“Hip Hop Reigns, then, now, and forever,” said Slick Rick, rocking a green eyepatch and a gargantuan iced-out Africa medallion, after stepping off the stage at Orchard Park in the Bronx and into his green Range Rover to make way for KRS ONE the Blastmaster to shut it down at the first of a series of free festivals this Monday (Aug 16).
All this week (Aug 16 – Aug 20) Hip-Hop’s coming home with free festivals throughout New York City sponsored by the Universal Hip Hop Museum as part of NYC Homecoming Week. Appropriately enough it all started off in the Bronx this Monday, as a galaxy of hip-hop luminaries from Coke LaRock and Grand Wizard Theodore to Uncle Ralph McDaniels of Video Music Box mingled with NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Although Chuck has been blasted for his attempt to spit bars while enjoying himself onstage, hip-hop’s original Blastmaster gave the Senator much respect in an exclusive Boomshots interview backstage before he and Slick Rick closed out the show at Orchard Park in front of 10,000 fans who were already amped up from performances by rap legends Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, DJ Kid Capri, Nice and Smooth, and Kool Moe Dee, just to name a few.
The Tuesday (Aug. 17) show featured Wu-Tang Clan in Staten Island. The festival series continued with Big Daddy Kane in Brooklyn and concludes on Saturday with Geroge Clinton, EPMD, Yo Yo, and Too Short in Queens (there’s talk of a very special guest on that final date, so don’t be late).
Slick Rick, who once made a record saying “Boogie Down was performin, hey they ain’t no joke,” hailed KRS as an “authentic MC from the Bronx.” Both MCs have been known to infuse their music with a healthy dose of Caribbean slang, sound, and style. “For me, West Indian runs through my veins,” explained Rick, who was raised by Jamaican parents in London before moving to NYC. “The culture, the food, the dress code is the make up of hip-hop.” Speaking of dress code, Rick was impeccable as ever. Asked to share his won style philosophy, he said simply “Be yourself, no apologies, no rules… Be unequivocally authentic.”
When Senator Schumer took the stage, he proudly displayed a copy of U.S. Senate Resolution 331, a bill that designates August 11—the day of DJ Kool Herc’s legendary Back to School Jam at 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx—as “Hip Hop Celebration Day.” The bill, which was co-sponsored by Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Alex Padilla of California, also designates November 2021 as “Hip-Hop History Month,” encouraging local governments to partner with local hip-hop organizations to develop the arts and culture.
“It’s a great day,” said Sen. Schumer backstage. “This shows New York bounces back Now we’re all here enjoying one of the greatest things the Bronx created.”
Before KRS took the stage, we stepped into a corner to ask the Blastmaster one simple question: a half century after its inception, has hip hop culture developed or has it gotten diluted?
KRS-ONE: “Real talk, your question is loaded.”
VIBE: I know!
Because when you say “has the culture expanded,” the answer is yes. Yes, hip hop as culture is doing phenomenally well—better than I ever thought. There’s a whole bunch of expectations I had. We’ve surpassed that, OK, as culture. When I say ‘culture’ I mean communal influence on foreign people. Communal influence—no other culture…
You hear it all the time: hip hop conquered the world without bussin’ one shot. Everything that the CIA ever wanted, hip hop got for free. Everything that a standing army took from the indigenous people of the world, the indigenous people of the world gave us freely. Native Americans are breakin’ on their own. Indigenous dudes in Australia are spittin’ the raw on their own. Nobody told ’em. Nobody forced ’em. Nobody nuttin’. They saw a universal language and jumped right on it. Dudes in China. I saw a Tibetan Buddhist monk rappin’. Now how you get outta the monastery rappin’? OK? Get back to your meditation!
And they’re under pressure in Tibet.
Oh yeah, there’s mad pressure in Tibet. But see, anywhere pressure is, anywhere oppression is, there is hip hop. And there you can understand the language. So it’s like, I can imagine. You know when we were comin’ up we had a war on terror. Remember that? [Laughs]
I remember. Twenty years in. It’s 2021 now.
We used to have something called the “war on terror.” Well guess what? Not only was the U.S. government using hip hop to coax and co opt and coerce the revolutionary youth coming up in Eritrea, Egypt, Tunisia—literally all over Africa and Europe. They’re using hip hop. But at the same time, so were the terrorists! Or, freedom fighters. The so-called opposition, they’re using hip hop too! Now look at the power of this. You’ve got one government trying to use hip hop to curve people in one way, the other group trying to curve people in another way. Who’s the real government then?
The government is whoever has the mic and the speaker that’s the loudest.
Then the government of hip hop is out here right now onstage. And other government officials have come forward to make sure that that was confirmed.
Yeah and then they bask in the glory a little bit.
Of course, they should! Chuck Schumer’s the man! Look, I don’t stand by no politicians, OK? I’m a staunch critic of every last one of them. [Laughs] But Chuck Schumer?
He sure pissed Trump off a few times.
Man, look—every time we called that dude, he came. Straight up. You heard the story he said on the stage? True story.
They throwin’ Kool Herc out the building. How you throwin’ Kool Herc out the building? No, we called up Schumer. Schumer threw the dude out the building. Oh yeah, you get respect. You get respect. [Laughs] You get real respect on that.
And then I called him. Twenty years ago I was taking hip hop to the United Nations, declaring hip hop an international culture at the United Nations under Kofi Annan.
Yes. To get there the UN said you had to have a UN NGO, a church organization, and the U.S. government if you wanna step in here. I went right to the Riverside Church, they on my back. After the church we went straight to Chuck Schumer. Chuck Schumer gave us not only a letter but a proclamation. That said “This is what it is.” OK? I still got the proclamation—he made it to me. That’s what I’m sayin’, that man walkin’ around, this is what he’s doin’.
It’s not just a photo opp.
It’s not just a photo opp, it’s real talk, OK? Real shit going down. And then on top of that, today they declared hip hop… August 11 got some kind of recognition. I’m runnin’ around complaining. “Why New York don’t wanna do more for hip hop?” Well, today I get a little relief. A little relief today. It’s not the full glass, but it’s something.
It’s a sip to keep us going.
To keep us going, and sometimes that’s all you need. So when you say how has hip hop developed over these years? The culture is on point. Now here’s the other side. Rap music, that’s what’s pulling everything down. Rap music!
And you would distinguish between rap and what you do how? What’s the difference?
I’m hip hop. I’m a emcee. Period. Like Caz, like Melle Mel, like Treacherous Three. Like, them dudes. Like Kid Capri. OK? That’s where I’m at—all the time. Every day, all day, every day, all day. That’s where I’m at. That hip hop is doing phenomenally well, globally.
But don’t get it confused with the rap music?
But don’t get it confused with Hot 97. Don’t get it confused with XM Satellite. Don’t get it confused with BET. This is bullshit. BET is bullshit! Hot 97 is bullshit. MTV is bullshit. All that is bullshit—and destroyin’ our culture. That’s what the problem is. Hip Hop is good! But now here comes these outside forces that wanna colonize the culture and say we about bitches and hoes and criminals. Ain’t no bitches here. Ain’t no hoes here. I don’t see no hoes here.
I don’t see any…
I don’t see no hoes here. OK? Nah! You deliberately makin’ us look like this. And then so, if you know that, say a radio station is deliberately pusing you out to look stupid, then you know who the enemy is. It gets tapered off in America with this corporate, with this box. We gon’ put you in this box and put y’all in that box. And you’re East Coast and you’re West Coast and you’re Old School and you’re New School and you’re this and you’re that. And then suddenly now we got an industry. And now we’re this other thing that is like what we was, but not exactly.
So that’s why I say, the culture is doing fine. Look at Slick Rick. He got a brand-new green… What is that sick shit he drivin’? His car match his clothes. He drove that car to match his clothes. OK? That’s hip hop! Right there. Hip hop is doing very very well.