Hey ya’ll up!! We all know KRS-One, don’t we? The rapper who rhymes it real. But do you know what is name, KRS-One stands for? Just see what I came across – “Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone”. Hella yass!! That’s the abbreviation for KRS-One. And to top it all, that is exactly what he believes. Know the street knowledge, be hip. And that is enough to make him a legendary hip hop artist known for his struggle to create awareness amongst the youth. He is awe-inspiring teacher or as peeps call him “Teacha”.
You just have to listen to Hip Hop Knowledge by him, and ya’ll be falling in love with what he has to say about it (hip hop) in all.
“The study and application of ancestral wisdom. Commonly refers to the basic common sense and accumulated wisdom of urban families. It consists of techniques, phrases, codes and terms used to survive within the inner cities.”
Here I understand the techniques to be the method of working to learn something. Just like a breaker first starts to learn how to do Russian kick before starting the actual footwork. Such training is the physical existence of all the existing and extinct art forms till date. But what actually piques my interest is the later part – “…phrases, codes and terms used to survive within the inner cities”.
Phrases might be the religious or inspirational sayings used in raps to spread consciousness and awareness. For example, rappers like Brother Ali, Mos Def, Lupis Fiasco stood to their religious Islamic ways to raise awareness against the justice. Codes might mean the non-violent rules to follow in order to maintain peace, love and unity in the community while terms might be history & foundations of a certain art form that each hiphoppa should educate him/herself with.
Knowledge aka the lost element of hip hop which was formulated by Afrika Bambaataa and the Universal Zulu Nation is, was and always be the only philosophical element amongst all hip hop elements. People may argue that Knowledge should be the 5th element and not the way KRS-One has stated in Temple of Hip Hop, but in my opinion ranking this element is something not at all necessary because this is the true essence of the whole hip hop culture. It keeps all the other elements in place and enables a hiphoppa to understand his/her art on subtler levels. T
The Bronx is Burning!
Bronx was already the poorest neighbourhood in the country due to the whites migrating out, landlords abandoning their property, degrading economy and the construction of Cross Bronx expressway which further lead to the Civil Rights Movement. Everyone was fleeing for their lives. The abandoned buildings were accommodated by the gangs who would forcibly push in to an occupied house and grab money.
Residents would burn down the vacant properties and sometimes the whole blocks. South Bronx was burning every single day. The police were at tethers to get this chaos under control with the crack epidemic of cocaine spreading like a wildfire. Almost 40% of South Bronx was burned down between 1970 to 1980. No wonder, Howard Cosell said that – “The Bronx is Burning!”
Damn damn!! Reading through all this and now writing it has almost left me in tears. Those people really suffered a lot. Though everything has changed now, but hats off to all those brave souls.
A Ray of Hope – Hip Hop
During this depressing & chaotic era, hip hop was sprouting up an evolutionistic ray of hope. The abandoned buildings were not only a new dwelling for the gangs, but also for house parties. The gangs did fight for their territories but truly wished for peace. They stood against the injustice together and confronted the city officials about the conditions. A large meeting was also held by these gangs for attaining peace.
People were dropping their arms and embracing a new vibrant culture that taught peace, unity, love and having fun. A new movement of self-expression was introduced to the world. And that’s how we see the elements operating today. Rhymes took the limelight around 1986 as the emcees artistically expressed their notions about black empowerment, racism and economics. The west and east coast all expressed the same social issues. Though this period was short but is one of the most influential ones.
But alas! All this changed by mid 90s, when conscious rap died with the rise of gangsta rap talking about violence, sex and drugs. Youngsters were fed on them by the radio stations just like a drugging a kid every single day. People were pulled in to this wave.
But don’t worry, the saviours were on their way home! The Black and Hip Hop community was aware and working towards it through the 1987 formulated Stop The Violence Movement by KRS-one. Along with many known east coast rappers he released the rap “Self Destruction” and many others. It was all about a positive music and uplifting the generation from violent lyrics and beats.
And tadaa!! Laughter and creativity were the new ways of living and reformation.
The Source of Us
Ya’ll wonder why am I talking about all this when I should be talking about knowledge? Because, all this is about why knowledge is necessary. When these youngsters were attracted to the bad stuff, they were utterly destructing themselves and running away from their self. The only thing that could bring those children out of it was knowledge that was delivered through phrases and messages in the raps. Yes, raps brought out a lot of kids to realise their creative and positive side, so did the other elements help. Each element is just an instrument to deliver the ancient knowledge from one generation to another.
Rap adds the lyrics, breaking has the hop, graffiti has the colours and DJs got the people to tap. That’s how any civilization in this world was formed. Forms of these elements might differ from region to region but the basic idea of introducing knowledge in a person’s life is the same i.e. through Dance or any physical movement, Music, Art and Words.
So…what is Knowledge?
Knowledge is to be aware of your existence which comes through the reasoning of right and wrong yet be compassionate.
So how would you explain street knowledge again? Street knowledge is the ability to be aware of the differences in our self and other people, especially the difference in attitudes, values and all the outer appearances and yet BE IN UNISON and progress. Even though the culture is brought by the Africans, but now it spread all over the world with all kinds of people loving and living it. This is a true example of – Unity in Diversity. One is culturally self-aware when in knowledge, else he/she tends to fall in the discrimination of colour, skills, language, status and all that is unnecessary and stops us and the society to evolve. This culture named Hip Hop is for & from everyone.
And ultimately hip hop is just a fun way of learning all the humanely values and virtues. One doesn’t need to have a quiet, four-walled academy. You learn it in nature and amongst people you love. I remember saying in Principles of Hip Hop that Afrika Bambaataa pinpoints these four principles to make people aware and able. These principles are an essential and ultimate lessons of Street knowledge. Do read them. Dig in the depths once again.
Knowledge is not reading through history, reciting phrases or memorising and standing by the rules but understanding each and every action and word we perform physically or mentally. We shake hands or bump fists before and after a battle or an exchange, don’t we? Our mentors tell us that it is something we do to pay respects to each other. But have you realised that this little negligible gesture actually makes you feel much grateful towards the person in front of you. Your heart and mind acknowledges him/her unconsciously.
This is one simple way of teaching kids the human virtues of peace and love. I think every single hiphoppa out there can relate to what I am saying here. Being hip means being aware of what we do which further leads to reasoning and understanding of our own self and the society. And that further makes us able to educate the newer generations with what we got from our oldies.
Old peeps are legends ya!! I whole-heartedly thank all our wise & willing sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers for passing down this enlightened torch of hip hop to us.
This particular element has been a total challenge for me. It is vast, but truly spiritual! Don’t forget to share your views and this blog with your friends. Spread the word.
Decipher more and be hip.
See ya’ll soon. Peace 🙂