’m wearing this mic out!” exclaimed KRS-One early on at his January 16, 2016 Baltimore show. Although he was commenting on the fact that the venue’s microphone was having technical issues, his off-the-cuff jab was actually sort of true. At the show’s start, the emcee blasted onto the stage and immediately tore into a set of classics, many culled from the seminal Criminal Minded album.

As is his usual style, KRS-One performed in a style borrowed from Jamaican dancehall, ripping from cut to cut with no break, and only actually performing the heaviest parts of each track, with the intros and outros thrown out completely. KRS-One’s material is hard hitting, and that was amplified by how he focused on his mist crushing numbers like “The Bridge is Over,” “Return of the Boom Bap,” and “The Emcee.”

The bombastic cuts were also amplified by just how gigantic KRS-One is. The man is a huge human being. Standing at about six foot six and broad as a barn, KRS moved like a man half his size. He was constantly in a state of motion flinging his arms around and zapping across the stage. To see someone that large move so quickly while kicking out boom-bap style raps is quite a sight to see.

Midway through the show, “The Teacher” demonstrated why he is called that. He did a series of brief lectures extrapolating on his lyrics and mostly focusing on self-betterment. One interlude focused on why knowledge of oneself is essential. Another blasted on the sketchiness of modern media. A third focused on Black Identity before segueing into the concept of national borders. Sometimes KRS’ thoughts can get pretty out there, but no matter what, even if you don’t always agree with him, he’s putting critical thinking and education at the forefront of his message.

Near the end of the show, famed emcee Busy Bee Starksi, who is essential to the history of Hip Hip (see his famous Kool Moe Dee battle), came out and say a few words. The moment was particularly fitting as Busy Bee had significant contributions to KRS’ Hip Hop Lives album and acted as KRS’ hypeman for the corresponding tour.

The show, which was advertised as the 30th Anniversary of the Self Destruction movement, ended with a sort of freestyle parade. About a dozen emcees, including some of the opening acts, came and did their style over the Self Destruction while KRS-One in true Busy Bee style, posed for autographs and signed records. You could consider it a sort of passing the torch, but as the previous hour of hard jams proved, KRS is irreplaceable, and really, pretty impossible to follow.