In the late ‘80s, hip-hop was clean. The lyrical content was usually positive and profanity was rarely in a record. It was the golden age, and groups like Run-DMC ran the circuit. However, hip-hop would soon adopt violence-charged lyrics depicting gang and street life. Hip-hop group Boogie Down Productions was one of the first to talk about street life in their music. Their songs helped to establish what would eventually be called “Gangsta Rap.”
Boogie Down Productions initially consisted of rapper Lawrence Krisna Parker, more commonly known as KRS-One, and disk jockey Scott “La Rock” Sterling. The name KRS-One is an acronym for “Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone,” and is a testament to Parker’s lyrics in later albums. Boogie Down Productions released their first record, “Criminal Minded,” in 1987.
The overall theme of “Criminal Minded” was violence, as is evidenced in the song “9MM Go Bang.” One of the more popular songs from the record, its first verse depicts a story about someone gunning down a crack dealer. These were fairly heavy lyrics, compared to Run-DMC’s rhymes about Adidas. Although “9MM Go Bang” was a big song for Boogie Down Productions, the most important song of the album is a track by the name of “South Bronx.”
“South Bronx” is an angry response to Marley Marl & MC Shan’s track, “The Bridge,” which claimed that hip-hop’s roots came from Queensbridge public housing in Queens, NY. The rivalry is considered one of rap’s first “beefs.” Unfortunately, like most hip-hop feuds, it ended in tragedy. DJ Scott La Rock was gunned down in 1987 after trying to settle a dispute with Boogie Down Productions collaborator D-Nice.
After the death of Scott La Rock, KRS-One reformulated his lyrical topics. For Boogie Down Productions’ second record, it would focus on social issues. After changing record labels to Jive Records, their sophomore album, “By All Means Necessary,” was released in 1988 and was eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
For this record, KRS-One dubbed himself “the teacher” and immediately addressed the death of his friend on the first track, “My Philosophy.” In the song, KRS-One talks about his personal beliefs and what hip-hop means to him.
That first track sets the tone the rest of that album, and for the rest of his career. Boogie Down Productions’ shift in style opened them up to a wider audience, earning them more sales as a result. Between 1988 and 1990, Boogie Down Productions put out three gold-certified records. Unfortunately, their last record, “Sex and Violence,” didn’t stack up to the rest and never reached gold status.
After the release of “Sex and Violence,” KRS-One decided to drop the name Boogie Down Productions and began to release records under his own name. Technically speaking, there was no break up. Since Scott La Rock passed away, KRS-One was the only member in the group. After dropping the Boogie Down Productions name, KRS-One has had a successful solo career. He has released 12 albums under his own name. The most recent album, released January 2012, is called “The BDP Album,” an obvious homage to Boogie Down Productions.