KRS-One and Marley Marl are two of the most legendary names in hip hop. From his early days with Boogie Down Productions, to his solo albums, to his continual promotion of hip hop, KRS-One has been producing “edutainment” for nearly 20 years. Producer Marley Marl was the back bone of the legendary Juice Crew, a group of MCs that included hip hop heavyweights Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, MC Shan, and Kool G. Rap. He was also a prolific producer outside of the Juice Crew with his most famous work being LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out (1990). In the late 1980s, KRS’s Boogie Down Productions and Marley Marl’s Juice Crew were engaged in one of hip hop’s most legendary “beefs.” The battle never left wax and was eventually squashed, but it did prevent collaborations between two of the golden age’s bests artists. Although nearly 20 years late, KRS-One and Marly Marl’s Hip Hop Lives (2007) attempts to fill that void.
This album is not bad by any means, but it is very, very bland. For the most part, Marley Marl proves that he is still a solid producer. “Rising to the Top,” “Kill A Rapper,” and “All Skool” are top notch beats that any of today’s popular New York rappers would sound good over. KRS-One’s delivery and lyrics are not great, but definitely solid. Contrary to popular opinion, his skill is still very sound. The downfall of this release comes down to KRS’s absolutely redundant subject matter and Marley and KRS’s poor chemistry. KRS-One dedicates this album to educating the listener on hip hop history. Although very noble and necessary, after the first handful of songs on the album, his point is already made. KRS’s stale subject matter makes this album a very boring listen.
Furthermore, aside from the banging “Rising to the Top,” KRS-One’s vocals and Marley Marl’s beats do not mesh well at all. They belonged to two opposing crews in the late 1980s and based on the sound of this release, it seems as though they should have remained musically separated. Hip Hop Lives would have been better if it was a Big Daddy Kane and Marley Marl collaboration as they have previously established a high level of chemistry.
While Hip Hop Lives is mediocre at best, it is only a small misstep in both artists’ careers. Without the contributions of KRS-One and Marley Marl, hip hop music may have gone in an entirely different direction. Although this release falls short, they should be commended for both releasing a mainstream album in a very youth-oriented genre and addressing two of the biggest problems of hip hop today: a lack of knowledge of its history and the supreme dominance of market forces.
Posted by Langston Collin Wilkins
Editor’s note: Our thoughts and best wishes go out to both artists, who have recently experienced personal tragedies. KRS-One lost his 23-year-old son, Randy Hubbard Parker, earlier this month. Marley Marl (44) is currently recovering from a heart attack suffered on June 5, 2007.